Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 1 Brighton

Arsenal (1) 1 Brighton and Hove Albion (0) 1
Premier League
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 5th May 2019. Kick-off time: 4.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Mkhitaryan, Xhaka; Özil, Torreira, Lacazette; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Čech,  Elneny; Koscielny, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Kolašinac, Nketiah.
Scorers: Aubameyang
Yellow Cards: Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Xhaka, Guendouzi
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Attendance: 59,965
Forty-seven years ago this summer, a singer called Colin Blunstone had a hit record with a song entitled I Don’t Believe In Miracles; maybe that ancient tune should have been played over the Emirates public address system this afternoon to bring home to everyone just what has happened here. Instead of basking in comfortable self-satisfaction, we now have reality staring cold and hard at us in the face; the fact that only picking up one point from the past four Premiership matches means that not only do we finish outside the top four places, but Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea take up positions three and four in the table, thus qualifying for the Champions League competition next season. Agreed, a freaky combo of results that would see Everton beating Tottenham Hotspur, and (wait for it) Arsenal defeating Burnley at Turf Moor by a cricket score could overturn this situation, but quite frankly, it ain’t gonna happen.
And yet, when this match started, like so many others this season, we were all merrily led down the garden path of hope and possibility, that dissipated into a complete farce eventually. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s shot hit the inside of the post soon after kick-off, then just minutes later, Alireza Jahanbakhsh brought down Nacho Monreal with an extremely clumsy tackle inside the Brighton penalty area. With no hesitation, Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasted no time in scoring the subsequent penalty.
Surely, after such an auspicious start, one would naturally think that Arsenal would build on this fortuitous early lead wouldn’t you? It didn’t happen that way. We simply allowed Brighton to come back into the match, and as the first half carried on, so did the visitors’ confidence levels also. Arsenal have to be thankful for Bernd Leno as their goalkeeper; time and time again over a twenty minutes period he literally saved Arsenal from a fate worse than themselves. In the five minutes or so before the break, we somehow managed to wake up, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw their efforts on the Brighton goal come to nothing.
Was the second half going to be any different. Nope. It was almost as if they were raw recruits to the Premiership with no idea of what was going on, instead of the experienced professional footballers they really are. The incident on the hour proved this. Solly March passed Granit Xhaka in the Arsenal penalty area, and as he did, the Arsenal man slapped him on the back. Penalty given, Glenn Murray scored to equalise the game. We then decided to wake up and try to impose some kind of dominance on this match, and when that appeared not to work, Mr. Emery made a triple substitution (Stephan Lichtsteiner, Granit Xhaka and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Sead Kolašinac, Alex Iwobi and Mattéo Guendouzi) thirteen minutes from time to force the issue, but it became evident to everybody in the stadium that the harder we tried, the less likely we were to score a second goal, although it should be noted that we did come close to scoring literally at the end of the match, but sadly it was not to be.
And so the players went on this ridiculous lap of appreciation that neither they nor the crowd really wanted; the combination of their sad faces and the world-weariness of our supporters told its own story somehow. By rights, we should have dominated this match against Brighton, who have only just secured their Premiership status for the next campaign, but like so many games during the season we had the inability to do so. Oh, by the way, in Spain tonight, our opponents in the semi-final, second leg of the Europa League have just beaten Huesca by six goals to two. Let us hope that València don’t have their shooting boots on against us, otherwise there will be even longer faces than today when the final whistle blows at around 9.50pm Thursday evening. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

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