Arsenal slumped to another defeat in Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game in charge, as a header from Neil Maupay was enough to earn the points for Brighton – who now sit just one point behind the Gunners.
Ljungberg saw his side dissolve in the first half, but put up more resistance in the second half, but to no avail. This is now Arsenal’s worst start to a season since the 70s and Arsenal are winless in a massive nine games.
We are in serious trouble.
Ljungberg made some changes since his first game, last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Norwich at Carrow Road. That meant Shkodran Mustafi was dropped in favour of Sokratis,, and Lucas Torreira came into midfield at the expense of Matteo Guendouzi. Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil all started their second game together in a row.
The first half saw the Gulls exercise a constricting press on our side. We struggled to cope with the limited space on offer and it resulted in mistakes from our men, eager to offload the ball quickly but harried into mislaying it.
When Brighton did retrieve the ball, they pushed forward in a team effort to attack, and looked very dangerous.
Was it a case of Arsenal making them look far better than they were? A little, but Brighton do deserve credit for the way they maintained shape and made things happen. We however, struggled to bypass this tactic.
There were moments, but Willock’s pass was awry at the last moment, Laca flicked a header wide and Luiz had a free kick that was saved by Ryan, all in the opening twenty minutes, but all the while, Brighton were nipping and biting at our heels.
Laca then teed up Auab on the 29th minute, with the Gabon striker hitting his effort just wide of the post. Brighton had meanwhile forced Bellerin into a booking and then forced Leno into a great save from a Maupay effort. We couldn’t contain Mooy, Connolly and Maupay.
That led to a goal ten minutes before the break. A goalmouth melee was not dealt with, too many ball-watchers, and that left Webster to swing a boot and into the net.
There was no more time for anything else, and our boys trudged off to boos around the ground.
Ljungberg and Per would have to muster a half-time team talk to rally the troops – and to a degree, it worked.
The Swede brought on Pepe for the second half for Willock, and we raced out of the blocks, five minutes in and we were level. An Ozil corner was met at the front post by a leaping Laca, and his looping header found its way into the far corner. After a quick VAR check, the goal was given.
We had the game in our grasp now and Pepe superbly teed up Auba, but Dunk was on hand to block the shot. We were looking vibrant and the game was opening up, but we had to be careful.
Changes from both sides followed, as each manager made their swaps to win the game, but it was Brighton who would grab the next goal.
With ten minutes left, Mooy checked onto his right and swung in a cross that Maupay, who was duelling with Luiz, met with a deft header that got past Leno and into the net.
We didn’t have long to retrieve the game, and Tierney’s cross was met by Martinelli, but his header was brilliantly saved by Ryan.
It was the closest we would get to restoring parity and Brighton saw it out until the final whistle.
We had lost and things are looking bleak. Here’s the key points from the game.
Pepe Must Start
Pepe was introduced at the break and we looked far better. No coincidence. Confidence or not, Pepe took players on and created.
Torreira Slowly finding Feet
The Uruguayan didn’t have much help, but in flashes he showed instances of his ferocious best. In a couple of games, if kept in the side, the midfielder will underpin our centre.
Defence Still Abysmal
Our backline continued to back off and afford space, space that Brighton lapped up. Until that is sorted, we will continue to suffer. It is all too easy to make us pay.
Ljungberg Needs Time
The Swede has a massive job on his hands and the jury is out if he is the right man, but no one will know after two games. The problem is, time is something we don’t have after our terrible start this season.
Next up is our away game versus West Ham on Monday.