Result: Brighton – Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 31 December 2022
Venue: Amex Stadium
Arsenal XI: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah
Subs: Turner, Tierney, Tomiyasu, Holding, Cedric, Elneny, Lokonga, Vieira, Marquinhos
Arsenal ended 2022 on a high note, extending their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points courtesy of a 4-2 win at Brighton.
Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard put the Gunners in charge at half time before Eddie Nketiah extended the lead on 47 minutes.
The closing 20 minutes were a see-saw affair with Kaoru Mitoma and Gabriel Martinelli trading strikes before substitute Evan Ferguson again reduced the deficit.
The Seagulls threatened a nervy finish but VAR came to Arsenal’s rescue, ruling out a second strike by Mitoma.
As starts go, it couldn’t have been much better for the Gunners.
After our first attack of the match broke down, Partey stole the ball off the advancing Lamptey in the middle of the part, Zinchenko sprung Martinelli and, after the Brazilian’s attempt was double deflected into his path, Saka did the rest with a nice touch and a polished half-volley finish past Sanchez. There were only 65 seconds on the clock. (GOAL! 1-0)
The Gunners continued to dominate the early stages and Zinchenko had a great opportunity to double the lead inside four minutes. On this occasion, Sanchez foiled the Ukrainian with a close-range block. Martinelli and Nketiah had further efforts before we hit the 10-minute mark.
Brighton came back into things after that and Ramsdale had to make a save to deny Trossard on 16 minutes. There was a real palaver over the taking of the corner with the referee ordering a retake after the wind blew the ball from its spot. We then hacked one for another corner and cleared the third effort from off the line thanks to Gabriel.
Again Arsenal came forward. Patient play in and around the box ended with Odegaard playing the cheekiest of flicks to Martinelli who squared before the ball was cleared. Had we somehow found the net, it would have been a goal-of-the-season contender. Not long after Partey had an opportunity when a corner was half-cleared but his effort took a nick and went over.
Seven minutes before the break, we deservedly doubled the lead. A corner broke to Odegaard on the edge of the box and the Norwegian found the top corner with an unconventional effort that bounced into the turf early and over a host of Brighton bodies. Was it deliberate? Only he’ll know. Also, who cares? (GOAL! 2-0)
The closing stages of the half were scrappy with Saka and Partey both taking heavy knocks before the Ghanaian and Gabriel were both booked for not very much.
If the start to the first half was good, the second was equally impressive. Within two minutes, Arsenal worked an overload to perfection, moving the ball from the right flank to the left via Saka, Odegaard and Partey before Martinelli unleashed a fierce cross-shot. Sanchez did well to make the save but Nketiah was on hand to tuck home the loose ball from a yard out. Out came his trademarked phone celebration in front of the joyous travelling fans. (GOAL! 3-0)
With a three-goal advantage, the Gunners could afford to sit back and soak up pressure before pouncing on the break. The home side huffed and puffed for a bit but their best chance, falling to Gross who had a shot deflected wide, turned out to be offside.
At the other end, Gabriel and Saliba both came close from a free-kick launched into the Brighton box. Both sides made changes three minutes later with Arteta switching Zinchenko and White for Tierney and Tomiyasu.
If we were confident of victory, Brighton reducing the deficit soon after made us sweat. Mitoma tucked home confidently and his strike survived a VAR review. (GOAL! 3-1)
We needn’t have worried. Five minutes later, the three-goal lead was restored as Martinelli, on the break, hammered home through Sanchez’s legs. While the Brazilian’s run was excellent and his finish clinical, the through ball by Odegaard was truly sublime. He didn’t even look before splitting the defence from inside his own half (GOAL! 4-1)
The end-to-end action – much to Arteta’s frustration – continued. A ball through the middle flustered Saliba who took a bad touch running back towards Ramsdale and substitute Ferguson tucked the ball under the keeper to reduce the arrears again. (GOAL 4-2)
Arteta sent on Rob Holding for the final four minutes as we switched to a back five to close things out but Brighton’s pressure paid dividends again. A throw caused havoc in the box and Mitoma’s strike deflected off Holding past Ramsdale. The Amex went wild only to be silenced by VAR who ruled the Japan international had been offside in the build-up. Phew is an understatement.
Arsenal continued to look nervous in stoppage time but some dogged defending in and around the box just about saw us over the line.
Happy New Year wherever you are. Mikel Arteta’s rip-roaring Gunners are top of the table heading into 2023.