Arsenal eased their way to a third win in a week after defeating Brighton 2-0.
Arsenal were without Laurent Koscielny, who was nursing an Achilles problem, and Mesut Ozil, who was struggling to get over an inflamed knee. They did, though, welcome back Alex Iwobi from a thigh injury. Rob Holding kept his place from the mid-week game against BATE Borisov, while the usual first team players came back into the starting line-up.
The visitors had their own injury troubles as they were without first team strikers Glen Murray, Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed. Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown was given the lone striker’s role.
A minute in and the pattern of the game was set. Brighton sat off immediately, ceding possession to Arsenal. As soon as they got the ball, Arsenal pressed, won it back and found Lacazette in space outside the penalty area. The ball sat up nicely for him, and he unleashed a drive that smashed the post and went out of play. Six minutes later, Alexis fancied a go from distance as well but his effort was tame and an easy save for the Brighton keeper.
Ten minutes gone, and some quick interplay on the edge of the Brighton box got Iwobi in behind. He took the shot on from a tight angle, but didn’t get hold it and hit it straight at the keeper.
Quarter-of-an-hour in, Arsenal got the breakthrough. A free-kick from the right hand side was swung in deep by Xhaka. Lacazette managed to get on the end of it and head back into the centre. Mustafi latched onto the loose ball, but his shot was blocked. Bellerin followed up with his own shot, but that, too, was blocked. Monreal, of all people, was then on hand to pick up the pieces and roll the ball into an empty net.
Brighton responded well, attacking down our left hand side and whipping a dangerous cross that had to be put out for a corner by Kolasinac. The Bosnian then committed a clumsy foul to thwart a Brighton counter. The free-kick was rolled to Solly March, who hammered the ball from 25-yards and struck the post. A flat-footed Lewis Dunk then put the rebound wide of the gaping goal.
Arsenal, as they’re in the habit of doing, seemed to lose control of the game after the goal and had to withstand some Brighton pressure. With the visitors growing in confidence, Arsenal were limited to counter-attacks. Iwobi picked up the ball and ran through the Brighton half, holding off defenders as he went. He got to the edge of the box, but didn’t get any power behind his shot.
Arsenal should have then doubled their lead. Half-hour gone, Dunk failed to control an overhit backpass and handed the ball over to Lacazette. He shifted the ball onto his left foot, but his shot on goal was rather wimpy and not what we expected from our new striker.
With five minutes to go until half-time, a neat Brighton move down our right needed Xhaka to make a last-ditch tackle. Cech then flapped at the resultant corner before Arsenal eventually cleared the ball and set-up a 4v2 counter. The ball went out to Bellerin galloping down the left, who reversed the ball to Kolasinac on the overlap. The Bosnian found Ramsey with the cut-back, but his effort was met with a good save from Ryan. It was by far the most exciting period of play for a good ten minutes.
At the break, Arsenal had the lead, but had received plenty of warning signs that Brighton weren’t about to lie down and take a beating.
The second half began with plenty of Arsenal possession in front of Brighton’s deep and compact block. With such little space to exploit, Arsenal needed some invention from Alexis. The Chilean scooped the ball over the top to find Ramsey’s run, but he couldn’t generate any power on his header.
Soon after, it was finally 2-0. Alexis received the ball on the edge of the box and dragged two or three Brighton defenders to him. His back-heel duped all of them, and found Iwobi in space on the right hand side to smash into the net. A sexy goal to ease the Arsenal nerves.
Arsenal were well on-top this half and on the hour mark, it was almost 3-0. Alexis drove into the box from the left hand side, cut-inside and tried to place onto into the far corner. Another good save from Ryan, and then a last-ditch clearance, kept him out. The following corner than found Kolasinac at the back post, but his header was cleared off the line.
The only thing missing from the day was a goal from Lacazette. The Frenchman made a dangerous run in behind and was found with a nicely-weighted through ball from Alexis. He managed to get his body in front of goal Dunk, but had his shot blocked by the defender. That was his major involvement in the match, as he was replaced by Olivier Giroud after 70 minutes. Theo Walcott also came on for Iwobi.
With 15 minutes to go, Brighton sought to salvage something from the game by bringing on key attackers Anthony Knockaert and Glen Murray. The changes didn’t alter the flow of the play, and Arsenal continued to control the ball and play the game in Brighton’s half.
Mohamed Elneny got his third game in a week when he came on for Xhaka with around eight minutes to go.
Brighton nearly got one back when they fizzed a cross into the box and caught a sleepy Arsenal defence by surprise. Murray got in front of Mustafi, and fortunately put his header into the side netting. That chance spurred the visitors into a late effort and they tested our defence with a number of good deliveries into the box. Their best chance from from Propper, whose shot from the edge of the box went narrowly wide.
In the end, Arsenal held firm and secured their sixth win in seven games.