Brighton & Hove Albion vs Arsenal
Venue: Amex Stadium
Referee: Kevin Friend
Arsenal arrive at Brighton at surely the nadir of the Wenger reign, the look of resignation on his face after Thursday night seemed terminal.
Arsenal need to draw a line in the Brighton sand and start a lap of honour as soon as they possibly can. With a rejuvenated AC Milan on the horizon Arsenal and Wenger can ill afford a defeat on the coast this weekend.
Do Arsenal have the ability, the leadership, the fight to recover from back to back humblings against Manchester City? The way Koscielny and Mustafi tried to rally the troops as the goals snowed down on Thursday was reminiscent of Tim Henman’s forced passion in the late nineties, safe to say the ghosts of the Vieira Keane rivalry were turning in their graves.Embed from Getty Images
And whilst passion and anger are a hugely overrated quality they do still have a place in the modern game but Wenger looks not to have that in him anymore.
His opposite number also has a reputation as a nice guy and it’s hard to think of a more liked manager than Chris Hughton. The manager of the month candidate has steadily and quietly built a decent side and even in the mass of midtable mediocrity the Premier League has become they look a genuine midtable side in a position to kick on next season – a Burnley by the beach. With Gross, Izquidero and Murray all in great form and a solid if unspectacular defence they will be a huge challenge for Arsenal on Sunday.
Arsenal have won only three away games all season, whilst Brighton have only lost three at home.
Arsenal’s injury list still sadly consists of long term patient Santi Cazorla, the midfielder is joined by fellow Spaniard Monreal and Lacazette. Jack Wilshere is touch and go and faces a late fitness test. Brighton’s injury list consists only of two players yet to feature this season in Sidwell and Skalak and Isiah Brown a bit part player this season.Embed from Getty Images
Hughton may decide to give new signing Locadia his first start but seems likely to stick with the team that demolished Swansea last week. Arsenal come off the back of two games in a week before playing AC Milan and more rotation seems inevitable, given how ineffective Danny Welbeck was in midweek it’s hard to envisage him keeping his place. The biggest dilemma will be if Wenger can trust both Ozil and Mkhitaryan in an away game of this nature.
Both are often unfairly maligned as tough game bottlers but it’s fair to say they both lived up to their reputation again on Thursday night. It’s easy to imagine both in their synchronised disappearing double act again on Sunday. Kolasinac was given the runaround on Thursday but that probably says more about the opposition than him, and will likely keep his place in Monreal’s absence.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Brighton 4-2-3-1: Ryan; Bong, Dunk, Duffy, Schelotto; Stephens, Propper; Knockaert, Izquierdo, Gross; Murray
Arsenal 4-3-3: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey; Iwobi, Ozil, Aubameyang
Prediction: Brighton 2 Arsenal 1.
(Arsenal will go one nil up before losing)
Written by Gary Robinson.