Mikel Arteta described ‘wins’ as the best medicine after their victory against Brighton. The reference to the word ‘medicine’ is probably a reflection of Arsenal’s current state of being.
Arsenal started the first half well pressing Brighton higher up the pitch. Brighton came back in the game finishing the first half as a stronger team. Not only did they have more attempts on the ball but also were stronger in 50-50 challenges. Also, Arsenal started to lose too many balls by the end of the first half.
Brighton had 2 very good opportunities to open the scoring at the start of the second half. Both these opportunities needed desperate defending from Bellerin and Holding. Arsenal created the best chance of their game from a counter-attack, Aubameyang forcing a point-blank save from Brighton’s goalkeeper. From this moment onwards, Arsenal created more chances and entered into the final third more often.
Arsenal didn’t change their winning team except for bringing their captain and ex-Borussia Dortmund player Aubameyang back in the side for this game. This team in a 4-2-3-1 formation gives Arsenal a good balance of youth and experienced players, including two of their brightest talents – Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
Brighton didn’t start the game with any recognized striker in the starting XI. Both Maupay and Wellbeck were on the bench for this game. Jahanbakhsh and Mac Allister started in attacking position for Brighton in a flat 4-4-2 formation.
In this tactical analysis of the game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal, we will take a look at Brighton’s attacking tactics from their right side. In this analysis, we will also look at why Arsenal must persist with this front four in the same formation.
Brighton creating space on their right
With many midfielders in the game, Brighton relied on creating spaces for midfielders to run into especially on their right side. In the attacking moments, Brighton was successful in diverting Arsenal’s defender Pablo Mari away from his position in the defensive line. Mari was either dragged away from the central position or made to man-mark an attacker in the midfield.
With Mari out of position, Brighton was able to exploit space on their right side. In many moments, Tierney in the left-back position was occupied by Brighton, while a third Brighton player made late runs towards the penalty area from the midfield. This tactic paid dividends for Brighton as they had more shots on target and dangerous crosses played from the right side.
Arsenal’s front four
Arsenal has finally found the right balance in the attack with the right players in the right positions. Right-footed Martinelli started on the left, while left-footed Saka started on the right for Arsenal. Smith-Rowe started in his preferred position behind the striker. But it was the positional understanding and movement of these players along with Aubameyang that caught the eye.
Smith-Rowe often moved on the left side allowing Martinelli to play more centrally in the pocket, while Aubameyang played off the defender’s shoulder. In the above picture, we can see how Aubameyang tries to pull Webster away, while Martinelli makes a central run for the long ball from Xhaka.
Apart from the offensive duties, Arsenal’s front four were efficient in the defensive duties as well. They showed a very good understanding of their collective high-press against Brighton’s build-up play. Brighton was often forced to play the ball long, eventually giving it back to Arsenal.
The highlight of the game was Smith-Rowe’s sense of position throughout the game. He showed a very good defensive awareness along with his ability to combine with players around. He deserves to start the third consecutive game against West Bromwich Albion.
Looking at Arsenal’s league position, Brighton would have fancied their chances against them. But without an attacking player in their starting XI, it wasn’t going to be easy to score against Arsenal. Brighton did have a couple of very good moments in the game, but overall Arsenal showed enough quality to score the goal and win the game.
This is Arsenal’s second win in two games, and Mikel Arteta must ensure that they don’t lose the momentum from here. Brighton needs to start their best players to have any chance of scoring points in the league table.