Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Brighton vs Arsenal- Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Seagulls look for a bonus as they welcome a Gunners side who face a must-win match on the South Coast
13:30 GMT, Sunday 4th March, Amex Stadium (Brighton, England) Sky Sports
The Seagulls have fought to change their fate in recent weeks and now come into this weekend unbeaten in their last 4 league games (W2, D2) and having won both of their previous home matches. The result of this lifted them up to 12th-place but they can climb even higher with a win which will now see them leapfrog Everton. To do so, they must beat a side who’ve beaten them in each of their last five encounters, although it could prove a good time to play them.
To say Arsenal have just suffered a bad week would be a polite way to put it. Arsene Wenger has come in for heavy criticism following two emphatic defeats to Manchester City. While the reaction has arguably been excessive considering few people expected any other result, there is undoubtedly a problem at Arsenal which needs to be remedied, or as many fans believe, removed. The bad press stalking the Gunners will become more justified if they fail to beat the Seagulls this weekend, however, poor away form suggests this may not be the easiest game for Arsenal who need to manage the must-win pressure surrounding them.
Last Time Out
Brighton 4-1 Swansea City (Premier League)
Brighton comfortably took all three points from their relegation rivals as Hughton’s side won in style with a scoreline they fully deserved. Having controlled the match from the first minute, Brighton had a tangible air of belief about them as they outclassed a Swansea side who have recently been in remarkably good form.
Glenn Murray continued his hot-streak with another two goals while one each from Anthony Knockaert and Jorgensen Locadia helped add gloss to the result. Knockaert also had a goal ruled out earlier in the game while a cruel deflection off Lewis Dunk gave the Swans a consolation goal at the end of the match.
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City (Premier League)
Despite showing far more conviction in their football against City at the second attempt, Arsenal finished the game with the same depressing scoreline. While Arsenal’s quality and determination they brought into this match had increased exponentially from their cup final defeat four days prior, City found an extra gear to play at a superior level than the Gunners once more.
After making a promising start, Arsenal were caught by three goals in an 18-minute spell midway through the first half. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a golden opportunity to instigate a comeback just after half-time with a penalty, however, Ederson proved himself up to the task and maintained a clean sheet for his team.
Izzy Brown (knee) and Steve Sidwell (back) are still out of action for the Seagulls to leave Hughton with the same selection choices he faced last weekend. Following their strong win, he should go with the same side who started against Swansea last weekend.
Wenger too has no change from in personnel from his previous match, however, with that game only happening on Thursday he could be forced into a small reshuffle to combat fatigue in his side. Arsenal will miss Santi Cazorla (Achilles) Alexandre Lacazette (knee) and Nacho Monreal while Jack Wilshere may not be risked having sat out the second match against City on Thursday.
Key Battle: Glenn Murray (Brighton) vs Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
With 5 goals coming from his last 5 home league games, Glenn Murray’s form continues to amaze. The 34-year-old striker is showing no signs of slowing down and has 10 goals in the league after establishing himself in the team with his first strike back in mid-October. Back in front of the home fans and against a defence which has had problems containing combative forwards already this year, few will back against Murray expanding his impressive statistics on Sunday.
Looking to halt the striker in his tracks will be a defender who has found his name in the headlines this week. Koscielny is rumoured to be the player who momentarily broke down in frustration at Arsenal’s current state of affairs during a players team meeting. What this shows is that the central defender cares about the team and the predicament they’re in and this passion is exactly what the Gunners need if they’re to turn around their fortunes.
The best of times, the worst of times
Brighton invite the Gunners to the South Coast this weekend in a match that several weeks ago, few of their fans would have expected anything other than a defeat from. A combination of good form from the Seagulls and an Arsenal side now under pressure after a poor run since New Year’s Eve means expectations have slightly improved. Many will believe a good start to the game, especially with an early goal, and the match will be theirs to lose.
There’s also a real danger that Arsenal will make the short journey south licking their wounds. A wounded animal is a dangerous animal and both players and manager now have a lot to prove coming into this game. There’s no way of predicting exactly how this match will play out, whether it’s likely to be the perfect opportunity or the perfect storm. It seems as though it could be one extreme or the other for Hughton’s team.
A rock and a hard place
Arsene Wenger is now in the tricky position of having to decide exactly what his team’s priorities are and lay a clear path for his players to follow. With a place in the top-four looking increasingly improbable, if not yet mathematically impossible, Arsenal’s only chance of qualifying for the Champions League is through winning the Europa League.
To do this, he will need to focus most of the club’s energies on that competition which could detract slightly from their Premier League form. It was a gamble which José Mourinho took last season and this could well be another stick with which to compare and castigate Wenger if it fails.
If Wenger concentrates on the Europa League, there’s also a real chance that Burnley could overtake them for 6th position as the Clarets are now only 5 points below the Gunners after their win over Everton. What seems sure for Arsenal is that by grabbing at everything available, there’s a real chance they could let everything slip through spreading themselves too thin.
Prediction: Brighton 2-3 Arsenal
With only 3 defeats coming from their 13 home games in the league this season, Brighton have made the Amex Stadium a fortress. Those losses all came against sides above Arsenal in the table and to prove they belong in that group, the Gunners can start by taking a victory from Brighton this weekend. With Brighton in their best form of the season, this could be a roller-coaster afternoon for the Gunners who could finish on top.