Why a draw away at Brighton was not such a bad result for Arsenal

There was a time when Arsenal sweeping 3 points against mid to low table premier league teams was a given. The mere thought of us doing the same right now seems quite unrealistic; even the most ardent of Arsenal fans wouldn’t disagree.

After the high of the Tottenham win, Arsenal might not have crashed to the ground with the draw at Brighton, but we were certainly forced to make an emergency landing. While the goalless draw was very frustrating for Arsenal fans, it is not all ‘doom and gloom’, as Aaron Ramsdale mentioned post the game.

Brighton aren’t no pushovers

Brighton might have finished 16th in the Premier League last year, but under Graham Potter, Brighton have had an amazing start to this season, and it is no fluke that they find themselves level on points with both the Manchester clubs on 14 after 7 games. It is important to mention that Arsenal is the only one from the traditional ‘Big 6’ that Brighton have faced so far but regardless of that, they have been impressive both in attack and defence. There were very few bookies to be found on mybettingsites.co.uk that would give Brighton any chance of finishing in the top six, but they are looking very good right now.

Anyone who watched Brighton regularly last season would point out that they played way better than what a 16th place finish would suggest, and Graham Potter is certainly doing his bit to make Brighton’s gamble to snatch him from Swansea City a sound decision.

Against Arsenal, Brighton created several presentable opportunities and outshone Arsenal on possession, shots, duels won and xG. The Gunners can count themselves lucky to come away with at least a point.

Arsenal’s away record

The Gunners’ away record for the last 4 seasons does not make for good reading for a team who wants to finish in the top 4:

2017-18: 16 points

2018-19: 25 points

2019-20: 20 points

2020-21: 33 points

With the fans back in the stadiums, it is certainly not going to get any easier for clubs to earn points away from home unlike last season. This is not to say that the draw is a great result, but to highlight that Arsenal might have found a way to concede a goal and lose the game last season against an opposition like Brighton who are not afraid to impose their football on us.

4 clean sheets in 5 games

In the last 5 games, Arsenal have conceded just once (which was a mere consolation for Spurs). After the rocky start to the season, it is perhaps unsurprising to witness the Gunners focusing more on the basics and keeping the opposition out, as also highlighted by Arteta’s comments about clean sheets providing better platform for wins. With Gabriel getting back in the side post his injury, Tomiyasu, Ramsdale & Ben White’s immediate inclusions in the first XI, it might take more than a few games for the new look back 5 to adjust and develop together, but the early signs do look encouraging.

 

Hopefully, this is the platform Arsenal need to continue down a more promising path. The next two weeks of the international break will give Arteta enough time to prepare for the upcoming stretch of games and prepare a magic potion for a smoother and spicier Arsenal attack to go with the more recent defensive brew.

36 Comments

  1. PJ-SA says:

    I agree it’s not a terrible result but after our very slow start we really needed all 3 points in the game, context is everything.

    We are now bottom half of the table again unfortunately. Next 5 EPL games:

    Palace
    Villa
    Leicester
    Watford
    Liverpool

    We’ll be roughly a third through the season after these 5 games. If we have any hope for top 4 we’ll need 4 wins minimum in my opinion. If we win 4 and lose one we’ll be on 22 points out of a possible 36 points…which will likely still have us sitting around 6/7 on the table. That’s why a win at Brighton was a necessity!

    1. Reggie says:

      Im afraid after our start a draw is like a loss at the moment. Until we make up for the bad start wins are precious, everything else is a backwards step. Catch up on results and look back, we may say the draw was a good one but not at this moment in time it isnt.

  2. fairfan says:

    Great post Admin. Could not have said it better myself and that is saying something 🙂
    If you look at our first 7 games the results bar the Brentford game were totally predictable.
    Losses to CL winners Chelsea and PL winners City.
    Wins v cellar dwellers Norwich and Burnley, home win v similarly placed Spurs and away draw at traditionally difficult Brighton in atrocious conditions. Just outside top ten after seven.
    The next two games will define the first quarter of our season. Two home games v similarly placed sides. Most of our players to choose from, fitness level up and settled combinations.
    6 points is quite possible.
    If all results go our way we could go from from 20th to the giddy heights of top six after just 6 further games.
    As Captain Picard was apt to say “make it so”

  3. Ghost mode says:

    Morning folks. Hope you and yours are well on this Tuesday morn. My evening was spent without Facebook and WhatsApp and aside from planning a couple of vineyard tours next week in Spain as I go

    I have been thinking about that Brighton game and how they set up though. It it is a bit of a worry how we didn’t seem to have an idea for their high press I must confess. One of the things about Arteta is that I know he’s a meticulous man. We’ve all heard about how much detail he goes in to, about how precise he wants to be and how he knows everything. I remember one of the players – I think it might have been Tierney or Luiz – who spoke about how Mikel came in, told the players how other teams would play, how we should set up, where the ball would go in certain positions and phases of games and low-and-behold it actually happened. This helped the players ‘buy in’ to his philosophy and even when things weren’t going well due to ‘soft factors’ like a crisis in confidence (or playing the waster known as Willain) the players still believed in ‘The Project’ and that helped to turn the tide post Christmas.

    The fact that Arteta is so prescriptive over everything has been labelled as a reason as to why we aren’t as ‘freestyle’ as perhaps we need to be. I’ve read a few blogs, listened to plenty of pods, in which the speakers having talked about how we need more ‘agents of chaos’ like Alexis or even Pepe when on form, but Arteta has taken Pepe out of the team of late and people are speculating that it is because he can’t be as controlled in terms of his approach, style and what he brings to the team. I understand this, particularly when there are references to the likes of Alexis as another ‘agent of chaos’, but what is playing on my mind is that if the reason we don’t have that ‘freestyle footballer’ allowed to do their thing to mix it up a bit in a game state, I thought we had a guy who had an answer to nearly everything from a tactical perspective?

    I know he’s only human and he can’t get everything right and perhaps this was a day in which he saw the problem, gave the players the solution at halftime and they just didn’t execute the plan. But it just worries me that we will have other teams watch that game yesterday and say ” that’s the formula lads, lets do it”. And other teams will have better attacking players who can be more clinical than Brighton were. So what we really need to know – and quickly – is whether Mikel can learn and answer to this particular tactical equation and correct the issue. Is it that he simply needed to instruct his team to press higher up the pitch from the back? I’ve seen a couple of threads on Twitter suggesting the spacing was too far between midfield and defence and because of that it afforded Brighton the ability to play in the pockets. It also seems as though they were keen to draw us out to create those gaps for their players to exploit.

    Sound familiar?

    It should do. It feels very similar to what Mikel himself tries to do with his approach when we are in possession in our own half. We play out from the back because he wants to draw teams out, create space in pockets, so that when a team presses high and we break the press, there are overloads and our wide forwards can attack with more space. It’s why he loves Odegaard so much because he can find those holes in between the lines, but also Smith Rowe who does a similar job – albeit in different kinds of the pitch when Odegaard is playing.

    So was the problem that Mikel came up against a manager and a team with such a strikingly familiar tactical approach, that he didn’t know what to do. Was it a bit like when a cat see’s it’s own reflection and when it tries to move to counter whatever it is doing, the reflection just replicates its own moves?

    Maybe. Maybe I’m just talking a load of ol’ b*llocks. But I do wonder if Arteta does need to work out what to do when somebody has the same ideas. Is he clever enough to say “fine, on this day we go against the approach we usually have and try something different”? Is he capable of that level of deviation from his philosophy? That’s what get’s me a little worried. Football is so full analysis and over-analysis. Coaches have their approach and they analyse until they are blue in the face. But because everyone analyses everything, elite Premier League teams already know everything there is to know about your playing style. So how do you counter it when a team has been doing something similar to you for longer? Better players, more technically gifted players, elite players, make the edge, but ours are still young and only just embarking on their journey. So how are they going to succeed in the ‘now’ whilst learning how to master Arteta’s style?

    1. guy says:

      Excellent comments, Ghost. Some of the main criticisms of Arteta are pretty much as you stated – he is TOO prescriptive and rigid in his instructions, thus removing flair and individuality; that he is incapable of reacting within a game – he sets them up before a game then freezes in the game; that he knows what he wants but doesn’t know what to do if what he wants doesn’t work. That’s a pretty dangerous combination, and that’s without even talking specific tactics or player (lack of) motivation. All were on show against Brighton as they were last season, and it’s a serious problem that he is yet to resolve.
      If we go into a game perfectly set up ie as vs Spurs, its a good performance, but God help us if not, because Arteta doesn’t know how to change it without a lot of thought and a coaching session.
      He has his guys there now, they may be young but theyre good players and fast learners. My fear, as it was last season, is that Arteta is a very good theorist but unable to react if necessary as a good manager should in practice. And let’s face it that’s a key aspect of winning football games.

      1. Reggie says:

        Guy, nobody knows wether Arteta can actually manage a team and we still dont.

    2. GoalDan says:

      Great post Ghost really hope you post more on this site, my take on the match comes down to one thing, No fight/100% effort, forget tactics, the conditions it was simply no desire to change the course of the game, simple passes, simple movement to create space, press the ball everywhere, was all missing.

      The tactics might have awful, but that should not stop the players fighting for every inch of that pitch. I don’t like this culture at our club, we need to roll up our sleeves and play like we did in the game against Spurs first half. I would tell the players was you personally happy with your own performance individually, there should only be one answer to that question, then what are you going to do about it ?

      Brentford did not beat us because of better tactics, they beat us because they fought for everything and made their own fortune.

      The manager will ultimately be to blame if this luck lustre display
      Happens again, because he has not installed fight in the team….yet !!

  4. Durand says:

    Good points made in the article, no easy games in the PL.

    One part did make me chuckle; “didn’t play like a 16th place team…”

    Actually they did exactly that, played like a 16th place team. City played like Champs and won the league.

    The table doesn’t lie

  5. A J says:

    Have to be honest here.

    My original opinion on the day was “that was poor”.

    Re-watched the match in it’s entirety since watching it live.

    Upon watching the whole game again, I was thinking “this is not as bad as you thought”.

    Not going to go into the plusses and minuses , but certain aspects of the performance were better than my original grading of “poor”.

    And after the Spuds result, it was important to go away from home and not get beaten.

    OT.

    In the arid wasteland that is the current “International Break”, don’t forget Arsenal ladies take on Barca away tonight in the Champions league.

    Search, and you may well find how to watch it.

    1. Declan says:

      The Arsenal Women’s game is being shown on DAZN YouTube.

      1. A J says:

        Nice one Declan – looking forward to it.

    2. guy says:

      I wish I hadn’t bothered AJ! 2-0 down at HT, should have been 10. They played like an Arteta team on a bad day. Slow, nervous, backward passing, mistake ridden. I was watching wondering how the same team can be topping the WSL.
      Can’t bear to watch any more – will catch some masochist’s full review later!

      1. Admin Pat says:

        Sue, to be fair they are playing the best team in Europe. It’s like the men playing man city, …

        1. guy says:

          It’s Guy actually Pat, but an easy mistake to make… (;-))

          I know Pat, but they make us look so so bad!

  6. Declan says:

    Brighton aren’t no pushovers? Oh Pat, don’t you realise that means they are. Actually, I’m sure it was a typo and you meant ‘are’ instead of ‘aren’t’. 😊

    1. Reggie says:

      There are no pushovers, all have to be earned but Brighton and Brentford should not be at the same level as us, no excuses or cover ups, we are a much bigger club than them with far greater resources. They should not be bossing us in games, yes get fortunate and sqeeze a result but both looked a cut above us.

      1. A J says:

        Agreed Reggie – but what bothers me:

        ” We are a much bigger club than them with far greater resources” – that became totally complacent over a period of many years, and stagnated until “left behind”.

        ” Brighton and Brentford should not be at the same level as us” – two clubs that in their own way showed ambition, and built accordingly to where they find themselves today.

        OT but connected (if that makes sense).

        The two clubs mentioned.

        We can see how potter is developing into what seems a very good manager (imagine the uproar at the time if we appointed the ex Ostersund & Swansea City manager).

        And how well is Thomas Frank doing over at Brentford W3 D3 L1, but again – ex Brondy & Brentford ……… probably sniffed at.

        Would either of the above have been seen as “astute” moves by us at the time ?

        1. Angus says:

          Very similar to Arteta’s trajectory to be fair. 5 games time, we’ll be top 4. Not only that but we will counting backwards game by game been top 4 for 40+ games at that point. Arteta is Potter on steroids.

    2. fairfan says:

      @Declan.
      ​I rekon Admin aint not dun nufin rong.
      We orl no wot Admin ment.
      But yor rite Admin shooda sed Bri-in “Aint” no puss-hovers.
      I am shore Jon Fox wood agree hole hartedlee. 🙂

      1. Declan says:

        @fairfan…….. Eye lyke your stile😊

      2. jon fox says:

        fairfan, I am surprised how poor your spelling has suddenly become!
        Could this be irony, I ask myself!!
        Actually you beat me to the punch, as my own post timed at 2.56 pm shows!

  7. gunnerforlife says:

    Brighton away was tough no doubt, no game is easy in the EPL, Brenford beat West Ham away, Southampton held City so each team is tough. But I still think we could have won had Laca started the game or brought on earlier since Auba looked out of sorts. Also Saka looked a bit tired and Ode was off color. Anyway, of the next 5 games, we can win against Palace, Villa and Watford. Leicester do not necessarily look great this season and minimum we can draw against them if not win. Assuming we lose to Liverpool, which I imagine we can atleast draw if we give them a tough fight, Brenford drew with them, we can still be around 6-7 in the PL table and build on from there. It is definitely not all doom and gloom and there are a lot of matches to be played yet and this international break gives Arteta an opportunity to guide his players more in terms of attack since our defence seems to have sorted out its problems, providing compactness and stability.

  8. ken1945 says:

    AJ, I have also watched the game again and still have the same opinion I had when watching it live.

    Assuming everyone accepts that the conditions, playing surface etc etc was the same for both teams and our brilliant away fans matched the home support from what I could gather from the TV – it was all down to tactics, players, workrate and the game plan (tactics and game plan being different as the match unfolded).

    In my opinion, Brighton were best in every department.
    They forced us to play the long ball, knowing that their defence would cope with any threat.
    They compensated for their injury problems, while we didn’t – not using the experience of AMN in a game like this (wet, windy) but rather expecting samba to come out of the blocks, was wrong.
    Not to have a speedy forward (Laks) to pressure Dunk and Co was wrong.

    BUT the part I find most puzzling is, just like on the field, we are now, seemingly, thinking that a point was a good result in the circumstances… what circumstances?

    Brighton had their most influential player out injured, along with two other injuries – we had a full squad, apart from Xhaka, to choose from.

    We were following on from one of the most perfect performances I have seen in a very long time in the PL (probably four years) that consisted of all the things that were missing in this game.

    We now know what this group of players are capable of doing and we shouldn’t be accepting anything less.
    What I have seen in this game is unacceptable for a club like The Arsenal and to think that one point is not to bad a result, is the thinking of mediocrity from a group of people who have shown excellence…. just my own opinion of course.

    1. Reggie says:

      Brighton bossed us Ken, they made us look poor.

    2. A J says:

      Hi Ken.

      As so very often , fair points well made (and I’m not blowing smoke up your backside).

      Please bear in mind, my original thoughts regarding the Brighton game were – ” that was poor” … for many of the reasons you in fact cite above.

      Before I start, I’m not having the conditions thing.

      I’m (and you also) are from an era of sometimes not being able to see from one end of the pitch to the other, the lines having to cleared from early morning onwards and “spot the ball” !

      Is the game on ? – of course it is, get on with it !!!

      I digress.

      Upon re-watching the game (once in full and highlights actually) a slight upgrade followed for the following reason (in the main).

      Before this particular game I had nightmares about the aerial threat faced from set pieces via Duffy, Dunk & Burn – and saw very easily how said threat would produce for them.

      Digging in and nullifying the above threat (primarily through the performances of Gabriel & White) whilst the ball just “kept coming back”, took me back to certain games of a bygone era – and I’m sure you of all people know exactly which era I refer to, the only thing lacking was a certain Ian Wright nicking the winner.

      (I know however, under G G such performances were by design not accident).

      So could it be said Brighton were better in EVERY department or in truth (in terms of contesting your opposing unit) did our lads at the back dig in, and do what was expected of them.

      I fully realise Tomi & Tesco had it tough on the day, but I saw no “White flags”.

      Some of the teams we would have fielded down there in very recent times would have crumbled, and come home with nothing – Brighton or not.

      Yes they run all over us in their approach play – but what was on the end – often Gabby, White & Ramsdale.

      I am not daft enough (many would argue differently), to know there were a couple of very good chances missed by Brighton over the 90 – but by and large, and in the cold light of day, I think we nullified what I saw as the major threats pretty well.

      As for our approach play – that’s a totally different matter.

      One specific point.

      You mention AMN & Lokonga.

      You may (probably not) have noticed on here I am not a fan of Ainsley, whilst have very high hopes of Sambi.

      Put simply I do not think Ainsley is up to standard, and more specifically believe him to be prone to frequent lapses of concentration and poor decision making – I still expect him to be moved on (January debatable depending on incomings, the Summer for sure – best for both parties).

      Although a very young lad, in the absence of load sharing with Xhaka – it’s Sambi for me, with AMN / Elneny offering the “rest option” for “favourable draw” cup games.

      Anyway.

      Upon reflection, I just “nudged” my initial thoughts up a little.

      Our Invincibles show a record of drawing 12 games throughout that wonderful season.

      Given that team – NO ONE should have been able to live with The Arsenal – but draw 12 we did.

      It happens unfortunately.

      So although far from happy with the result / overall performance, a point it was.

      Do I expect us to turn out against both Palace & Villa and turn in convincing performances landing 6 points – absolutely !

      We can only go on asking questions for so long – there HAS to be a line in the sand.

      But for me a change of ownership is key – easier said than done.

      OT

      I’m sure it was concerning your good self on here the other day when I read a comment re’ your journey to games.

      I doff my cap Sir.

      Makes my little jaunt seem totally insignificant !

    3. guy says:

      I dislike comments like “we SHOULD beat teams like Brighton/Brentford” etc. That’s arrogance and if the team went out with the same attitude that’s maybe why we didn’t.
      There are no “gimme’s”, there is no divine right. In addition a team can play way better than the other and lose.
      From fans I cannot accept this insistance that because we have a great history we MUST be top of the table for ever after. It doesn’t just happen like Dorothy tapping her heels together and wishing for it. Every other team, many with a history every bit as great as ours, wants to drink from the same trough. We have to earn it again, and we are a long way off. Just saying “we are Arsenal and you are only Brighton” doesn’t give you the points. Criticise Arsenal as much as you want, but don’t just expect success.
      From players I cannot accept lack of energy, commitment and fitness. We were second to every ball against Brighton. I can forgive mistakes and defeats, but not such a lack of effort.

  9. AndersS says:

    Of course 1 point is no disaster.
    The problem is how we performed.
    Brighton outplayed and outfought us, especially in the first half.
    That is the problem.
    It seems to me, they have a team, where they get 100% out of their players, whereas we seem to be lacking, and maybe only get 70% out of our players. And this has beeen the case for almost all matches this season, including pre-season.
    Not acceptable.

  10. jon fox says:

    “Brighton aren’t no pushovers”! Double negative! Oh dear!

    I wonder which Admin never sat even his English O level exam!

  11. Grantygooner says:

    A young team away to a very good Brighton side gets a point! Come on folks I’m no fan of MA but it’s a positive result. After the first 3 matches, I would have bitten your hand off at the prospect of 3 wins and a draw.

  12. A J says:

    Hi AndersS.

    As with Ken above, I actually agree with some of your points.

    Now I am not usually a “Stats” man – I tend to judge with my eyes …. but on this occasion it may just be worth a look :

    Brighton Arsenal

    Possession 58% 42%

    Shots 21 8

    SHOTS ON TARGET 2 2

    Corners 8 5

    Fouls 8 5

    Look at row 2.

    21 shots ! – all off target – nah, a percentage well defended on the edge of our box by our back line in particular.

    Now look at row 3.

    An element of poor finishing by them, but not also good defending by The Arsenal ?

    Row 4 shows the corner count pretty close (corners often equating to meaningful pressure).

    So according to BBC sport (this source),
    this “0-0 hammering” ended with just 2 shots on target from EACH side.

    As you say unacceptable – overall yes, but in the cold like of day under further scrutiny ?

    1. ken1945 says:

      AJ, some good points in your post to me at 2.40 above and I take them on board.

      I have said many times that I admire the defence MA has put together and I also believe his summer signings are really good and have improved the squad no end.

      Your comparisons with the Invincibles I don’t agree with, however.
      That team was never dominated in the way your stats show and the way they played ensured no team ever got the better of us.
      So I don’t agree with your scenario regarding this one.

      AMN? I guess this one comes down to opinions and I respect yours, but believe that AMN will play a important part in MA’s squad.

      Travel wise? My wife is convinced I’m a nutcase and I probably am, but supporting our club, with all it’s ups and downs (as you well know) is as exciting as it was when I first saw Highbury my friend.
      Not sure how much longer I can keep going, but when the armchair calls, I’ll be an even more of a pain in the ass on JA!!!!
      Great debating in such a civil way – so refreshing.

    2. AndersS says:

      @AJ Thank you for taking the time to add some stats.
      Only, I think we interpret the stats differently.
      I would expect Arsenal to be the ball controlling team against most opponents, and with all respect, surely against Brighton.
      So I see a big problem in the possession stats.
      And my take is that, we couldn’t win back the ball fast enough, especially high up on the pitch, because midfielders and attackers like ESR, Saka, Auba and Ode, simply weren’t working hard enough and with enough intensity in the press. Instead it was Brighton that was working harder and with more intensity, and that was why our defence was under so much pressure. Yes I agree, the defenders did very well mostly keeping Brighton away from big scoring opportunities.
      But we were the underdogs, especially in the whole first half, because of our lack of work and lack of intensisty.
      If we can’t show desire, hard work and intensisty, we can spend billions, and still be the underdogs to teams that get 100% out of their players.

  13. No2No2 says:

    The result was may be not bad., but there was no good excuse for the terrible display.

  14. JW says:

    After all the noise has died-down, and the volumes of comments have been binned, evaluating the season so far…….

    We have lost to a newly promoted Brentford side, who look really good in their games so far. They are a team that do not seem to splash the cash, unlike Arsenal this season. In fact they seem to be more of a selling club. However, they still gave us a hiding.

    We just lost to a Brighton side whose only real move in the transfer market was to dump Ben White on Arsenal for an obscene amount.

    In both games I think we were out-coached and out-worked.

    I am worried that, the players reaching top “Premier league fitness levels”, is not currently part of the “Arteta Process”.

    I think that to beat the other”Middle of the Table” sides we will need to out-work them, if we really want to compete this season!!!

    As much as I like ESR, he does appear to take time-outs during the game. He looks like he could do with shedding a few pounds.

    Just my thoughts

  15. bongbong says:

    Arsenal’s recent form is pretty good. Bongdalu’s statistics of the last 10 matches, won 5, drew 0, lost 5. This match Arsenal is also clearly supported, I trust, Arsenal still have the ability to win the next match!

  16. Angus says:

    5 games, 4 at home? Win 5 top 4. At that point? How far would it stretch? Well at least 40+ games counting backwards top 4 form never dropping out (assuming 5 wins or 10+ with other results, clearly realistic look at United’s next 5.) How could we ever see this coming? Well y’know the previous form? Y’know the 24 game 2nd form at the end of last season. Bought well this summer like we would have non-pandemic last summer ideally?

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