Arsenal turned in an incongruous performance on the South Coast at the Amex, as Brighton earned a deserved draw.
More dropped points means losing ground on the top 4 spots, but what must be more concerning was the nature of our display, which lacked any sort of cohesion to trouble Brighton’s backline on a regular basis.
So much so that we had the least amount of efforts on goal than in any other game in the Emery era.
The Spanish coach went for a strong lineup and ignored the impending trip to Anfield to take on League leaders Liverpool. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette started together up top again, ably assisted by Mesut Ozil. Lucas Torreira, one booking away from missing out on the Liverpool game, started in a midfield three with Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka.
We got off to a dream start too. After just six minutes we took the lead. Alexandre Lacazette received the ball in the box and was immediately swamped, but he turned this way then that, and eventually worked enough space to offload to a well place Aubameyang, who hit a first time finish past Ryan in the Brighton goal, into the far top corner.
We actually looked good in the first twenty minutes, but we couldn’t stretch our lead, and Brighton began to believe a little more. The Gulls though they had equalised in the 24th minute, only for Glenn Murray to miss out on a goal after bundling the ball out of Leno’s grasp.
It was the right decision, but a wake up call for the Gunners, one we didn’t heed.
Montoya and Gross then had shots, which didn’t trouble the net, but were still reminders that the home team were getting into their groove and we needed to stem their revival.
On the half hour mark, we should have doubled our lead and perhaps secured the points. Lucas Torreira clipped a wonderful ball through to Auba, who had broken the offside trap and was all alone, with just the keeper to beat. He opted for a relatively early shot, which was hard and low, but slightly too close to Ryan, who saved well.
It would cost us, as five minutes later, Brighton were level.
The Gulls broke from one of our corners, and a long ball was aimed for Jurgen Locadia. Lichtsteiner tried to cut it out, but his header merely set it on a plate for the Dutchman, who grabbed the equaliser after Leno rushed out.
That was it for the first half, and the second half saw the introduction of Alex Iwobi for the ineffective Mesut Ozil, but the pattern wouldn’t change - Brighton had the bit between their teeth.
Davy Propper had a header just wide, then had another two efforts a few minutes later that narrowly missed. We were skating on thin ice, and coming perilously close to disaster - but we couldn’t shake the funk.
It prompted Emery into more action, bringing on Ramsey for Lacazette, but the switches - so often the success that swings the game - did absolutely nothing, as Brighton continued to carve out the better openings.
Locadia and March both came close, before a slice of luck nearly came our way, as a clearance cannonned off of Iwobi’s heel, screwing the ball just wide.
The last ten minutes were both sides frantically trying to pull something off, only to stumble with a loose pass. We were abject, only Guendouzi and Kolasinac really covering big distances in an effort to change the tide.
We didn’t really deserve the win, but the fact we dropped more points does point to a need for some true wide players and some defensive steel in January.
Up next, Liverpool.