Morning campers and welcome to the final day of 2022, which also happens to be a match day for The Arsenal. It’s Brighton who we travel to early this New Years Eve and by gum, this feels like it’s going to be a tough old fixture to see out the year and start of the season for us.
Brighton have become somewhat of a bogey team for us, as I’m sure you are aware too, having already beaten us at the Emirates twice this year; once they did us in the league last season, then earlier this season they dispatched a heavily rotated team in the League Cup too. In the corresponding fixture to this one last season we played out a 0-0 draw and although in the previous season we picked up maximum points at home and away without conceding, in all competitions in the last ten matches our record against the Seagulls reads:
- Two wins
- Three draws
- Five defeats
That’s a pretty shocking record given where Brighton have been in the league over those years. And what’s more annoying for me is that I seem to recall writing about these matches and saying stuff along the lines of “Brighton actually aren’t that good. We have just shot ourselves in the foot”.
It has felt in recent years that we haven’t played very good Brighton teams, but we’ve still been turned over on a regular basis – probably the very definition of a bogey team – so today represents another really tough challenge. It’s also made all the tougher because, for once, Brighton are actually a good team this time around. They play good football, they’ve got a collective of players who know what they are doing and are well coached and under Roberto De Zerbi it feels like they’ve potentially upgraded on what they were doing with Graham Potter.
That may be harsh on Potter; it’s still his team and his players, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that in De Zerbi they have a man who was relatively unknown to those that are relatively uneducated in European football like myself, but has proven already that he’s an astute guy who likes to play a brand of football in keeping with the style that Potter developed. And as a result the players all seemed to have slotted in.
So this will be very tough for us, but we must go in to this game with confidence, because so far this season we have seen an Arsenal team playing excellent football and top of the league for a reason. Our combination of end product from different players means we aren’t a side you can just try to cut the supply off to with one or two players, because we have goals from across around six of our starters. The challenge and question Mikel Arteta has today is:
Who are my attacking starters? What’s my starting XI?
This season that has been quite easy because although we’ve had a few injuries in different positions, most of us could pick a Mikel Arteta side if given the opportunity to name one. But Arteta himself said recently (or it might have been before the World Cup, I forget) that in the second half of the season we won’t be able to deliver the same consistent starting XI given the sheer volumes of games. So my question today is based around whether Arteta rotates for today’s game and, if so, who does he rotate?
If I’m our next game we were playing a Forest or Bournemouth at home, then maybe you’d say get all the first teamers out for this one and rotate in players like Holding, Elneny, Sambi Lokonga or Fabio Vieira. But our next home game is against Newcastle, who are in as good a run of form as we are almost, so they will be very difficult to play. So does Arteta go with a blended approach for today and that game?
I’m not sure he will for either. I think he’ll be looking at the week after the Newcastle game and be looking at telling his players that the first teamers can have 12 days off after Newcastle, so get on out there for the next few days and do the business in both matches. The good news from a fatigue perspective is that we played five days ago on Boxing Day, so that feels like a decent amount of time for recovery. In normal years we play on Boxing Day and then 28th or 29th, so the fact that we’ve go those extra couple of days in suggests to me that I think we’ll get our strongest team possible, which would be:
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Ødegaard – Xhaka
Saka – Nketiah – Martinelli
Arteta may choose to rotate players out in the second half to get rest in to any weary legs, but given how as a team we like to start fast, I have a feeling that Arteta will wanted his strongest lads out there to see if we can grab a lead against Brighton.
Stylistically it will be an interesting game to watch too, because Brighton like to control possession, they like to draw teams out, but without the ball they also like to press their opponents. They are very similar in style to us and so I think the victor of tonight’s match is the one who gets to execute their game plan to the closest of their own styles. There could be an argument to be made that is a cancelling out of two styles and as a result a sharing of points, but we don’t tend to draw under Arteta; it’s usually win or bust so I think we might get somebody picking up three points tonight.
I never go in to any game feeling confident with The Arsenal and each week this season I’ve wondered if this will be the week in which it all comes crashing down. So far it hasn’t and even in the two games we’ve dropped points we’ve been the better side, but you never know if and when that won’t happen. Could be tonight and especially so against a bogey team as Brighton have been. However, our football has been good this season, we’ve taken our chances, there’s a reason we’re top of the league and that’s a reason to be cheerful and hopeful ahead of this tough match.
It’s New Year’s Eve this evening and I’ve got a nice meal and boozing going on, so there may or may not be a set of ramblings on tonight’s game. Regardless of that though, I wish you a happy new year to you and yours and I’ll catch you in 2023.
We haven’t a lot of choice but to go strong.
Our bench against West Ham was so poor.
This is why we need a couple of players ready for Premier League football in the transfer window.
We might have to walk away from Mudryk as we need players quickly. Not the last hour of the window as normal.