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Albion Analytics preview: Arsenal

Albion's quick turnaround in fixtures sees them face Arsenal this evening.

By Liam Tharme • 29 December 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Solly March and Lewis Dunk celebrate the captain's goal at West Ham.

Albion welcome Arsenal to the Amex for the final home match of 2020, with the Seagulls unbeaten in this fixture as a Premier League side.

It was January 2015 when Arsenal were last victorious at the Amex, winning an FA Cup tie 3-2 for the second season running.

Since then, Albion have enjoyed facing the North Londoners. They are unbeaten in the last five Premier League meetings, winning on three occasions. Neal Maupay scored late at the Emirates last season, and even later at the Amex when he bagged the winner.

Brighton and Manchester City were part of an exclusive club last season – the only sides to do the double against Arsenal.

This fixture comes with positive omens for Albion, who are unbeaten in six of their last seven final games of a calendar year, winning on five occasions and doing so most recently against Bournemouth at the Amex. Arsenal have lost such a fixture in the last two years and you have to go back to the 1940s for the last time they lost three end-of-year games in succession.

Graham Potter has beaten Arsenal as the manager of two clubs, having been victorious at the Emirates whilst coach of Ostersunds. He has won three of the four games against Arsenal, who made their worst ever start to a Premier League season.

Mikel Arteta's men took just 13 points from their opening 12 games, their worst return at this stage since 1974-75 – neither Arteta nor Potter were born the last time Arsenal started a season this badly. Even more damning is the 0.86 goals per game Arsenal have averaged (prior to this game-week), their lowest recording in any post-war campaign. 

Neal Maupay broke an eight-game scoring duck to record his sixth direct goal involvement of the season (5 goals, 1 assist), taking his total number of involvements to 19 (15 goals, 4 assists) in the Premier League for Albion, on what was his 50th Premier League appearance.

Only five French players have scored more in their first 50 Premier League games than Maupay, whose 15 goals are the most since Alexandre Lacazette, who scored 20 between August 2017 and December 2018.

Arsenal's Frenchman is also their main talisman this season, netting six in all competitions including four in the Premier League. He ranks top among Arsenal players this season for expected goals (3.9), fouls won leading to shots (3) and successful pressures (44). Maupay and 17 other Premier League players have netted more than Arsenal's leading scorer this season though, underlining just how big their goal-scoring problem has been.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted 22 goals last season, a total only bettered by Jamie Vardy, while the Gabon international's expected goals overperformance of 6.2 made him the third most clinical striker in the league based on shot quality.

He has scored just three times – twice in open play – this season and embarked on his longest goal drought since 2014 in going five games without a goal.

Much has been made of Arteta's recent comments about crossing and win probabilities. Arsenal rank third in the league this season for crosses attempted (220) but only seventh for crosses completed into the penalty area (33). Albion eclipse the visitors in the latter of the two metrics, with only Fulham and West Ham (45) having completed more crosses into the box than Potter's side.

By BHAFC
Solly March has made 40 shot-creating chances this season.

Solly March (9) leads the way for Brighton players in crosses completed into the penalty area. The wing-back took his shot-creating actions total to 40 during the West Ham draw, good enough to place him top of the Albion pile and among the leading 25 in the Premier League.

The wing-back has played a key role in goals in both of his last two appearances against Arsenal. He won the penalty at the Emirates in 2019 that Glenn Murray scored from to equalise and it was from his short corner in the first game after lockdown that Lewis Dunk managed to equalise in a memorable 2-1 win.

March and Dunk combined to give Albion the lead against West Ham on Sunday, in similar fashion to their combination for the first goal against Arsenal in June. On both occasions March was the short corner option with Dunk converting following a scramble in the box.

A late West Ham equaliser ensured the spoils were shared, so Albion recorded another point on the road and the final 2020 away record impressively stands at five wins, nine draws, five losses and six clean sheets in all competitions.

By BHAFC
Albion only suffered five wins in 19 away matches in 2020.

Dunk's goal was his seventh in the Premier League, making him the second player alongside Pascal Gross to score in all four Premier League seasons for Brighton. Five of the seven have been scored directly from corners, with all of them coming from set piece situations. Including Watford. Eight of the captain's 12 Premier League goal involvements have come against London-based opposition.

Dunk is also top of the Brighton charts this year for long passes completed (151), shots blocked (10) and clearances (42). He sits second for aerial duels won (27), ball recoveries (166) and progressive passing yards (4,093) among Albion outfielders.

Brighton and Arsenal boast two of the youngest sides in the league this season, with both averaging 25.6 years. Aaron Connolly assisted Neal Maupay for the winner in this fixture last season, a goal which remains Brighton's youngest ever in the Premier League, with their combined age at the time less than 44 years and three months. The pair have combined for three goals in total, the most of any duo under Potter.

By BHAFC
Bukayo Saka has been involved in four goals so far this season.

Arsenal have youth talent of their own in 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, who has four goal involvements (2 goals, 2 assists) in all competitions this season, and who leads his side in terms of shot-creating actions (37), dribbles leading to shot (4), touches in the opposition box (60) and dribbles completed/attempted (21/33).

The teenager is a squad-mate of Tariq Lamptey, who is set to miss the Arsenal clash through injury. They were part of the England U21 side who won 6-0 against Kosovo earlier this year.

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