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Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex

Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.

The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.

Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.

For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?

It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.

He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.

The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.

Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.

Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.

After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.

Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.

Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.

Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Brighton take a massive step towards safety 

The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.

This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.

Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.

Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.

Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.

In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.

Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal 

Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.

And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.

In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.

A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.

Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.

Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.

Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.

Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Arsenal

One winner, one loser from Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea

Unai Emery has a lot of work to do with his new side.

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Arsenal‘s start to 2018-19 has proven to be extremely difficult, as the Gunners have lost both of their opening matches under Unai Emery.

The fixture list was cruel to the North London side, throwing up games against Manchester City and Chelsea, and the Gunners have been left empty-handed despite showing fight in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to the Blues.

Maurizio Sarri’s side raced into a two-goal lead in the first half but were pegged back by Arsenal, before Marcos Alonso’s last strike ensured the Blues kept all three points in West London. Here, we have identified one winner and one loser from the Gunners’ squad.

Winner: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Regularly criticised during his time at Manchester United for a perceived failure to perform in big matches, Henrikh Mkhitaryan showed that is not a problem at Arsenal with a superb individual performance against Chelsea.

during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.

The Armenia international bounced back from a shocking miss, blazing over the bar with the goal at his mercy, to pull the Gunners back into the match with the first goal under Emery’s regime before then turning provider for Alex Iwobi’s equaliser.

Mkhitaryan certainly has a long way to go until he fully fills the void that Alexis Sanchez’s departure in January left but the early signs under a new boss are promising, building upon a solid first few months at the club from last season.

Loser: Mesut Ozil

Entering the campaign on the back of a tough summer, where Mesut Ozil embarked on a war of words with Germany’s Football Association and at least temporarily closed the door towards further international football after the World Cup.

Ozil found support from Arsenal on social media but it is clear his head is not quite where it needs to be at the moment, as he endured another tough test against Chelsea. Although not as bad as social media will have you believe, the World Cup winner is certainly far from his best.

Clearly low on confidence, Ozil needs a solid performance to get him back to his highest level and needs his team-mates to rally around him in the coming weeks.

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Three key takeaways from Emery’s Arsenal press conference

Emery is searching for his first win as Arsenal boss.

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Photo: Getty Images

Unai Emery’s Arsenal side travel to face Chelsea this weekend, as they seek to bounce back from defeat to Manchester City last week.

Pep Guardiola’s defending champions secured a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium, leaving Arsenal seeking to avoid back-to-back defeats at the start of Emery’s tenure – a tough challenge as the Gunners have not won at Stamford Bridge in the league since 2011.

Ahead of the fierce London derby, we have identified three key takeaways from Emery’s pre-match press conference.

Cech starts again

One of the big talking points, when the team was selected ahead of the game against Manchester City, was the fact that Petr Cech got the nod ahead of summer signing Bernd Leno – and it seems there will be no changes in that aspect for the trip to Chelsea.

Emery’s comments suggest that Cech’s Premier League experience gives the veteran stopper the edge of Leno and the Germany international will have to continue to wait for his competitive debut for the Gunners.

“I am happy with Petr Cech’s performance and he has lots of quality and experience. For Saturday, the decision for me is easy. Petr Cech can continue to start the match, I believe in him. If [in the future] Bernd starts, I believe in him also.”

Away tactics

While Arsenal suffered defeat against Manchester City, there were aspects of the Gunners performance that caught the eye and Unai Emery wants that momentum to continue in the trip across London to face Chelsea.

It seems Arsenal will not change their set-up for the match away from home but Emery is keen to ensure his side continue to play with the right pace, personality and mentality at Stamford Bridge – where they have the chance to make a statement of intent.

“When we are going to play away I want us to keep our personality and mentality because I think against Man City on Sunday, when we were losing, we kept our speed in the game. I want us to continue that and be competitive in 90 minutes and produce a better performance that Sunday.”

Big game improvements

It’s no secret that Arsenal have struggled in recent years against their ‘big six’ rivals and history at Stamford Bridge is not on their favour. Therefore, it’s clear that the Gunners need to improve in this area – and Unai Emery is aware of that.

The Spaniard’s comments do not necessarily address the latter years under Arsene Wenger but they might as well have. Emery has shown he can play the game in the press conferences but he now needs his side to improve their form on the field.

“We wanted to start well against a great team like Manchester City in front of our fans, but we lost. The result is very big, but it’s also important the way we achieve that. The difficulty is clear but I believe in our players and we need to improve in the biggest games. We lost the first game but I do not want to change our mentality.”

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Arsenal fans want Emery to sell Granit Xhaka after Man City loss

Fans are demanding Arsenal sell Xhaka in the next two weeks.

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Arsenal fans have made it clear throughout the history of the internet they need someone to be angry at and Granit Xhaka has inherited the crown.

With Arsene Wenger finally out, the Switzerland international has followed the likes of Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott as Arsenal’s weekly scapegoat, a title that is tough to shake, and his performance against Manchester City did not help matters.

Poor on the ball and struggling to cope with the Citizens’ quota of stars, fans on social media quickly flocked to criticism the midfielder and demand that Unai Emery sells the former Borussia Monchengladbach man ASAP.

With Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira amongst Emery’s summer acquisitions, Xhaka has plenty of competition for his role in midfield and many fans have made it clear they don’t want to see Xhaka wear the Arsenal shirt once again.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen and, a few months down the line, another scapegoat may have been identified. For now, it’s best Xhaka avoids logging onto Twitter…

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