Arsenal need a win from their visit to Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day in the Premier League to keep the pressure on Chelsea for fourth in the table. The Gunners are currently tied with the Blues on points, behind on goal difference. The Seagulls sit 13th but have lost their last three matches in the league. They have not lost four straight during Chris Hughton’s managerial tenure.
Mesut Özil returned to the lineup against Burnley and was instrumental in two of the Gunners’ three goals. We don’t know whether he and manager Unai Emery have squashed their beef (or whether they had any to begin with). Even if they haven’t, the German looks set to start again, as much out of necessity as anything else because at this point Arsenal’s injury situation is simply absurd.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the latest to go down. The Armenian will miss six weeks with a fractured metatarsal in his right foot. He joins Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding, Emile Smith Rowe, Dinos Mavropanos, and Hector Bellerin as definitely out for the match. There are conflicting reports on both Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi. Arsenal have reported that Monreal is being assessed ahead of the match, the media is reporting he is definitely out. The converse is true for Mustafi - the team has reported that he is out, the media is reporting he may play.
The Gunners can ill-afford all these injuries, especially on defense. Arsenal have particularly struggled to defend away from the Emirates in the Premier League this season, conceding 15 goals in eight games. Tomorrow, expect to see Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis in the middle. The question is whether they will be joined by one of Stephan Lichtsteiner or Granit Xhaka in a back three or flanked by Sead Kolasinac and Lichtsteiner in a back four.
Part of Arsenal’s struggles (you know, apart from the sheer number of injuries) stem from Granit Xhaka being deputized as a defender. He has played fine, but the Gunners miss his calm presence and distribution in the midfield. Xhaka and Lucas Torreira have developed a great partnership — they make each other better. It is not surprising that without Xhaka next to him, Torreira’s influence on the past two matches has diminished (and I’d expect the same to be true of Xhaka without Torreira alongside him).
On the Brighton side of things, centerback Lewis Dunk is suspended for his red card against Bournemouth. Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Jose Izquierdo are both out with injuries. Shane Duffy will return to the lineup after being suspended for the past three matches.
WHAT: Arsenal at Brighton & Hove Albion
WHERE: The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton and Hove, Sussex
WHEN: Wednesday, December 26th 9:15 AM PT | 12:15 PM ET | 5:15 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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