It’s Brighton today, the last Premier League game before the international break. The Gunners will be looking for a third consecutive win, fourth consecutive clean sheet and a record-high nine straight triumphs at the Emirates.
There’s not much I can tell you about Brighton. Chris Hughton’s outfit has won 7 points from the first 6 games, with Pascal Gross and Tomer Hemed standing out in the final third of the pitch. However as I understand Brighton have overperformed hugely based on their expected goals return – making them less formidable than they might appear to be.
The recent history between Arsenal and Brighton is scarce – and that’s overstating it. Brighton and Hove Albion has crashed out of the Premier League in 1983 (which back then was called Football League First Division). Brighton did manage to beat us twice in 1982 though, both wins coming at home.
After that the clubs only crossed paths in the cups, with Arsenal winning the last four encounters across League and FA Cup. Really not a lot to go on.
Team news update
We will be going into this one relatively injury-stricken. On top of Welbeck, Cazorla, Chambers and Coquelin, Wenger’s selection will be restricted by lack of Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and, potentially, Alex Iwobi.
“Mesut Ozil will not be available for Sunday. He is not far, but he is not enough for Sunday.
“We have a doubt about Laurent Koscielny unfortunately and he will have a test tomorrow. It’s an achilles problem, it’s ongoing.
“Alex Iwobi might be available for Sunday”. – Arsene Wenger
A hardly ideal situation. I’m less worried about potential Iwobi’s absence in lieu of a spirited performance by Aaron Ramsey in the ten role last week, and Jack Wilshere’s outing against BATE. This also somewhat comforts me when it comes to Mesut Ozil’s omission. The German’s absence might also lend further weight to the theory Arsene is unwilling to play his three star attackers at the same time – one explored in detail by Tim Stillman.
Laurent Koscielny not making the squad is infinitely more disturbing. A defence without him and Monreal looked leaky indeed against Cologne – and I hear they were no better against BATE, though I haven’t watched the game myself. Worrying times.
Player in focus: Aaron Ramsey
The Welshman has been more consistent this season, more disciplined when asked to play as part of the holding two in midfield, with his best performance arguably against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
However he has the potential to thrive even further higher up the pitch. He looked dangerous against West Brom this Monday, albeit still a bit short on the creative side. Still, his actions earned us the penalty and had others picked Aaron out better, I’m sure he would have ended up on the scoresheet.
The Welshman will once again have the chance to stake a claim at the second ten role today – I think he has what it takes to prove he is worthy of it.
I feel a bit stupid predicting a switch to a back four when there’s little evidence to suggest Wenger might do that. So let’s assume he isn’t planning to do anything of the kind for now.
That leaves the Frenchman with a problem to solve. Koscielny is out for now, Chambers is out too, meaning Arsene has to pick one of Mertesacker or Holding to complement Mustafi and Monreal. It will be a damning indictment of the German’s position if the young and (currently) inconsistent Holding is picked ahead of him. But it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
That’s about the only change I can see Wenger making. Brighton allow us to pair Xhaka and Elneny once again (albeit I hope sincerely Wilshere is in with a shout to start), while dropping any of Alexis, Ramsey or Lacazette will look strange. Presumably all three were rested in midweek specifically to save some steam for the weekend. Strong performances from Walcott and Giroud (congrats on the 100, Ollie!) are unlikely to tamper with the current order.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Mustafi – Holding – Monreal – Bellerin – Xhaka – Elneny – Kolasinac – Ramsey – Alexis – Lacazette
The last word
Without wanting to sound too cocky, we should prove too much for Brighton. Chris Hughton’s side are yet to win an away game this season and apparently overperformed at home. Arsenal, meanwhile, are yet to lose at home this season, and have an encouraging history against newly-promoted sides. The Gunners are unbeaten in 31 games (26 wins and 5 draws) – a run stretching back to March 2012.
Mounting injuries are a worry, with international break having the potential to screw us even further (as it always does), however we still have a lot of quality players at our disposal. Brighton, incidentally, will be without their stand-out striker Tomer Hemed, who’s been charged with violent conduct and will miss three games.
So come on you Gunners!
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