Giving away chips!
Brighton 1-1 Arsenal
A late afternoon trip to the coast on Boxing Day for an Arsenal team looking to keep on the tails of the top four. With City dropping points again and the other two teams in the top three winning handsomely it was imperative Arsenal got a win.
The team news saw the return of Captain Koscielny and the return of the back four.
Arsenal: Leno, Lichsteiner, Koscielny, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang
It didn't take long for Arsenal to take a strangle hold on the game, with three CM's patrolling and willing runners ahead of them the Gunners enjoyed near total possession. Chances came as early as the fifth minute when Guendouzi found Aubameyang on the angle, his clever looping half volley nearly catching Ryan out who made a finger tip save over the bar. Then two minutes later the Arsenal pressure paid off after good work from Lacazette who kept the ball alive in the box, eventually playing in Aubameyang who placed his shot perfectly beyond the keeper. 1-0 and Arsenal seemingly cruising.
Apart from a couple of weak attempts by Brighton Arsenal really should have turned the screw and on 30 minutes the miss that would have changed the game came and went. Torriera sending Aubameyang through on goal with the keeper to beat, he chose to go to he keepers right, Ryan saving comfortably. It felt pivotal, that there was the match, no way back from 2-0 and that feeling in the pit of the stomach soon became a real ache!
A corner four minutes later presented Arsenal with another chance to increase the lead, instead they managed to concede. As the ball was cleared long, (yes a long ball), Lichtsteiner somehow got himself caught under it slightly, miss timing his jump and thus heading into the path of Jurgen Locadia who gleefully ran on to and past the un-rushing Leno to put into an empty net. The only Arsenal player trying to get back was Guendouzi the rest were too far back, Ozil? well he was just jogging or walking fast as I like to call it. A god awful goal to concede and another mysterious long ball scaring the wits out of the Arsenal back four.
As the half ebbed away, Arsenal got in a couple of good positions but the final ball was off one in particular from Lichtsteiner stuck in the memory for its woefulness. At halftime the pundits stuck the boot into Ozil and when you look at the position when the ball is played for the Brighton goal you can see why...
... Ozil at the bottom of the picture one paced if anything, Kosceilny and Sokratis already pumping hard like they no a problem is coming, Torriera out of it and Guendouzi watching on with no idea the Brighton goal scorer is already anticipating a chance. In my opinion it looks way too open but you can't think Lichtsteiner would have made quite that mess of a routine header and Ozil will never be that guy to run back, that's what you have three CM's for!
The halftime change was made by Emery as if he'd been watching Sky Sports, Ozil hooked and the 'go to man' Iwobi coming on.
Did this change push Arsenal forward, give them energy and more guile in attack?
Quite the opposite, where as in games gone past Arsenal change gear in the second period, this time they seemed to slip from fourth down to second as they were approaching a corner!
Brighton were looking the more lively and should have gone ahead if it weren't for smart saves by Leno on a couple of occasions and poor headers from Murray in particular. Arsenal were creating nothing, Iwobi was just keeping the ball alive and passing back to Guendouzi rather than lose the ball or commit defenders, basically playing safe. Guendouzi himself was seeing plenty of the ball and running with purpose with it back and forth across the pitch, desperately looking for inspiration with a "well I don't know what to do with it" look on his young face.
Emery was looking perplexed on the touchline and then made his second odd decision of the afternoon replacing Lacazette (a goal scorer) with another central midfielder in Aaron Ramsey. So Arsenal are looking for goals yet the leading assister and second best striker at the club desperate for a goal are now sitting on the bench!
With a change to a back three and the introduction of Maitland Niles Arsenal did threaten a bit but there was no real sign a winner was coming for the boys in deep purple in fact it was the 'Tesco carrier bag' lot that looked the more dangerous. Again, one long straight ball for March running clean through behind Xhaka on 70 minutes, he tried to lob it over Leno but overhit it.
Turgid football followed until the 80th minute when the only Arsenal chance came and went in the form of a deflection off Iwobi which just trickled wide. The look on Iwobi's face said it all, having done basically nothing since his introduction, he nearly had a winner to his name without knowing anything about it.
Game over 1-1, two valuable points dropped.
A bad day at the office for Unai Emery, poor substitutions and a poor performance from his team who really should have kicked on at 1-0. This manager needs backing in the transfer window not only in defensive areas but going forward as well. When you consider Welbeck's injury and now losing Mykitaryan until February the least the club could do is get Nelson back from Germany. There's no point asking Iwobi to break teams down, he's not that sort of player and the only other option on the bench against Brighton was Nketiah, a young centre forward not a trickster.
Positives: No booking for Torriera meaning he makes the trip to Anfield.
Negatives: The total lack of ideas when Ozil left the play.
Leno: Made some good saves and will have shiner this morning. 7/10
Lichsteiner: Poor header for the goal, looked old again. 4/10
Koscielny: Looked leggy and confused at times. 6/10
Sokratis: Struggling to keep the different defences in shape. 6/10
Kolasinac: Better as part of a back three bombing forward. 7/10
Xhaka: Better as a CM alongside Torriera, all other options make him weak. 6/10
Torreira: Huffed and puffed and set up a good chance. 7/10
Guendouzi: Ran around a lot. Needs a break, too much responsibility at times. 6/10
Ozil: Got hooked for not running enough. Days could be numbered. 5/10
Lacazette: Should have stayed on the pitch, Arsenal look better with him on it. 7/10
Aubameyang: Took his goal well, could and should have had a few more. MOM 7/10
Iwobi: who? did zip. 3/10
Maitland Niles: Looks raw but a better option in a back three then Lichtsteiner. 6/10
Ramsey: Ran around a lot, dreaming of PSG or Italy. 5/10
Next up the terrifying prospect of a trip to Anfield to face the league leaders who are scoring for fun. Anyone seen any defenders recently?