Both Arsenal and Brighton were in a good run of form heading into the game, however Arsene Wenger’s side were clear favourites and their superior class and quality showed.
It was nearly the perfect start for Arsenal, with Alexandre Lacazette striking the post inside the first two minutes with a rasping volley.
Arsenal were playing intricate football and opened the scoring on 17 minutes through Nacho Monreal. After Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Bellerin saw efforts blocked, the ball eventually fell to Monreal who slammed home. It was his first Premier League goal for an incredible 1,660 days.
Mathew Ryan was busy in goal, first keeping out Lacazette after the Frenchman went through on goal and then denying Aaron Ramsey just before half time.
Arsenal were rarely troubled and it was 2-0 on 56 minutes through Alex Iwobi. Alexis Sanchez found the Nigerian who took a touch and rifled home superbly.
The game then went into something of a lull with Ryan making the odd save. Brighton pushed hard towards the end of the game to try and get back in the tie but to no avail.
The win seals Arsenal’s place in the top six over the international break whilst Brighton remain two points above the relegation places.
RealSport have picked out five things we learned from the game:
Time heals everything
After 1,660 days, Monreal must have been wondering if he would ever score another Premier League goal. The Spaniard would have been forgiven for being surprised when the ball dropped to him inside the Brighton box, such is the rarity of him getting into goalscoring positions. However, Monreal is a composed footballer and kept his head to shoot home.
It was also Monreal’s first Premier League goal at the Emirates and will be a day he’ll never forget. A special moment for the Spaniard who has been a great servant to the club, always putting his heart on the line. No player covered more distance for Arsenal last season than Monreal, running a total of 352km, well ahead of second placed Mesut Ozil on 318km.
The issue with Arsenal’s set up in recent seasons has been their lack of tactical structure, organisation and discipline, both in attack and defence. Arsene Wenger likes to give his players freedom, and whilst it can result in beautiful football, it can also leave gaps in front of the defence, and poor decision making in the final third when coming up against sides who are well organised.
However, since the 0-0 draw away to Chelsea, Arsenal have looked far more disciplined with and without the ball. It was a professional performance against Brighton and denied the victors any time or space on the ball. It saw Brighton end the game with only one shot on target, a 35 yarder from centre back Lewis Dunk.
In previous seasons, Arsenal have only showed this tactical intelligence in fits and spurts. Perhaps they have finally learned their lesson. If they have, the North London side will have a real shot at the title.
Whilst Arsenal put in a disciplined and organised display, their counterparts also did, despite the 2-0 loss. Brighton arguably have the weakest squad in the league, however Chris Hughton is an exceptional coach who gets the best out of his side.
Arsenal rarely needed to get out of second gear for this game, however Brighton deserve credit for denying the Gunners space and restricting clear cut chances.
Arsenal’s quality shone through, however Brighton can take encouragement and will no doubt pick up a good amount of points this season down to their discipline, desire and organisation.
Mesut Ozil return?
There is little doubt the German is a world class talent, and Arsenal’s best player along with Alexis Sanchez. Ozil missed out again through injury, however Arsenal have arguably played the best they have for a while without the German in the side. Aaron Ramsey has come into his own whilst Iwobi scored a goal and Sanchez won the man of the match award.
Wenger does have his favourites and when Ozil is fit he’s expected to return to the starting XI. No current Premier League player has more assists than Ozil after 100 appearances, with 36. Ozil also works harder than he is given credit for, and ran the second most out of any Arsenal player last season with 318km.
Arsenal have looked disciplined and structured in recent weeks without the former Real Madrid playmaker, and Ozil will have to buy into that philosophy if he is to make a successful return to the starting eleven.
Who will get the goals at Brighton?
They may be organised and put their body on the line, but who is going to score the goals that ensure Brighton stay in the league?
Tomer Hemed is a presence up top and is their joint top scorer with Pascal Gross on two, however he’s serving a ban and has only scored 30 league goals for the South Coast side in 87 appearances.
Not a bad ratio, however it is questionable if he will provide the firepower to help keep the club in England’s top division. All the other relegation candidates have players who proven they can score in the Premier League, and Hughton may be forced to bring in a proven goalscorer in the January transfer window.
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