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The Media Review: Arsenal

How the websites and newspapers saw Saturday's win at the Emirates.

By Nick Szczepanik • 10 April 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
Moises Caicedo battles in midfield with Martin Odegaard.

Albion’s overdue but very welcome win at Arsenal could have been one of those occasions when the reporters decided to focus on another disappointing result for the Gunners in their pursuit of a top four place.  You could certainly have understood if they had pursued that familiar narrative. 

But fortunately, most of the Sunday papers sent writers to the Emirates who have seen plenty of Albion games and appreciate what the club is aiming to achieve and they gave full credit to the performance of the men in blue and white stripes.  

Most picked out the performance of Enock Mwepu and key contributions from Moises Caicedo, Lewis Dunk and Robert Sanchez. And all ransacked their store of adjectives in their appreciation of the quality of Albion’s goals.

In the Sunday Times, for example, James Gheerbrant wrote that “Graham Potter’s team had been dogged by imprecision, having scored only one of their previous 102 chances in the Premier League, but [the first] was a lovely goal of pinpoint simplicity. Lewis Dunk swept a long ball out to the right wing, where Xhaka’s wandering had created a vacancy, and Mwepu was waiting. He took the ball down and slid a low cross towards the penalty spot, where Leandro Trossard arrived with perfect timing to lash high into the net.

“Despite all Arsenal’s pressure, they were soon staring at a two-goal deficit, courtesy of one of the team goals of the season. Brighton beautifully worked their way into the Arsenal box, with {Trossard’s] backheel effecting a gorgeous one-two with Caicedo. He dug out a cross to the edge of the box, where Mwepu met it flush on the half-volley with a thunderous side-foot finish which whistled into the bottom corner.”

Sam Dean of the Sunday Telegraph, who regularly writes in praise of Albion’s football if not always their finishing, clearly enjoyed having a story with a different ending to tell. “Brighton’s players appeared assured and comfortable with everything they had been asked to do,” he wrote. “On the evidence of this performance alone, you would not know that Graham Potter’s side had won just three of their last 25 league games, or that they had only scored once in seven league matches.

02:02

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Mwepu on stunning Arsenal display

“Xhaka was nowhere to be seen as Mwepu darted down the right flank with all the time and space he could need. As Arsenal backtracked, no one picked up Trossard, who finished with power beyond Aaron Ramsdale.

“Brighton had hardly been dangerous up to that point, but they were having plenty of joy in blocking Arsenal’s passes. It was all too slow and stodgy for the home side, who barely created a chance of note in the first half. [Emile] Smith Rowe had a glimpse of goal, which was snuffed out by Lewis Dunk, before Gabriel Martinelli’s close-range header was eventually ruled out for offside following a painfully long VAR review.

“For Brighton it was all going according to plan, especially given their disappointing recent form, and in Mwepu they had the game’s best player. If only he had not missed so much of this season through injury, Brighton might not have struggled so badly in recent weeks.

“At one moment in the second half, Mwepu nicked the ball off Smith Rowe, nutmegged the Arsenal midfielder and then hurdled a challenge from Xhaka. The next moment, he was doubling Brighton’s lead with a superb strike — on the half-volley, attacking Moises Caicedo’s cross — from the edge of the box.”

Nick Ames has also been a frequent visitor to the Amex and in The Observer he wrote that Arsenal “got what they deserved against a clever, composed Brighton side who had only scored once in their previous seven games.

“Brighton’s lack of confidence in the final third may be well documented but they could claim to have enjoyed slightly the better of things against opponents who could not get going.

03:33

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Potter hails crucial Arsenal result

“Graham Potter had set up with a dense 3-3-3-1 formation and the second of those lines, which included the 19-year-old league debutant Moises Caicedo, gave Arsenal’s midfield no breathing space.

“The irony was that Brighton struck just as Arsenal had begun to show a semblance of life. Then Lewis Dunk, exposing a gaping void in Arsenal’s left-back position, swept a first-time pass into the path of a striding Mwepu. The Zambian, who had hitherto won almost everything in the engine room, had space to cut back for an unattended Trossard, who swept past Aaron Ramsdale from 14 yards.

“The goal that sealed the points was gloriously worked and taken. Brighton were not going anywhere particularly quickly to the left of Arsenal’s box but carved an opening when Trossard backheeled cutely into Caicedo’s path.

“Caicedo had been excellent throughout and, near the byline, conjured a perceptive chip to the edge of the area. Mwepu was waiting and it required tremendous technique, on the bounce, to produce a finish with the required power and control to beat Ramsdale. The keeper could only get a hand to the strike and Brighton had, against most prior logic, scored twice.”

In the Mail on Sunday, Adrian Kajumba noted that “for the second successive [Arsenal] game, after Monday’s humiliation at Crystal Palace, the decisive moments befitting the Champions League came from their opponents, particularly Brighton’s winner - a technically expert finish from Enock Mwepu, the standout performer among a raft of them from Brighton. Leandro Trossard’s opener was not bad either.

“The margin of defeat may have been two goals fewer but this was every bit as morale-sapping and troubling as Arsenal’s loss at Crystal Palace, coming against a team who had lost six of their previous seven Premier League games.

10:24

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Extended PL Highlights: Arsenal 1 Albion 2

“Arteta insisted in the build-up to Brighton’s visit that Monday was gone. It did not look like it early on as they struggled for any sort of rhythm. Credit to Brighton for that.  Their work-rate to disrupt their hosts was clear.

“Just when Arsenal started to show signs of life, they fell behind. Lewis Dunk played a looping ball down the right and Mwepu was all alone with emergency left-back Xhaka on the halfway line.

“It was not the first time the position left vacant with Xhaka seemingly under instruction to move forward and give Arsenal an extra body in midfield though they were continually overpowered in the engine room. 

“While Arsenal’s remaining defenders retreated towards their goal, Trossard made a clever run and was found by Mwepu’s cut back which he dispatched confidently past Aaron Ramsdale.

‘We scored a goal, we scored a goal, we scored a goal,’ the Brighton fans chanted after seeing only their second strike in eight games.

“Arsenal thought they had scored one just before half-time only for Martinelli’s header to be ruled out for the tightest of offsides after a four-minute VAR check.

“And midway through the second half the visitors doubled their lead when Mwepu rounded off a slick Brighton move that begun on the left by firing a first-time, half volley into the bottom corner.”

In The Sun on Sunday, Mark Irwin pointed out that, “five days after being battered into submission by Palace, [Arsenal] were found wanting again by a Brighton team who had never previously won a Premier League match in April.

“Having seen their team score just once in their previous seven games, the travelling Brighton fans weren’t exactly holding their breath at the prospect of an Emirates goal-fest.

“No-one was more surprised than manager Graham Potter when his team took a 28th minute lead after Arsenal had completely switched off at the back again. Lewis Dunk’s long boot out of defence found Mwepu totally alone on the edge of the Arsenal area.

“And when the Zambian wing-back rolled the ball across goal, Trossard had even more time and space to pick his spot with a fierce shot into the top corner. It was the kick up the bum Arsenal needed to wake from their stupor and only a brilliant block by Dunk denied Emile Smith Rowe a quick equaliser.”

Assuming that you are not becoming bored by now with descriptions of Albion’s second goal, here it is again in the words of Tom Kershaw of The Independent.

“Brighton put together the sort of slick and incisive team move that had eluded Arteta’s side. Marc Cucurella raced down the left wing and found Moises Caicedo just inside the box. The Ecuadorian collected the ball again by way of Trossard’s sumptuous backheel and his chipped cross was met on the volley by Mwepu. It was a divine finish, drilled low into the bottom corner, with Ramsdale’s view obscured by a maze of bodies, and Arsenal were once again left to study the ruins of their own efforts.

By Paul Hazlewood
Danny Welbeck breaks forward against his former club.

“To their credit, Arsenal did mount a determined late insurgence and after Martin Odegaard’s hopeful shot from distance looped into the top corner courtesy of a wicked deflection, bedlam broke loose in the Brighton box. Somehow though, thanks largely to the efforts of Robert Sanchez, Brighton were able to deflect the onslaught and cling on to their first win in eight league games.”

On the BBC website, Luke Reddy highlighted the less glamorous aspects of Albion’s performance, writing that “Potter later praised the way they were able to ‘hang on and suffer.’

“Lewis Dunk blocked brilliantly to deny Emile Smith Rowe at 1-0 and substitute Nicolas Pepe at 2-0, Yves Bissouma diligently broke up attacks and Marc Cucurella mixed his role in a back three with well-timed forays forward.

“Mwepu - who only returned from three months out with injury last week - showed exactly what Brighton have been missing. He produced an assist and a goal, won nine duels - a game high - and intercepted the ball more than anyone on the pitch.

“Potter called on Mwepu and Bissouma to drop into his defensive line for parts of the second half in a fluid tactical display and they shouldered the responsibility admirably.”

As did the men of Fleet Street in reporting a memorable afternoon in North London.