Four straight Premier League wins. Enjoy it. The last time Arsenal managed a winning streak of four in the league was during the fall of 2018 when Unai Emery put together the seven-match streak at the start of his managerial reign at the Emirates. While Arsenal can’t match that on Sunday, they will be back in front of home fans for the first time and have the chance to move up the table past rivals Tottenham. A win against Brighton combined with losses or draws by Tottenham against Leicester City and Everton against Manchester City would lift the Gunners into 7th place.
Pepe’s brace on Wednesday was a nice cap off to what has been a much-improved season (unless he is able to match or top that performance on Sunday). 14 goals (and five assists) ties his second-best season as a professional. In The Short Fuse’s preseason predictions I had Pepe down for 15 goals, which is still possible (ignore that Willian prediction), but what even more exciting is that the last time Pepe scored 14 goals (‘17-18) it preceded his breakout year at Lille — 23 goals in ‘18-19.
Brighton enters the match on the back of that exciting comeback victory over Manchester City in front of their home fans in Falmer Stadium. They’ve picked up seven points in their last four matches, lifting them in 16th place and putting distance on the relegation battle, and moving them closer to 12th than 18th. With an away win, and favorable results, Brighton could finish as high as 13th place, which would be their highest finishing position since the 1981-82 season.
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Martin Odegaard
- Mohamed Elneny
- Dani Ceballos
- Pablo Mari
- Arthur Okonkwo
- Left Out: Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: David Luiz (thigh), Hector Bellerin (lower leg), & Mat Ryan (on loan from Brighton)
- After a 3-1 away win, you wouldn’t expect Mikel Arteta to change much heading into the final matchday. After going 10 for 11 in the last prediction (missed on the late injury to Hector Bellerin), I’m sticking with the same starting XI with the exception of bringing Xhaka back in for Elneny. Since Granit made the bench and was used as a substitute in the second half, he seems to be in line for a start as the season wraps up.
- Pepe and Saka started on the opposite sides on Wednesday, but their starting position isn’t anything to get hung up about. Either can work on either flank, with Mikel able to flip them as the match dictates.
- While Martin Odegaard has been a great addition on loan this back half of the season, Smith Rowe has earned the start once more. Exactly how Arteta plans to give Odegaard and Smith Rowe enough starts next season, if Arsenal extends Martin’s time at the club, is a problem for the future. Four goals and seven assists in Smith Rowe’s first full professional season has been quite the debut, especially for a club that has been searching for a creative, attacking midfielder since Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey fell out of favor and eventually left the club.
- It’ll be a very interesting summer for the right-back position at Arsenal. It seems all but confirmed that Hector Bellerin will exit the club. Cedric has filled in as the catch-all full-back this season and is a decent depth piece for next season, especially if Arsenal wants to focus their spending on a new starting right-back and actual second left-back to support Tierney. Then there is Calum Chambers who has worked himself back into the starting XI. Chambers offers depth at right-back and center-back, is a homegrown player, and has another year left on his contract. For Sunday I’d favor Chambers and to stick around next season.
- The other interesting squad inclusion to look out for is the backup goalkeeper. Normally, not a position of concern when matchday lineups are announced. But with Mat Ryan being unable to play against his home club (Brighton), Mikel Arteta either has to put the long-lost Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson on the bench or one of the academy players. With Runarsson seemingly heading away from the club and ending his uneventful Arsenal career, I’d like to see Arthur Okonkwo get the spot.
How to watch
Sunday (5/23) at 11:00 am ET / 8:00 am PT on Peacock Premium.
Arsenal - 2
Brighton - 1
Will Mikel Arteta close out the ‘20-21 season with five straight league wins? Will results fall Arsenal’s way to edge out 7th place and finish ahead of Tottenham? What’s your scoreline prediction for Sunday’s finale?