Arsenal defence holds firm during stormy night in Brighton

Team offers little up front at the Amex Stadium but the Gunner's defence looks stronger

Saturday, 2nd October 2021 — By Richard Osley at the Amex Stadium


FA Premier League

LET us hope this was nobody’s first match. Let us hope that no parent kept asking little Johnny all whether they were excited for their first match on Saturday night. Junior Seagulls and Junior Gunners would have been dealt a harsh reality about ‘going to the football’: It can rain, it can be cold and sometimes there aren’t even any goals.

The 32,000 crowd at the Amex Stadium tonight (Saturday) deserved to see the ball his the back of the net a few times, having been roundly soaked by what must have felt like gallons of rainwater. With such a drenching, let’s give Arsenal a pass for a lacklustre performance. Yes, everybody has to be ready to play in all conditions and it’s the same for both sides, but it was clear that the cutting dismantling of Spurs last week could not be recreated here.

So how could Brighton deal with it so well? The home side played so well that Mikel Arteta claimed this as a point gained rather than two points lost, but the positive here is that Arsenal’s goalkeeper and defence did not bend. New signing Takehiro Tomiyasu at full back was given a fresh lesson on what the Premier League was all about but the Gunners never really looked like conceding, despite the shots and crossing flying in. In the first half alone, Brighton had eight shots but failed to get any of them on target.

In the past, Arsenal’s rearguard would have cracked, you have to think. But goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale looks like a determined, solid signing and is well shielded when Ben White and Gabriel play together in front of him. Three, almost four, clean sheets in his first four league matches at the club for Ramsdale do not spell a bright future for Bernd Leno, who so often failed to provide a toughman reassurane in goal for Arsenal last season.

Less positive was what went on up top. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was once an untouchable, can’t-be-subbed forward. The guaranteed goalscorer, however, looks a little more hit and miss. He gets a rain pass after his goal against Spurs last week, but Arsenal need more. Alexandre Lacazette looked brighter when he came off the bench. It is a shame that Arteta cannot find a way to shoot a two-man attack with both of them on the field at the same time.

In the end, Emile Smith Rowe was again Arsenal’s best performer, although even he got caught up in Brighton’s tightly-managed structure. He raced through for the Gunners’ best chance of the game in the second half but fired straight at keeper Robert Sanchez.

Brighton too need more up front. Graham Potter is emerging as a canny manager in the top league but Arsenal had reason to be thankful that they do not have a more clinical finisher. Shots disappeared wide or high, or were comfortably dealt with by Ramsdale. They will have wanted the three points in the end – amazing progress for a club which is so often tipped with relegation – but there was no heart in the mouth moments this time.

Arteta had praise for Ramsdale afterwards.

“The way we’ve decided to recruit Aaron is going through a big process where obviously we wanted to know about his personality, about his character, about the way he could handle the fact to play under big pressure in a big club,” he said.

“He’s showing that he’s ready to do that. I’m really happy with his performances and what he’s bringing to the team. That’s why I think defensively we’ve been difficult.”

The manager added: “I think it’s a point gained because I don’t think we deserved anything more than that. We never felt in control of the game. We struggled to break the press and get a good sequence of passes and impose ourselves in the final third.”

BRIGHTON &. HOVE ALBION: Sanchez, Veltman, Duffy, Dunk, Burn, Cucurella, Moder (Mac Allister 78), Gross (March 84), Lallana, Trossard, Maupay

ARSENAL: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Tierney, White, Gabriel, Partey, Lokonga, Odegaard (Pepe 63), Saka (Maitland Niles 90), Smith Rowe, Aubameyang (Lacazette 72)
SUBS NOT USED: Elneny, Holding, Leno,  Martinelli, Soares, Tavares

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