Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Brighton preview: More of the same, please

Arsenal take on Brighton today looking for a fourth consecutive Premier League win, and three points to take this recent positive momentum into the upcoming Interlull.

It won’t be easy, the hosts have had a good start to the season, so much so that even a win today wouldn’t take us above them. They’ve won four, drawn one and lost one of their six games so far, and we know from previous years how this can be a tricky fixture. We won it last season, thanks to a goal from Alexandre Lacazette, but a late Neal Maupay goal was a tough one to take after lockdown eased in 2020.

Mikel Arteta says:

It will be a really difficult game. They’ve been on a really good run. They are playing well and getting the results that they deserve. It’s a really competitive match that we are looking ahead to and we know the importance of it.

Suffice to say, there is no room rest on our laurels after winning the derby. As much as we all enjoyed it, the team has to consign it to the past and focus fully on this one. We saw how effective we were last Sunday, both in terms of our technical execution, and how committed the performance was. So far this season we’re winning more aerial duels and making more tackles and blocks than last season, so that effort has to be replicated again today against a team who will have no fear of facing us.

The only real question about Mikel Arteta’s team selection for today is what to do in the absence of Granit Xhaka. He could use the formation we saw at Burnley, bringing back Nicolas Pepe in the front three, and using Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard as a midfield trio. He also has the option of summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga who I think will probably get the nod for a tricky away game. To be fair, I didn’t think the manager would be quite as brave for Burnley away, so he might well do it again today, but I suspect the Belgian will give us that bit of extra midfield security.

Beyond that, we’re looking for more of the same from last Sunday. That felt like a bit of a step forward in how we played, and how effective we were as an attacking unit. Every game presents its own challenges, of course, but scoring goals tends to make them a little easier to deal with. Brighton have only conceded five in the league so far, we’re going to have to work hard to break them down, but hopefully we can take the chances when they come.

A little sidebar to this one is Ben White returning to his former club. It’s not that his transfer was particularly contentious or anything, but it always adds a little spice. There’s an interesting interview with Gabriel Magalhaes over on Sky Sports which is worth a read this morning, and he says of his burgeoning partnership with the former Brighton man:

“Ben and I have each had a full season in the Premier League now and we’re getting to know it much better. We still need to connect even more but we are improving and developing with every game and that bodes well for the rest of the season.

“We want to be a very intense and aggressive defence.”

Again, our sample size is small and we clearly need to see more of them together to judge how effective they can be, but it’s a case of so far, so good for them. With all due respect to our other central defensive options, they don’t give you the same sense of security, nor the same sense of progressiveness on the ball. He continues:

“The manager wants his central defenders to defend well, first and foremost. He wants us to know the moments to attack and the moments to defend. That’s what we are trying to do, and we know now when to drop deep and when to push up.

“Having good timing on the pitch is essential and he talks to us about that a lot.”

Fingers crossed they can put in another solid shift today, and I should mention that the presence of Takehiro Tomiyasu has really bolstered that central defensive pairing too.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. There is a Premier League preview podcast over on Patreon right now, and as ever we’ll have live blog coverage of the game for you later on, so please do join us for that.

For now, take it easy.

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