Iiiit’s matchday people! And a pretty tough match day we have in front of us this lunchtime, that’s for sure, because Brighton and Hove Albion are absolutely our bogey team. The recent form at the Emiriates reads:
- 0-3 loss last season in the Premier League
- 1-3 loss last season in the League Cup
- 1-2 Loss in 2022 in the Premier League
- 2-0 win in 2021 in the Premier League
- 1-2 loss in 2019 in the Premier League
It’s quite a startling record for us as the home team. In fact, if you didn’t know how it was and you read those results above, I bet 95% of Arsenal fans would tell you it’s Liverpool or Man City at the Emirates, if they were qasked to give a quick-fire response. But no, it is in fact Brighton and under Roberto De Zerbi they have a guy who has come in and continued to revolutionise the club. I mentioned it on yesterday’s blog but I think it is worth re-emphasising because it shows what an amazing job he has done – Brighton are a very good team who have lost a big chunk of their midfield, yet still are competing well in the Premier League, have just topped their group in the Europa League (which included Ajax and Marseille by the way), plus they’re continuing to bang goals in for fun. In the Premier League they have 33 goals in 16 games – they’re basically averaging two per game and that is an impressive number they’re putting up. They play a fluid and attacking style of play, they create plenty of chances (currently sitting fourth in the league behind Liverpool, Tottenham and City with Brighton having taken 246 shots to our 237) and they will come to the Emirates today and have a go at us.
And that might make it one heck of a cracking game.
That’s because most teams we come up against play Low Block FC football and that’s why we’re sitting in mid table for non-penalty goals and xG this season. Teams don’t want to be open and expansive against us and those teams that have have tended to be in the Champions League, where we scored 16 goals in six games; teams don’t want to afford us the space. But I think Brighton might do today and they might give us opportunities; the reason they aren’t in the top four right now with their goal scoring exploits is that they’ve also conceded 28 goals this season – that’s the sixth worst in the league. If we are on point and aren’t profligate with our chances like we were at Villa last weekend, we should be able to get goals. The challenge might be keeping Brighton from getting some of their own.
That’s where the hope also remains, because along with Liverpool we have the best defence in the league. We’ve conceded 15 times this season and it is because of our improvement defensively that we’ve been able to not be as impressive as last season at this same stage, but still very much in the running towards the top of the table. We are a good team, with a strong spine and today I’m hoping and expecting that we get the confirmation that there are no more injury problems and we can continue with the strongest XI we have available, which to my mind is:
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Odegaard – Havertz
Saka – Jesus – Martinelli
There might be one or two people looking at Zinchenko and feeling a little nervous against a Brighton team who will like to exploit wide areas and will lean on Mitoma and Adingra, but what I hope to see is that Ben White steps up more than Zinchenko this lunchtime. Remember last season? White had a torrid time against the Japanese international and his pace is going to be something that White needs to be very wary of against a side who are going to come to play and will use the wide spaces well. Some of the goalscorers from last season’s 3-0 win might not be available today for Brighton through injury (Enciso and Estupinan), but they have plenty of firepower in the likes of Ferguson and Joao Pedro, who will cause us problems, not to mention the two wide forwards I’ve already mentioned.
I do have one hope of an advantage though, which is that Brighton played a number of first team players on Thursday, whereas we were able to rest and rotate on Tuesday, so we’ve had more rest, as well as fresher bodies going out there, so hopefully that gives us an extra yard on them when it gets to the latter stages. We were able to rest up Rice, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli and Jesus for most – if not all – of the game and so I want to see them firing on all cylinders come kick off.
This will be a ding-dong battle I think. I predicted 3-2 to The Arsenal but that’s going with heart above head, because it could very well go the other way. The hope is that the control that Arteta has emphasised in his team from a defensive side this season will enable us to keep Brighton at arms length. I’m not sure how possible it is, because the threat comes from multiple angles in this Brighton team; they have 33 goals but they spread the goals around the team with Ferguson on six, Joao Pedro on five, Adingra on four, Gross, Mitoma and March (injured) on three, so Arsenal and Arteta will be very mindful of that I suspect. But we have the capability, we have the players, we have the spine and backline – aided massively this season by Rice – to hopefully keep them quiet.
A win today would be a huge result as we go in to Christmas, because I’m not expecting anything from Anfield away next Saturday, so we really don’t want to go in to that game at Liverpool off the back of two defeats or without a win in our last three in all competitions. Time to get the business done today lads.
Catch you all tomorrow for a debrief. Have a good’un.