Well, we got our wish, football returned.
Only trouble is, we saw the worst version of Arsenal turn up and we were rightly humbled by Man city – who probably couldn’t believe their luck.
We now have nine games remaining and a sizeable gap for us to cross to put up any conceivable challenge for the top four or five.
The first step is always the hardest and this thankfully comes quickly after the Man City game – as we take on Brighton.
The Gulls are currently two points above the drop zone but have developed a strong sense of style under boss Graeme Potter. They aren’t simply relegation fodder – they can play and adapt.
It means that we can’t just play expansive football and blitz them. We need to be able to adapt as they do. Mikel Arteta will have no doubt done his homework but this will be Brighton’s first game back since lockdown. They will be fresh – but they could well be rusty.
We need to react, first and foremost. Arteta will be aware that our gameplan was wrong against City. The tactics against Brighton will no doubt be different – but so will our lineup. Injuries have already started to bite hard and our boss will have to shuffle his pack a little.
He may also do so because the players who played against City hardly did themselves justice.
Who will Arteta go with?
Thankfully, David Luiz has some time to think about his actions in our loss versus City, as he is suspended for the next two games.
Pablo Mari is ruled out for the season after suffering ankle ligament damage in our loss to Manchester City. With both of these players missing and Calum Chambers also out for the season – our defence will be changed. Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis are all in line to play at the back.
Granit Xhaka also came off injured in our last game and while he will be unavailable for this game, he stands a chance of playing again before the season ends.
Lucas Torreira and Cedric Soares are both back training , but Soares won’t be ready for consideration just yet. Torreira? With Xhaka missing, he could be a surprise inclusion, but more likely is a Guendouzi/Willock/Ceballos combo.
Then there is Ozil. Left out entirely against City, will our playmaker make a return? His fitness isn’t an issue – so the mystery deepens.
Up front, Nketiah took the striker spot against City, but a shuffle may see Lacazette recalled. Saka was also in the lineup, but with Pepe also shouting for a start, we could see our starlet benched.
Player to Watch
The Belgian winger has truly great close control and at times, cuts in to wonderful effect. If given too much space, he can supply for the likes of Maupay or he can do it himself. Good pace and a dangerous player, if Brighton do cause us problems, it will go through Trossard.
How this could go
Brighton haven’t won in 2020 and if they lose this game, it will be ten games without a win.
Still, I worry though. We haven’t beaten them in our last four attempts and they are stubborn. They have drawn plenty too, which shows that when they put in the effort, they can avoid defeat when necessary.
Scoring goals is their issue, but with our defence we are the generous type. We need to keep it simple at the back and let our attack off the hook to wreak maximum damage. We didn’t do that against City. We were restricted to rare forages on the counter attack, which is why I think Laca should start.
The Frenchman is better at hold-up play than Nketiah and can bring others into the action. Nketiah could be the secret weapon from the bench if the scoreline isn’t working for us – as well as Martinelli.
We should win this. If we don’t then it means that our boys really haven’t got that match sharpness – and we can kiss goodbye to Europe.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Tierney, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Willock, Saka, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal
Can you pick our lineup? Have a go here.