How misfiring Arsenal were shot down by Brighton
Brighton 2 Arsenal 1
Arsene Wenger remains under intense pressure as his Arsenal side were deservedly beaten by an impressive Brighton side at the AMEX Stadium.
The Gunners went into the contest on the back of a series of damaging defeats to Manchester City in both the Carabao Cup final and the Premier League, as well as losing the home leg of their Europa League tie with Ostersund.
And their season continues to unravel following this 2-1 reverse, with a large section of the travelling support calling for Wenger’s head at one point in the first half.
Wenger had said confidence was low at the Emirates Stadium and it showed as Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk opened the scoring on seven minutes before Glenn Murray doubled the advantage.
Arsenal responded in fits and starts, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turning home the consolation before the interval, but the Gunners left for the chilly trip back to north London still with only three away league wins to their name this season.
While Arsenal are low on self-belief, Brighton are flying as they remain unbeaten in all competitions since January 20, have two players up for the Premier League player of the month award and, in Chris Hughton, a boss nominated for the manager’s accolade.
That stark contrast in form showed early on as Brighton took the lead from a run of the mill corner, Petr Cech far too easily beaten in the air by Shane Duffy, who headed back across goal for Dunk (below) to slam in the opener.
Wenger’s side were seemingly under threat every time Brighton broke clear, and Shkodran Mustafi was forced to block Jose Izquierdo’s effort behind and Dunk headed over when well-placed from the resulting set-piece.
The recalled Alex Iwobi then played Arsenal into trouble, smashing a clearance straight at Anthony Knockaert, who should have scored after exchanging passes with Pascal Gross.
Further individual errors would cost Arsenal again later in the half as Laurent Koscielny’s pass out of defence was misplaced and the Seagulls broke forward in numbers, with Gross crossing in for Murray to head home unmarked for his sixth goal in as many games, with Cech at fault once again.
Frustration began to creep into the Arsenal players, with Jack Wilshere picking up a booking for a poor challenge on Knockaert towards the end of the first half.
But they would halve the arrears before heading in for the break, Iwobi capitalising on some uncertain Brighton defending and passing to Granit Xhaka, whose pass was turned home by Aubameyang.
Koscielny came close to atoning for his earlier mistake as he crashed a header off the post in stoppage time, with Brighton hanging on to their lead as Stuart Attwell blew the whistle for half-time.
The second half started evenly, with Mesut Ozil stinging the palms of Mathew Ryan with a drilled effort before a flashpoint on 65 minutes as Sead Kolasinac, already booked, ploughed into Ezequiel Schelotto.
The Brighton man was forced off as a result but Kolasinac escaped further punishment for the incident, much to the dismay of the disgruntled home supporters.
Wenger turned to Danny Welbeck, Eddie Nketiah and Hector Bellerin from the bench but it was the hard-working Murray who scored for Brighton — only to have his goal rightly chalked off for offside.
Arsenal, in the manner true to a team chasing a result, had all of the ball in the closing stages with Aubameyang coming the closest to salvaging a point for Wenger’s side, but they could not find the equaliser they all craved
BRIGHTON: Ryan, Schelotto (Bruno, 69 mins), Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Knockaert (March, 77 mins), Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo, Gross (Kayal, 86 mins), Murray. Unused subs: Ulloa, Goldson, Locadia, Krul.
Arsenal: Cech, Chambers (Bellerin, 83 mins), Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Wilshere, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan (Nketiah, 83 mins), Ozil, Iwobi (Welbeck, 74 mins), Aubameyang. Unused subs: Ospina, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny.
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Man of the match: Lewis Dunk
Match rating: 8/10