Form is a fickle thing, and it’s probably the most important factor in a title race. Arsenal’s was impeccable through the first 3⁄4 of the season before slipping just long enough to let Manchester City overtake them in the title race. But since their humbling defeat by Pep’s juggernaut at the Etihad in April, Arsenal have responded like a team that has spent the better part of the season atop the table should.
A sound 3-1 thrashing of a putrid Chelsea at the Emirates was followed by what may have been the most impressive win of the season by the Gunners, besting top 4 rivals Newcastle at St. James Park to the tune of 2-0 last Sunday in a cagey, intense affair. The Gunners shook off the raucous home crowd and the countless late tackles from the hosts that went uncalled by the ref and came out the deserving victors.
That win was more than three points - it was the exorcising of last season’s demons, as well as a boost for Arsenal’s slim title chances. Sure, the title is City’s to lose right now, but the only thing that Arsenal can do is keep the pressure on them and hope that the reigning title holders take their eyes off the prize and slip up over their final four Premier League.
On Sunday, Arsenal welcome Brighton & Hove Albion to the Emirates for the penultimate home match of the season as the hosts look to turn two wins into a proper streak. Currently in 7th, the south coast side has been one of the league’s better clubs this season. They survived the early departure of manager Graham Potter to Chelsea (lol) and have looked just as solid under Roberto De Zerbi. Players like Moises Caicedo, Kaoru Mitoma, and Alexis Mac Allister have all become some of the Premier League’s best players, while former Arsenal man Danny Welbeck has found new life with the Seagulls.
But over the last few weeks, their form has become erratic and inconsistent, waxing and waning between dominant displays, beating Wolves 6-0 in late April, and uncharacteristic ineptitude, like their 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest and an inexplicable 5-1 defeat last week at home to Everton.
Unfortunately for Brighton, their quest to secure European football next season has them playing their final five matches over the next two weeks, facing the likes of Arsenal, Newcastle, Aston Villa, and Manchester City. If De Zerbi has hopes of playing in the Europa League or Europa Conference League next season, they will need to play in the form of their lives. Preferably, they will wait until midweek before choosing to do so.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have seemingly turned it around following an abysmal April. Much of that has coincided with the inclusion of Jorginho in the midfield over Thomas Partey. There is no reason to expect that Mikel Arteta will deviate from that with how dominant the midfielder played at Newcastle and against his old club Chelsea.
What could complicate things, however, is the news yesterday that left back Alexander Zinchenko will be out for the remaining three matches with a calf issue. Arsenal’s defense has taken an absolute beating since April, losing William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu for the season following injuries in the Gunners’ Europa League match against Sporting.
Mikel Arteta will once again need to tread the line carefully. Kieran Tierney is the defacto starter at left back, but if he goes down, it’s likely he places Granit Xhaka at left back, a scenario that is about as last resort as it comes.
For more discussions on potential lineups and predictions, check out Nathan’s post.
The Emirates has been a bit of a frustrating ground for the Gunners as of late, especially when it comes to keeping clean sheets. Arsenal have only lost once at home, to Manchester City, but have had awful success at keeping goals out of the net. The Gunners are the most dominant away team in the league, but their home form leaves much to be desired, often conceding avoidable, and often early, goals to opposition.
The fans have been instrumental this season to Arsenal’s success. They deserve a performance at home befitting their unbridled support.
Win, and the dream, no matter how slim, stays alive.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Brighton
WHEN: Sunday, May 14th, 11:30am EST/7:30am PST/4:30pm BST
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on the USA Network. Streaming online at NBCSports.com
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