Arsenal ended their home campaign in disappointing fashion, with a 1-1 draw to Brighton.
The dropped points made it four games without a win for the Gunners and ended our hopes of reaching the top four, with one game remaining and spurs three points ahead, but with much better goal difference.
It could have been so different, with our fate in our hands five games ago, but we conspired to ruin any opportunity we had – and we had many.
As it stands, the Europa League is now our only hope of reaching the Champions League next season, and that is far from wrapped up.
Emery made changes for the game, with Stephane Lichtsteiner able to sign off his short Arsenal career with a start in our final home game. This was probably due to resting Ainsley Maitland-Niles for Thursday’s crunch game against Valencia.
Shkodran Mustafi came in for Laurent Koscielny, for most likely the same reason as above. Our first choice midfield pairing of Xhaka and Torreira were in the eleven, with Mkhitaryan and Ozil ably assisting both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top.
We got off to a good start, with a penalty earned from a foul on Nacho Monreal, which upon repeated viewings, was still pretty inconclusive. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t hesitate though, and fired past Matt Ryan in the Brighton goal to give us the lead.
This should have seen us take the initiative and go on and win the game. Instead, through a combination of some good saves from Ryan, a ridiculous error from Granit Xhaka and some poor play, we conspired to let Brighton equalise and we didn’t have enough in our tank to regain the lead.
What went wrong? What can we take from this game?
Here’s four things we learned in our draw with Brighton:
Xhaka Needs To Wise Up
Many have bemoaned the amount of errors Shkodran Mustafi has made this season. Granit Xhaka though, has the same in his locker. From not tracking a run and letting the opponent have a free run on goal, to inexplicably shoulder barging a player in the box to give away a second half penalty. The Swiss midfielder all too often lets his concentration slip and if it weren’t for Bernd Leno and our defenders, his mistake count would be much higher. His Gunners future is very much on the line.
Games Like This Have Cost Us – Not Aubameyang’s Missed Penalty
Some still hold up Auba’s missed penalty as one of the main reasons we missed out on the top four. Poppycock. The reason we have missed the boat is because of occasions like this. Dropped points against Saints, West Ham, Leicester, Wolves etc mean that even if Auba had converted the last minute penalty against our rivals, we would still be in this position. It is our mentality that needs sorting, not Auba’s penalty skills.
Lack of Killer Instinct
We took the lead. Brighton were not exactly outstanding. We had the game in the palm of our hand. Yet we didn’t go on and rubberstamp the result. Instead we let them crawl out from our boot and impose themselves. This is Brighton, who were only declared safe from relegation the day before the game. The same team who have scored one goal in more than seven hundred minutes before this game. We let them back in and we deserved to drop the points. The players knew what was at stake, and yet they once again failed to perform.
Stupid Mistakes Cost Us
Once again, it was an error that led to our downfall. This has happened to us more than any other side this season, where Xhaka and Leno both feature in the top ten for errors leading to goals. Add Mustafi’s gaffe into the mix, and Guendouzi’s error earlier in the season (these are just the ones I can remember) and we have a catalogue of errors that if cut out, we could be in a much better position than we currently reside in. Not to mention if we took advantage of winning positions.
Next up is our Europa League Semi-Final second leg against Valencia on Thursday, followed by our last Premier League game of the season, away to Burnley.