If any Arsenal fan thought playing on a Monday night was strange enough, then they were surely in for a surprise when the match against Brighton kicked off at noon on a Sunday afternoon. I say kicked off but actually more like shocked everyone with its kickoff time.
Arsenal has been on a good run of late, not conceding in the league since the Liverpool debacle and looked to continue the good run against the Premier League newcomers. Once again, the team was set up with three at the back with Lacazette, Sanchez and Iwobi upfront.
The good thing about the manager saying he is taking the Europa League seriously while actually not giving a toss about it is that he can make wholesale changes to the team and field his best XI in the league. And if you still believe in taking Arsene Wenger’s words at face value, then it’s your fault.
Despite the early start, Arsenal was quick out of the blocks; the midfield pairing of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka linking up well while Sanchez and Iwobi drifted in and out of position, and Lacazette pulling the Brighton backline all over the place.
And it would be the Frenchman who would have the first major chance of the game. The ball broke in midfield and fell to Lacazette, who didn’t even look up at goal when he sent the ball crashing against the upright with the Brighton goalkeeper well beaten.
That would set the tone for the first half; Brighton trying to play out of their defence and getting caught in possession, Arsenal recovering in good positions but somehow conspiring amongst themselves to make a mess of the opportunities.
When the first goal finally came, it came from a surprising but not underserved source. From a Xhaka corner, Lacazette somehow managed to keep the ball in play, the ball fell to Mustafi, whose shot was blocked and then to Bellerin whose shot was blocked too by a Brighton defender. When it was Nacho Monreal’s turn however, he steadied himself and smashed the ball into the net. With his right foot even. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
Brighton has proved, even at this embryonic stage of the season, that they are a side that are not afraid to play. The created their best chance of the first half from a well worked free kick after Saed Kolasinac fouled a Brighton player at the edge of the box. The ball was worked to the edge of the box, where a Brighton player, I forget which, smacked the ball with some vehemence the ball beat Petr Cech quite easily but could not go past the Arsenal upright.
In the second half, Arsenal turned the screw looking for the second goal. Alexis Sanchez in particular came into the game more, falling back into midfield to orchestrate play. His efforts eventually paid off when his deft backheel freed Iwobi in the Brighton box. Perhaps remembering that he had had up to that time a couple of chances to score where he could only manage feeble shots, the Nigerian international leathered the ball past the head of the Brighton goalkeeper.
It was yet another game that Arsenal would be playing without the mercurial Mesut Özil. Some might want to think that Arsenal’s current good run has been achieved because of that. I for one think the good run has actually been achieved in spite of his absence.
Özil might not be the best tackler in the world but what he brings to the team, any team is indisputable. Because he has been been missing and we have been lacking his creative output, the mantle for creativity has fallen on other players, especially Sanchez, who is maybe getting much worse (or better) with losing possession. The earlier the German is reintroduced into the team, the better I think.
The Best Player On The Pitch: That Sanchez backheel
For all of his endeavour and work-rate, the backheel assist was definitely the best thing on show during the game. It is perhaps the best way to describe Alexis; that he can lose possession 27253 times in a game and still manage to come up with something as glorious. Typical Sanchez.