Arsenal made it back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since September after defeating Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 on Tuesday evening. Despite getting off to a slow start, the away side emerged from the half-time break with much more intent, with both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli narrowly missing good chances to score.
The turning point came just after the hour mark, as Mikel Arteta’s first substitution, Alexandre Lacazette, fired home just inside the Brighton box following fine work down the right by Bukayo Saka.
Arsenal held on for the three points after that to claim another morale boosting win, one that will go a long way towards easing the pressure on the Spanish manager.
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Despite the slow start, Arsenal did markedly improve in the second half. Youngsters Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe all looked dangerous in the final third, adding energy, direct running and intelligent link-up play.
Credit has to be given to the away sides’ centre-backs as well, as Rob Holding and Pablo Mari stifled Brighton when they were firmly on top early on. The Gunners posed the biggest threat in transition as the game wore on, capitalising on a tiring Brighton backline to create a number of good goalscoring chances.
The midfield looked starved of ideas at times, with the likes of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny largely reduced to simply passing the ball back to the goalkeeper and centre-backs. From a tactical standpoint, the team was clearly set out to absorb pressure, but that doesn’t excuse the complete lack of creativity in spells, notably when Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.
Manager Rating (out of 10)
8 — Stuck with the same side that embarrassed Chelsea on Boxing Day, with the only change being Aubameyang coming in for Lacazette. However, this alteration appeared to cost the away side, as they clearly missed the Frenchman’s industrious running. Arteta atoned for this error by introducing the former Lyon man on the hour mark; he would score Arsenal’s only goal just seconds later.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 6 — While his distribution was woeful at times, the German stopper did make a handful of solid stops to keep Arsenal from going behind.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6 — Looked slightly off the pace, consistently failing to pick up runners down the right side of the pitch.
DF Rob Holding, 7 — Vital at the back for the Gunners, especially early on as Arsenal weathered a wave of Brighton attacks. The Englishman’s positioning was exemplary tonight.
DF Pablo Mari, 7 — Solid defensively, especially in the air. His passes out from the back scarcely missed their intended target.
DF Kieran Tierney, 7 — Impressed when venturing forward, managing to skip past his marker to whip in gorgeously-weighted crosses on several occasions. An excellent overall display from the Scot.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 — Gave the ball away cheaply a number of times, which could have easily led to a Brighton goal. Underwhelming, to say the least.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 — Decent in spells, but his sluggish start almost cost Arsenal dearly. His passing did help the travelling side to establish a bit more control as the game wore on.
MF Emile Smith Rowe, 8 — Despite being one of the youngest players on the pitch, the academy graduate was assertive in the middle of the park with a number of good driving runs forward.
FW Bukayo Saka, 9 — Arsenal’s most creative outlet throughout, encapsulated best by his inch-perfect cross to set up Aubameyang’s close-range shot — which was superbly saved by Robert Sanchez. He then went on to assist Lacazette’s winner following a determined, driving run into the box.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 6 — Virtually invisible for much of the first half, failing to press or make runs with any kind of intent. Missed a gilt-edged opportunity early in the second half, forcing a fine stop from Sanchez.
FW Gabriel Martinelli, 7 — Pressed very well in the first half as Arsenal desperately struggled to create anything of note. Still needs more game time in order to fully get back up to speed.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 8 — Scored seconds after being introduced midway through the second half. Took the goal beautifully, curling the ball just inside Brighton’s near post.
MF Dani Ceballos, N/R — Replaced the injured Saka with 10 minutes to play and made a few decent blocks.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles N/R — Helped Arsenal close out the game well.