Brighton and Hove Albion (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 0
Amex Stadium, Village Way, Brighton BN1 9BL
Saturday, 2nd October 2021. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Albert Sambi Lokonga; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Martinelli.
Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 42%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: John Brooks
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Chris Kavanagh; AVAR James Mainwaring
Attendance: circa 30,000
As much is known, our only absentee today is midfielder Granit Xhaka, who will be missing for three months after suffering a knee ligament injury in an incident against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, and it is looking like Albert Sambi Lokonga will be replacing him in the starting line-up at Brighton this afternoon.
As we begin proceedings off here at the Amex, the conditions are wet and treacherous with a greasy pitch; but within a minute or so of the start, Bukayo Saka keenly tested Robert Sánchez, the Brighton goalkeeper, with a clever shot. This set the pattern for a while, with Arsenal setting the pace and moving the ball around quickly and accurately, in order to attempt to break down the home side’s defence. The difference between the two teams is that we look the more confident at this point in the match, and although the Seagulls came at us several times in a “smash’n’grab” style tactic, our defenders neutralised the threat. On the twentieth minute, our hearts were in our mouths when Aaron Ramsdale allowed the ball to slip out of his hands after a deceptive ball flew in at some speed from the left, but thankfully Lewis Dunk blasted the ball over the bar and into the blue. A couple of minutes later, we almost scored the opening goal when Bukayo Saka beat Dan Burn down the right flank and crossed, under pressure, for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to rise above Shane Duffy for a looping header that just touched the post before the home side cleared the ball. The home side started to apply some pressure on us with several chances going wide and over the bar, but still the boys held firm. We started to lose possession constantly in the wrong half of the pitch, allowing the Brighton strikers free rein to take shots, seemingly at will, on Aaron Ramsdale’s goal. Our afternoon so far was summed up perfectly when Thomas Partey blasted an awful free-kick high up and into the stands from twenty yards in the thirty-fifth minute, and when play resumed, Brighton continued to dominate play. With five minutes left of the first half, Bukayo Saka ran on to a ball near the byline courtesy of Emile Smith-Rowe which was met by Thomas Partey but his low shot went a couple of yards wide. Just before the break, we had a period of good play which led to sustained pressure on the Brighton goal, and although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked as if he was going to score the opening goal from point-blank range, Emile Smith-Rowe’s ball went by him and out of play seconds before Jonathan Moss blew the whistle for the half-time break.
With the match still there to be won, the home side kicked off the second half in the torrential rain, and with no substitutions at this point, we nearly went a goal down within four minutes when a curling shot from Jakub Moder went a few inches past Aaron Ramsdale’s left-hand post. However, a few minutes later, Albert Sambi Lokonga’s shot went high and wide from about twenty yards, and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was in a one-on-one situation with Robert Sánchez, but although Shane Duffy’s sliding tackle robbed our man of his chance, he was in an offside position when he collected the ball, sadly. Thomas Partey blasted yet another shot up and over the Brighton bar soon afterwards, and the game started to oscillate from goalmouth to goalmouth with no clear chances created by either side. With twenty-eight minutes left of the match, a lacklustre Martin Ødegaard was replaced by Nicolas Pépé, and after a collision between Lewis Dunk and Robert Sánchez in the Brighton goalmouth, the match continued in the same vein, with the home side putting us under pressure. Alexandre Lacazette replaced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with twenty minutes of the match remaining, and almost immediately, we sprung an attack which released Emile Smith-Rowe. He carried the ball into the box, and fired a low shot that was kicked behind by Robert Sánchez. Shortly afterwards, we had a penalty shout that was denied by a VAR review, and almost immediately the home side came for us in earnest with Aaron Ramsdale making heroic saves from Leandro Trossard, Marc Cucurella and Solly March which most definitely kept us in the match. Just before injury time, Bukayo Saka was injured and being unable to continue playing, limped off, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles taking his place for the rest of the game. The only thing remembered in the three minutes’ injury time was a penalty shoiut from Brighton, which quite rightly was denied by VAR, otherwise this match limped to its sorry and unmemorable conclusion.
This instantly forgettable match saw us struggle at times with the chances that Brighton threw at us, and in very poor conditions we held out and did the best that we possibly could away from home. We defended very well as a unit (despite the absence of Granit Xhaka), and although we didn’t score today, most importantly, we didn’t let any in either. Yes, it was disappointing, especially after last Sunday’s result, but alwaysremember, that as our first great manager Herbert Chapman used to instruct his Arsenal teams nearly a century ago, “every team goes onto the pitch with a point, and what we have we hold. Why give it away?”. We got a point here at the Amex Stadium, and going into the international break, of that we can be more than thankful tonight. We live to fight again another day.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Monday, 18th October at 8.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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.