What a difference a few weeks can make. Add in a full squad and a favorable schedule and suddenly Arsenal are perhaps at their highest point in over a year. The club ended last season on five straight wins, but it came with knowing it was finishing in 8th place. And last winter Arsenal went six matches without a loss, but the turmoil and lack of squad depth made even those results feel like shaky ground.
This is the best squad Mikel Arteta has had to work with so far at Arsenal. Five wins in their last six matches, into the top half of the table, and thoroughly beating their rivals. Arsenal Women are top of the WSL and are coming off their own dominating performance over Tottenham. Plus, the Arsenal U23s are just a point off the top in the Premier League 2 having recently drawn the leaders Manchester City and beaten Chelsea 6-1. At the moment, things are bright for Arsenal and August seems like a long time ago.
Up next is a surprisingly productive Brighton Hove Albion side that were nearly top of the Premier League heading into this match. The Seagulls are just a point behind Liverpool, beat Leicester City, and did what Arsenal failed to do on opening day, beat Brentford away. Their scoring woes from last season have not reappeared yet and will give Arsenal are big test on the road, so Arteta will need his squad to be focused on this match despite the high of beating Spurs in that manner.
- Bernd Leno
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Mohamed Elneny
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, Eddie Nketiah, & Folarin Balogun.
- Out: Granit Xhaka (knee).
- After that performance, and in a North London Derby, why would Mikel Arteta change anything? They’ve all earned their spot to start on Saturday and moving forward until results falter or we get to the next round in the League Cup later this month.
- Now, of course, Arteta will be forced into one change, following Granit Xhaka’s unfortunate knee injury in the Tottenham match. The club confirmed on Thursday that Xhaka will not need surgery, but he is still expected to be out for a few months. Hopefully, we can see him back in time for the holiday fixtures. So Albert Sambi Lokonga should get his fourth Premier League start in what is turning into a much more involved season, as a starter at least, than we may have expected from the start. His earlier performances leave no doubt that he will be up to the task against Brighton as well as over the coming months as Xhaka rehabs.
- Martin Odegaard leads the team in actions that have led to goals in the Premier League (3), but his ability to work deeper with the central midfield duo at times has been something Arsenal have often lacked in recent years. With Odegaard central, it allows both Saka and Smith Rowe the freedom to float wide, forward, and even drift inside for overloads as they see fit. It’s early, but this might be the combination that sees Arsenal pushing back into European contention.
- With little change needed in the starting XI, there are fewer discussion points and that continues when considering the bench. Elneny likes comes in as a midfield backup with Xhaka’s absence. If Arsenal fail to break down Brighton in the opening hour of the match, Arteta will have the likes of Pepe, Lacazette, and Martinelli to freshen up the attack.
How to watch
Saturday (10/2) at 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT on NBC.
Arsenal - 2
Brighton - 0
After going five straight matches without a win against Brighton in the league (March 2018 - June 2020), Arsenal managed the double over the Seagulls last season. That was the Gunners' first win at the Amex Stadium during the Premier League era, a task that will be just as difficult this time around, despite Arsenal’s fine form. Brighton have already shown their ability to pick up goals and points in difficult situations as well as hold off their opposition, but if Arsenal can match their performance in the North London Derby three points should be well within reach — just like the European positions in the table.