Morning folks and welcome to matchday! It’s the most wonderful time of the week…..maybe… 😉
It’s a trip to Brighton for Arteta and the lads and I must tell you, I’m quite nervous about this game, which I take a good thing because it means that some of the apathy i’ve felt in recent years is slowly being eroded away. There are ‘reasons to be cheerful’ at The Arsenal right now and that’s with the fresh blood that has come in and impressed, a manager who seems to have found a little spark from somewhere after it was starting to go a little funky like an apple core down the back of the sofa that nobody knows about. I’ve spoken this week already about the connection between manager, players and also the fans and with some of the ‘likeable lads’ at the club at the moment the hope today has to be that we are going to get more of that liking today with a performance that – fingers crossed – leads to three points.
It’s not an easy one though. Last week we played that team that gets battered everywhere they go, this week we get a team who have only tasted defeat at once, which was at home against Everton, who are a decent side. I didn’t watch the game but it looked like Brighton had most of the possession, but didn’t create too many shots on target. Everton aren’t a possession team as much as we are and so it feels like stylistically we’re not going to look to hit Brighton on the counter. Are we happy to sit back and hit them on the counter?
I wouldn’t say I’m overly confident that we will do this. Were we at game 12 in the season and we’d been on a five or six match unbeaten run, I’d probably be feeling this a bit more in terms of dominating and winning the game; every time I’ve watched Brighton in the past I’ll be honest with you, I’ve wondered what all the fuss was about. In previous seasons I’ve seen a Brighton side do us over and i’ve come out of it wondering if we would ever play that bad again. Honestly, I always watch Brighton and think they aren’t all that, yet they pick up results against us. Since they’ve been back in the Premier League the record reads won three, lost three, drawn twice against them. On their own patch they’ve had two wins, one draw and one defeat against us. So their fans will be going in to this game tomorrow fancying their chances against a side they’ve picked up a few points against in recent years.
I’ve been thinking a lot about momentum over the last few days and whether we carry some in to this game. Well, if we do, then Brighton also carry momentum in to the game having drawn with a last minute equaliser away to Palace, then before that beaten Leicester and Brentford too. So they will have their fair share of confidence too.
They’ll also go in to this game with Bissouma and Lamptey fit, their two key men and if you were holding out any hope that he might not play having missed out against Palace, don’t hold your breath. He’s back in training and Potter will definitely chuck him straight in today. And he’s the guy that we need to navigate around. Lamptey will get forward and provide that threat on the right hand side, but if we play with the same team that played in the NLD, then I fancy Emile Smith Rowe and Tierney to potentially get themselves in to some pockets of space if he presses too high. We all know we attack down that side more than the right, so Brighton will be well aware that we like to overload that side and so I wonder how Potter covers that space. Perhaps he shifts his side a little? Does he ensure somebody like Bissouma covers more naturally on their right hand side? Against Leicester they deployed a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 if you think Welbeck playing on that left hand side, with Troussard and Maupay up top. They played Veltman on the right and Solly March in front. But away to Everton he went with a back three and Troussard/Mac Allister either side of Maupay. So he shifts his style accordingly and if Brighton don’t really know what Arteta might do if he deploys the Burnley 4-3-3 or the NLD 4-2-3-1, we also have different data points in which Brighton have switched their style. My gut feel is that he goes a back three, plays Lamptey on the right and probably a midfielder like Cucurella on the left. Burn got torn to shreds by Pepe at the Emirates at the end of the season and so he won’t play as a full back, but tucked in as a centre half on that left hand side feels like a position I could see him in.
That midfield battle will be interesting though. Lallana and Bissouma versus Partey and possibly Lokonga if he goes with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Arteta might be tempted with the 4-3-3 if he thinks most football is played in Brighton’s half because Odegaard and ESR will find pockets of space, then Pepe will fancy having another go at Burn. But if we do go down that route then we are going to need to be massively wary of that counter.
The up side is that with our back line which turns in to a three when in possession, when the ball turns over and Brighton move it quickly from back to front, we’ve got three lads in Gabriel, White and Tomiyasu who have the strength and physicality – as well as pace – to deal with a rapid counter. But they’ll still need to have support and we can’t see massive gaps in that midfield.
Personally I’d quite fancy us to go 4-3-3 with Odegaard and ESR as the two eights either side of Partey. It would signal some ambition and perhaps psychologically gets Brighton pinned back a bit. But we have to show the same intensity as last weekend. That will be difficult because the adrenaline of an NLD is unlike any other game, but the players might need to show that grit that got us the points at home to Norwich and away to Burnley.
I’m at a wedding in the morning and for lunch so will be watching the game from a pub in London somewhere. I just hope it ends up being a happy evening.
Catch you tomorrow for the usual post mortem/unbridled joy blog.