Arsenal were handed an opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table with both Manchester City and Newcastle dropping points. And they took it. The Gunners beat Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 to head into 2023 seven points clear.
It was a bit of an odd game, and the scoreline flatters Brighton a touch. At the same time, the Seagulls were solid and gave the Gunners a run for it, especially down the stretch. They had the ball in the back of the net and thought they’d made it 4-3 in the 89th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Brighton had 68% of the possession. Arsenal racked up 2.88 xG to their 1.15 xG. Those numbers will vary depending on where you look, but the bottom line is that Arsenal were deserving winners.
Winning in the Premier League is difficult. Winning away is even harder. Arsenal have won 14 of 16 PL matches this season. They’re off to the third best start in Premier League history on 43 points, trailing only City in ‘17-18 and Liverpool in ‘19-20, who both had 46 points. Coming into today’s match, Brighton had conceded just 6 goals at home all season and were a bogey team for Arsenal.
It was a great win for the Gunners, even if Brighton’s push down the stretch sours the taste a bit. To make it sweet again, think on the positives. Arsenal scored early to set the tone. They scored a “killer” third goal coming out of the halftime break, even if it didn’t end up putting the game to bed. They answered Brighton’s goal to make it 3-1 with a goal of their own to restore the three-goal cushion. And even with all the added stress at the end, Arsenal were up two goals late. They did exactly what you’d want them to do on the road against a difficult opponent.
Martin Ødegaard put in another MOTM performance with a goal and an assist. His goal came from a gorgeous intentional volley into the ground that bounced into the far corner. His assist to Gabriel Martinelli for the 4th goal would be a candidate for assist of the year if they handed out such an award.
All three other attackers, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Eddie Nketiah, scored. Ben White was great. Alex Zinchenko made the left side terrifying to defend. Thomas Partey had a fantastic game, his first standout performance in a while. Partey was directly involved in both the first and third goals, winning the ball back in the attacking third on the former and perfectly weighting a “2nd assist” pass to Martinelli on the latter.
William Saliba is still knocking the rust off from sitting on the bench at the World Cup for France. For the second game in a row, he misjudged / misplayed a ball leading to an opposing goal. Takehiro Tomiyasu had maybe his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt. Like Saliba, he’s rusty from the World Cup and his recent hamstring strain. Better that they both put in poor shifts in a win than to cost Arsenal points with mistakes. They’ll both be fine once they’re back up to speed.
Arsenal have a massive game against Newcastle at the Emirates on January 3rd. It’ll be a kitchen sink game for the visitors, who would fall 12 points adrift with a loss. The Arsenal support will be in fuller-than-full voice. It should be a cracking match.