The Seagulls have been a tough opponent for the Gunners since their promotion back in 2017. But yesterday, it was Arteta’s men who prevailed. In this article, I analyse the game in detail.
Mikel Arteta retained his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 system, but with Aubameyang coming in for Lacazette to lead the line. Elneny and Xhaka were the two in midfield, Emile Smith Rowe played in between the lines along with Martinelli and Saka occupying the wider areas, acting as inside forwards.
Out of possession, as Brighton transitioned forward, a 4-5-1 was deployed with Smith Rowe dropping into the midfield to provide compactness, whilst Martinelli and Saka supported the full-backs to prevent numerical superiorities.
In possession, Arsenal would utilise a 4-3-2-1 during the build-up phase, with one of the two central midfielders in the double pivot dropping in between the two centre backs on occasion. As they moved forward with the ball, Arteta’s men utilised a 2-3-5 with Tierney providing width from the left. Gabi and Smith Rowe would rotate/interchange, as shown in the diagrams below. On the opposite flank, Bellerin would play as an inverted right back, ensuring enough cover was present in midfield to cope with transitions.
The opening 10/15 minutes saw Arteta’s men impose themselves and control proceedings. Attacking outlets found themselves in promising situations, but poor touches/passes and incorrect decision making in these areas prevented anything substantial from developing.
An encouraging start, however, wasn’t maintained with Potters side growing into the game and looking relaxed in possession. The hosts failed to seize upon a turnover opportunity presented to them by Elneny, where the Egyptian cheaply conceded possession in a dangerous area. Leno was also forced into making a smart stop at his near post after his fellow defenders failed to deal with the attack. Overall, Arsenal were lethargic and slow during the build-up phases, with the Seagulls happy to sit deep and remain compact in their out of possession shape.
Elneny, in particular, was guilty of neglecting forward penetrative passes which stifled passages of play from developing and essentially far too many sideways/backwards passes were on display.
Furthermore, balance issues were a problem regarding Arsenal’s attacking shape. A clear left-sided bias was visible, making the Gunners predictable in attack. As Bellerin was instructed not to overlap, it left young Bukayo isolated on the right-hand side.
With Aubameyang coming back into the team, the Gabonese superstar failed to impress with his off the ball movement. Despite service being minimal, his inability to run towards the channels and drag Brighton defenders out of position was disappointing.
Arteta realised the imbalance and adjusted accordingly. Smith Rowe, gliding in between the lines, operated predominantly through the right, which helped unlock Bukayo Saka. The two rotated and developed a much-needed partnership that was lacking through this area of the pitch in the first half.
Arsenal’s intensity increased, with the Croydon De Bruyne instrumental in finding space and attracting Brighton players. A huge chance came for the visitors with Saka drifting to the left, whilst Aubameyang occupied the space vacated by Bukayo. Arsenal’s No.7 goes onto deliver an excellent ball for his captain, who should have buried the chance that came his way.
But in the 66th, Arsenal took a much-deserved lead with Saka yet again the catalyst. Receiving the ball deep from Holding, the 19-year-old rolls Burns with ease and attacks the space in front with devastating pace. An intelligent cut back with his right foot and Lacazette finishes the move brilliantly, providing his team with an immediate impact. Arsenal needed a spark and Saka was the one who yet again provided the ignition.
With Brighton struggling to create, Arsenal were happy to sit in a 4-5-1 shape out of possession and see the game out, which they did comfortably. A huge win for Arteta and his side are now incrementally creeping up the table.
Although it was a quiet game for the German, Leno did have to make two important stops at his near post. His quality on the ball, however, wasn’t convincing, frequently taking too long to release the ball along with having a nervy moment in the opening 45.
The two centre backs in Mari and Holding showed promise in their makeshift partnership and can be pleased with the clean sheet. Whilst in possession they were slow and failed to show bravery with the passes played, defensively they impressed.
Bellerin, who retained his place, was terrific at right back. Playing an inverted role, Arsenal’s No.2. was calm in possession and maintained strong defensive qualities that were on show against Chelsea. Hector made an excellent recovery challenge early on after the interval but also provided a number of devastating forward progressive runs to ease pressure.
Tierney on the opposite flank quietly impressed. The Scotsman was loose in possession on occasions but provided great energy and directness through the left. With games coming thick and fast, Kieren would definitely benefit from a rest.
Playing in the midfield pivot, Elneny’s first-half display was frustrating. The Egyptian failed to provide progressive passes from deep to initiate attacks as well as looking slightly nervy in possession. In the second half, however, his performance levels did improve.
His partner Xhaka was the more impressive out of the two, playing the most forward passes in the opening half. Out of possession, Granit provided experience and showed leadership in midfield.
Emile Smith Rowe, playing ahead was superb, particularly after the interval. Excellent at finding space, completely aware of his surroundings, effective on the half-turn, and efficient on the ball. Regularly this season, distances between the midfield and attack have been large, which has had a negative impact on creativity. But the talented youngster’s inclusion into the side has helped minimise distances between players, and in turn, has allowed his team to look far more pleasing on the ball.
The Brazillian, Gabriel Martinelli certainly wasn’t at his best, and this will be down to fatigue. What’s worth mentioning is that the 19-year-old is still coming back from a significant long term injury, and his game time needs to be managed carefully.
Aubameyang also had a quiet game. A big chance in the second half came for the Gabonese international which he failed to convert and overall, his all-round performance was frustrating.
Hale End Graduate Bukayo Saka was yet again pivotal. A fantastic driving run and assist for the goal, along with brilliant off the ball work rate, supporting Bellerin frequently out of possession. The most notable substitute was Alexandre Lacazette, who provided an instant impact. Effective hold-up play when tasked to drop deep, brought others into play and it’s now 3 goals in the Frenchmans last 3 appearances.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.