Arsenal: Cech, Chambers, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Ozil, Wilshere, Xhaka, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Subs: Ospina, Holding, Welbeck, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Nketiah
Arsenal suffered their tenth league defeat of the season as they went down 2-1 against a Brighton side who made the Gunners pay for an awful first half display at the AMEX. Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray did the damage inside 26 minutes and even though the Gunners rallied after Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang’s strike just before the break, they couldn’t find enough cutting edge in the second half to bag an equaliser.
Arsenal started strongly. Aubameyang set the tone with a darting run down the left that earned a corner, Iwobi had a shot closed down at close range, Ozil curled over and Mkhitaryan nearly drew an own goal out of Dunk who shinned a cross just over the bar.
As first seven minutes go, it was promising. Naturally, such is life with this Arsenal team, we capitulated. Even by our standards, the way the next 30 minutes played out was embarrassing.
Brighton’s first venture forward saw Mustafi deflect a cross for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Cech flapped, Duffy headed downwards and when the ball dropped loose just four yards out, Dunk smashed home. It was another awful mistake from our first choice keeper. (1-0)
Buoyed by the goal, the home side pushed for a second. They could smell blood. The pace of Colombian winger Izquierdo, up against Chambers, was a particular threat while the likes of Knockaert, Gross and Murray did simple things like close down Arsenal players who had the ball. We looked somewhat shocked that Brighton didn’t want to allow us all the time in the world to play sideways passes.
Xhaka, Ozil, Kolasinac, Iwobi and Koscielny were particularly guilty of giving the ball away. In some respects, you have to praise them for getting on the ball, our new signings were totally anonymous.
The chances came thick and fast for Brighton. Corners were a consistent problem for the Gunners. Nobody in black seemed to want to compete in the air and we were lucky that Duffy and Dunk didn’t do more damage. Cech made a couple of respectable saves but really it was a case of when, rather than if, Brighton would score again. It came on 25 minutes.
Koscielny, who looks a shadow of his former self, gave the ball away trying to find Wilshere and immediately you sensed danger. Possession was moved to Gross on the right wing and he quickly hung a cross in the air to Cech’s back post. Mustafi really should have dealt with it but fluffed his lines and there was Murray to head down under Cech. More questions have to be asked about the keeping. (2-0)
We looked done for at this point. Honestly, every player in an Arsenal shirt looked like they wanted to be a million miles away. Murray had another header, Gross tried his luck from range and Izquierdo, after beating the offside trap to collect a free-kick passed through our non-existent defence, forced Cech into a save. The flag went up, incorrectly. There was also the sight of a frustrated Jack Wilshere hacking down Knockaert to earn a booking.
That Arsenal were the next side to score came as a surprise to everyone at the AMEX. Three minutes before the break a Kolasinac cross made its way to Iwobi. He faffed a bit, found Xhaka who cleverly spotted Aubameyang to neatly flick the ball home from a couple of yards out. Having looked on the verge of tears for most of the half, the new signing managed a smile. (2-1)
Amazingly, we suddenly started to look like a team again. We might even have had an equaliser when Koscielny’s deflected header hit the post.
Arsenal looked much more of a cohesive unit after the break as we went in search of an equaliser.
Ryan in the Brighton goal collected efforts from Mkhitaryan and Iwobi before producing a fine stop to tip an Ozil drive from 20-yards just round the post. Xhaka had a claim for a penalty dismissed and Aubameyang twice came close to netting his second of the game. First, he rounded Ryan after being fed by Ozil but opted to cross then he had an effort from another cross blocked.
The game was being played at a quick tempo until an accidental clash between Schelotto and Kolasinac on 65 minutes saw the Brighton man require lengthy treatment. He was eventually subbed off.
The delay helped the home side regroup and killed our budding momentum. Indeed, it was the Seagulls who came closest to the next goal as Izquierdo’s shot, after a strong run, flashed just wide.
Desperate to inject some energy, Wenger sent on Welbeck for Iwobi on 74 minutes and six minutes later sent on Bellerin and Nketiah for Chambers and Mkhitaryan. The desired effect was not forthcoming. Murray had the ball in the Arsenal net only for Izquierdo to be flagged offside for his part in the build-up.
For all our intent, there was little quality in the final third. Clear-cut chances were few and far before the fourth official signalled seven minutes of stoppage time. Even then Arsenal toiled. Aubameyang might have snatched an equaliser but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot on the turn after Nketiah had headed down a Kolasinac cross.
In truth, an equaliser would have been very harsh on the home side who picked up their first points of the season against a top-six club. The way Arsenal are going at the moment, we won’t be a top-six club for long. Burnley, five points behind us, pose a serious threat. How far we’ve fallen. How very far.