Arsenal see off Brighton to keep up winning run
Gunners keep in touch with league leaders as they maintain 100 percent home record
01 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Brighton visited the Emirates Stadium for the first time
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 2 (Monreal 16, Iwobi 56)
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 0
IT is now seven matches since that harrowing afternoon at the end of August which saw Arsenal dismantled by Liverpool at Anfield. Seven matches without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, seven matches since Alexis Sanchez learned he would be locked up at the Emirates Stadium until Christmas at least. The Gunners have won all but one of them – a steely draw at Chelsea is the only X in a form column otherwise decorated with Ws. And they kept the winning feeling this afternoon with a controlled, sweat-free victory over Premiership newcomers Brighton and Hove Albion.
There is clearly a new confidence in the ranks, possibly helped by a kinder set of a fixtures and a series of successes against lower-ranked teams at home and abroad but it is also growing on the pitch where the tricksy passing moves are starting to come off again and the defence looks more assured despite the frustrating absence of injured captain Laurent Koscielny. Some of the players who suffered a false start are finding their way and this win means the club, for all the talk of crisis seven matches ago, remain at least connected to the top five, albeit a stretch behind leaders Manchester United.
Arsene Wenger had reason to smile, as he marked 21 years at Arsenal
The only negatives from today’s display at Ashburton Grove was a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, perhaps because the team was playing within itself and needed something more to spark the forward line, and the empty red seats which could be seen across the stadium, particularly in the upper tiers. Of course, we were told of how many tickets had been sold, more than 59,000, but the visible vacancies told another story. The ninety minutes passed with the Arsenal support barely mustering a chant, and in the stillness you could sometimes hear the players shout. There is still work to be done to electrify the stadium to match the way the atmosphere could throb at Highbury, however much rival fans claimed otherwise.
There had been reason for excitement from the first minute when Alexandre Lacazette crashed the ball into the post with a drive from the edge of the box and Arsenal continued to chase the early goal through the first 15 minutes. They secured it through the unlikely source of Nacho Monreal, a defender who always looks just as surprised as the rest of us on the rare occasions he finds the net.
His goal came from an almighty penalty area scramble originating from a free kick on the side of the edge of the penalty area, Lacazette having been needlessly fouled by Jose Izquierdo. There were three or four attempts to force the ball home before Monreal controlled it with his chest and pushed it past Seagulls keeper Mat Ryan. The visiting players screamed that at some stage it had bounced just out of play, but Brighton manager Chris Hughton said afterwards that he did not think this had been the case and had no complaints about Arsenal’s opener.
Solly March, the promising Albion winger, came as close as Brighton did all day when he almost equalised with a sweet drive midway through the half, having been teed up from a free kick. Like Lacazette before him, his shot came back off the post. At the other end, an Arsenal breakaway almost saw Aaron Ramsey convert. Arsene Wenger had to wait until the second half, however, to see his team claim the security of a two-goal cushion. A mazy interchange of quick passes to feet climaxed with Alexis Sanchez back heeling the ball through to an onrushing Alex Iwobi, who smashed it beyond Ryan.
Jack Wilshere was not called upon
From then on in, Arsenal ticked over in cruise control. Lacazette and Sanchez both probably should have added to the scoring after breaking into the box. There was a late flourish for the Seagulls but nothing to really worry Petr Cech, who had spent much of the day as a spectator.
Wenger said afterwards that he had rotated the team to try and mitigate any fatigue from the Europa League trip to Belarus in midweek. Jack Wilshere, to the disappointment of some, was not introduced from the bench despite his encouraging display against BATE Borisov.
“We have played more fluently than today but playing Monday, Thursday and today, it was important to get three points,” said Wenger. “We eased off in concentration and decision-making and then it becomes a bit harder. ‘The question mark is there when you change so many players, can you keep cohesion? It was a difficult week because the game at BATE was a difficult game. I am pleased.”
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Monreal, Holding, Mustafi, Xhaka (Elneny 83), Ramsey, Iwobi (Walcott 71), Sanchez, Lacazette (Giroud 71)
Subs not used: Mertesacker, Ospina, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: Ryan, Bruno, Bong, Dunk, Duffy, Stephens, Propper, March (Schelotto 71), Gross, Izquierdo (Knockaert 76), Brown (Murray 76)
Subs not used: Goldson, Krul, Suttner, Molumby
Tickets sold: 59,378