Arsenal 0-3 Brighton: Final Nail on the Title Coffin
Final Result: Arsenal 0-3 Brighton (Enciso 51′, Undav 86′, Estupinan 97′)
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Kiwior, Gabriel, Tierney; Jorginho (Nelson 60′), Xhaka (Partey 60′); Saka, Odegaard (Smith-Rowe 77′), Martinelli (Trossard 20′); G. Jesus (Nketiah 77′)
With the Manchester City juggernaut storming past Everton at Goodison Park, the onus was on Arsenal to keep up with the defending champions as Brighton came to town. The Seagulls have been hugely impressive this season with a brand of football that’s up there with the very best, but seeing them lose 5-1 at home to Everton stunned everyone but Arsenal were expected to step up in front of their home fans for the penultimate time this season.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was believed to be out for the rest of the season, but there was some confusion as he was pictured in training couple of days ago. However, Kieran Tierney got the nod in the left back slot, but he played like a traditional fullback, rather than doing a Zinchenko to support from midfield. The game started on a harsh note for Arsenal with club captain, Martin Odegaard, hitting the deck after he received a whack to the face from Pervis Estupinan’s clearance, calling the physios into action quite early on. Brighton continued with the physicality as Moises Caicedo, that started at right back, instead of Pascal Gross, to battle the threat Gabriel Martinelli posed, managed to escape a yellow card when he went in really hard on the Brazilian winger, causing the physios to access his ankles.
The first chance of the game arrived when Julio Enciso was free at the near post but his first-time attempt was palmed over by birthday boy, Aaron Ramsdale. Odegaard was close to the same position he let one rip against Newcastle and with five goals scored in his last five games, you can imagine his insatiable appetite to score goals but his effort sailed wide off the mark.
The impact of Caicedo’s ill-timed tackle on Martinelli took its toll as the winger requested to be substituted, and former Brighton star, Leandro Trossard, took to the pitch to take on his former teammates. The Belgian maverick almost put his face on the back pages of the tabloids when he received the ball from Granit Xhaka, bore down on goal and blasted a shot that clipped the cross bar before going over. A few inches lower and Trossard would have opened the scoring for Arsenal against Brighton – how the media would have feasted on that. – Trossard comes back to bite the hands that fed him, blah blah.
Arsenal were clearly on the ascendancy but failed to capitalize on their chances, as Gabriel Jesus received a sumptuous pass from Odegaard, drifted too wide and fired a near post shot that was saved by Jason Steele. Bukayo Saka also had a glorious chance late in the first half when Lewis Dunk nodded the ball to his path, but he blasted his shot wide. He has been off the rails in recent weeks, and his treacherous form continued.
With Arsenal failing to assert themselves in the game, Brighton took the initiative and found themselves ahead after some good work from their left attacking flank. Kaoru Mitoma was a constant threat to Ben White and got the better of him before teeing up Estupinan that left Saka for dead after activating the after burners. The Ecuadorian’s first cross was repelled by the Arsenal backline and he had a second bite of the cherry, sending the ball to an unmarked Enciso who nodded the ball past Ramsdale. Jakub Kiwior was impeded by Evan Ferguson, even losing his boot after the incident, but that didn’t mean anything to the ref. I was just bewildered with the fact that Kiwior was more concerned about putting his boot on when he was in a position to attack the ball before it got to Enciso. Oh well.
That goal took the wind off the sails of the home side and the gaffer responded with bringing on Reiss Nelson and Thomas Partey for Xhaka and Jorginho on the hour mark. Nelson almost made an instant impact when he took the ball on the left flank, evaded his marker and blasted a shot that missed by a lick of paint. The next set of substitutions from the manager perplexed me with Gabriel Jesus and Odegaard coming off for Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe. With Arsenal chasing the game, they would have been in a better position to get an equalizer with the captain and the alpha male in attack still on the pitch.
Enciso suffered an injury and was visibly seen in tears, and was replaced by Denis Undav. Within minutes of entering the pitch, Undav scored the goal that put the nail on Arsenal’s Premier League title challenging coffin. Trossard dropped deep to receive a pass from Ramsdale and haphazardly played it off Gross before the bouncing ball fell to Undav’s path. Ramsdale rushed towards the forward and got chipped for his effort, putting the game beyond doubt. There was even some time for the icing on the cake for Brighton when Undav’s pale effort was parried by Ramsdale to Estupinan’s path that sent the rebound home.
It was truly puzzling to see how the Gunners capitulated this in grand style, and after staying on top for 93 percent of the campaign, Arsenal has conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City. I’m short of words to describe how I feel about the whole ordeal, but it has been a roller coaster of a campaign that saw my team play some amazing football and looked like odds on favorite to win the damn thing, only to go through that bad run of form, and bottle it like we did yesterday.
The club captain has conceded the title race and the manager has apologized for the performance, so they will need to find some motivation to see out the remaining two games of the campaign against Nottingham Forest and Wolves, before we look forward to a busy summer that we need to recruit the right kind of talent that will add the right measure of depth, as well as the quality to take us to the finish line next season.
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