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Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Arsenal

Albion fans have become used to the team’s matches being reported by the national press purely in terms of the performance of more illustrious opponents, no matter what the result. And bearing in mind the extent to which the crisis at Arsenal has dominated the back pages in recent weeks, that would have been the fear after Thursday evening’s 2-1 triumph at The Emirates Stadium.

By Nick Szczepanik • 06 December 2019

By Patrick Sullivan
Nick Szczepanik delivers the media's verdict on Thursday's game.

But for once, the quality of the men in black’s display against the Gunners simply could not be ignored. And some of the biggest names in what used to be known as Fleet Street gave Graham Potter’s men full credit.

In fact, Henry Winter, The Times’ chief football writer, saw the result more as a Brighton win than an Arsenal defeat. “Arsenal’s midfield in particular was completely shown up by Brighton’s Aaron Mooy,” he wrote. “The Australian ran the game, demonstrating more energy, heart, drive and even passing range than his more illustrious opponents. He wanted the ball more. He wanted victory more.

“Football is about character as well as capability and Mooy displayed both. His cross for Neal Maupay’s winner was just the type of perfect delivery that the new kids on the broadcast block, Amazon, will love to be associated with.

“Mooy embodied all that was good about Brighton. The headlines will froth with criticism of Arsenal, decrying their lack of resilience, but Mooy and his team-mates deserve every salute: the fans turned up in force, despite an uninspiring record on the road, and their team certainly turned up.

“Graham Potter set them up well, on the front foot, with two up top in Aaron Connolly and Maupay, who did not let Arsenal settle. It was also Brighton’s mood, their togetherness, as well as Potter’s positive tactics that set them apart from Arsenal. Brighton showed a unity that Arsenal lack. With only modest outlay, Potter has got Brighton passing and moving, playing without fear. They managed 20 shots to Arsenal’s 12, nine on target to Arsenal’s five.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk heads the ball clear.

Arsene Wenger’s biographer, John Cross of the Mirror, admitted that “Brighton outclassed Arsenal, made them look average and should have won more comfortably. Brighton were bright and better from the start. They could have scored even before they went ahead after 37 minutes. Pascal Gross’s corner was headed on by Dan Burn, Aaron Connolly chested it down and Adam Webster smashed the ball home.”

He added in his video verdict that: “Arsenal got level and you thought ‘Here we go,’ but it didn’t materialise. Brighton weathered the storm and thoroughly deserved their winner which came through Neal Maupay’s header after 80 minutes. Anyone who didn’t think it should have been an away win is deluded.”

In The Guardian, Nick Ames wrote: “It has been common to see visiting sides show far more attacking incision but this was the first time one has won a Premier League game at the Emirates since April and, in the process, Brighton brought up a damning statistic for the hosts. Arsenal have now gone nine games without a win and it is their worst run since a 10-match streak that ended in March 1977, the month before Ljungberg was born.

“Most of the damage was done in a derelict first-half offering from Arsenal during which Brighton took the lead through Adam Webster and dominated for extended periods. Ljungberg’s charges improved rapidly after the break and equalised through Alexandre Lacazette. But the way in which they allowed the away side to gradually reassert control was entirely characteristic of recent performances and Neal Maupay’s 80th-minute header ensured a perfectly fair reflection of what had passed.

“Brighton, whose reinvention under Graham Potter does present some evidence that outstanding coaching can transform a side, popped the ball about confidently and methodically, probing for openings while keeping Arsenal at arm’s length.

“Arsenal did perk up with Nicolas Pépé’s second-half presence and equalised when Lacazette’s near-post header looped up and dropped into Ryan’s far corner.

“It only took a couple of renewed shows of intent from Brighton for Arsenal to cower anew, to the extent nobody was surprised when Mooy found space again and delivered for Maupay to flick smartly across Leno.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Dale Stephens plays a pass.

Mark Irwin claimed in The Sun that “Arsenal were distinctly second best to a Brighton team who won with goals from Adam Webster and Neal Maupay.

“And it was no more than the visitors deserved for taking the game to a team completely shot of confidence.

“The last time Graham Potter was here two seasons ago, his Ostersunds team enjoyed a shock 2-1 victory in the Europa League.

“Yet the Seagulls boss will take far more satisfaction from this defiant display of defensive steel and bold attacking.

“The overworked Bernd Leno had already been forced into full-length saves by Aaron Connelly and Neal Maupay when Brighton deservedly took a 36th minute lead.

“Pascal Gross’ corner was met with a firm header from Dan Burn and though Sokratis was able to get a block on Maupay, no-one was able to prevent Adam Webster from lashing in the loose ball.

“It was only when £72million Nicolas Pepe was introduced as a half-time sub that Arsenal finally started to threaten Mat Ryan’s goal.

“They levelled in the 50th minute when Lacazette’s header from Ozil’s cross looped over Ryan and dropped in at the back post.

“But they still looked like conceding every time the ball came anywhere near to their penalty area and it was no surprise when they fell behind again ten minutes from time.

“Aaron Mooy was allowed far too much time out wide to pick out Maupay with a cross which the dangerous Frenchman guided into the far corner with a delicious glancing header.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Adam Webster celebrates opening the scoring against Arsenal.

Daniel Matthews of Mail Online said that “Arsenal's problems have not been erased by the departure of Unai Emery. Rather his sacking has only served to shine the spotlight elsewhere.

“Here, they were terrible at both ends for long periods are were duly punished by their more inventive, more composed visitors.

“After Adam Webster's first-half opener, Arsenal improved and Alexandre Lacazette hauled them level. David Luiz thought he had stolen three points, only for his goal to be rightly ruled out for offside.

“Instead it was Neal Maupay who, with 10 minutes to go, gave Brighton their first ever win at Arsenal.

“Brighton played with confidence and bravery - in spite of their own recent struggles. As Arsenal stuttered and struggled to get going, the visitors were quickly into their stride.

“They enjoyed heaps of possession and territory. Their only issue early on was turning that into pressure – and chances.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Steven Alzate tussles for possesion.

Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph almost – almost – fell into the #teamslikeBrighton trap before drawing back and giving Graham Potter’s men due praise. “Brighton, a bright and imaginative side but still Brighton, popped the ball around the pitch with a precision and adventure which Arsenal have not shown for months,” he wrote. “Brighton turned up at the Emirates, dominated the game and calmly pocketed three points they fully deserved.

“If anything, the 2-1 scoreline was unfair on the visitors, rather than Arsenal. Graham Potter’s side exploited all of those familiar spaces in the Arsenal midfield, playing the better football and creating the better opportunities throughout.

“They had lost their last three matches, and 15 of their last 16 away against the so-called ‘big six’ sides, but Brighton looked the bigger side at an Emirates Stadium that once again unleashed furious boos at the final whistle. Not even the lingering love for Ljungberg the player can protect a team that is performing at a level so far below where it should be.

“Brighton, by contrast, were doing everything right. Their dominance of possession was testament to the work done by Potter since he took over this summer, even if good results have not always followed their total change of philosophy.

“To outpass and outplay Arsenal at the Emirates is proof of their quality as a footballing team, with Davy Propper and Aaron Mooy in control of the midfield. ‘It is nice to get a reward for how we are playing,’ said Potter. ‘We did not park the bus. We pressed high, played through from the back. We showed enough quality and character’.”

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