Arsenal can focus back on the Premier League after putting one foot into the Europa League Final with top-four still a priority according to Unai Emery.
Arsenal will have to regroup for their chase for a top-four spot, which needless to say, is far from secure. In fact, Arsenal have very slim chances of finishing in the top four with two games remaining and will heavily rely on and hope for rivals to drop points this weekend. If things stay the same, then Arsenal are likely to finish outside of Champions League places.
Arsenal are responsible for putting themselves in this dire situation after three consecutive losses to Crystal Palace, Wolves and to Leicester City last weekend. Before the Palace game, Arsenal were well placed within the top four and were even on the verge of overtaking city rivals Tottenham into third, but things culminated for the worse, leaving Emery’s men to make winning the Europa League a priority.
Against Brighton & Hove Albion they need nothing else but a win to keep their slim hopes of a Champions League place alive. Before the midweek Europa League semifinal against Valencia, Arsenal had doubts over their confidence after defeats in the last three games, where they conceded three goals in each game and scored a total of one goal during that period. Although the 3-1 win over Los Che would help them this weekend.
Their opponents, Brighton & Hove Albion languish in 17th place on the table and still far from secure in their survival race. With Huddersfield Town and Fulham already relegated, the battle for survival is against Cardiff who sits in 18th spot, is set to get to the intense phase of the season.
Brighton and Cardiff are separated by four points for now, although the Seagulls face Arsenal now and Manchester City for their last game of the season, while Cardiff are set to face Crystal Palace and Manchester United to end their season. It means that Brighton definitely needs a result against Arsenal to keep their hopes for survival alive after Sunday.
Team News & Tactics
Unai Emery is expected to re-shuffle his pack a little keeping in mind the second leg of the Europa League semifinal with Valencia will be around the corner. He is likely to do so majorly in defence than anywhere else. Laurent Koscielny is the prime concern for the Spanish manager after the Frenchman hobbled off against Valencia. Emery would certainly like to rest his captain for the weekend.
Luckily for Emery, he can count on Nacho Monreal after the defender shook off a minor problem to play 10 minutes against Valencia. Emery would be hoping to give Monreal more time on the pitch to have him for Valencia as well. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis could continue after rectifying some recent performances with a decent showing against Valencia.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is definitely out of this clash after his red card against Leicester for two bookable offences. Carl Jenkinson might be in for only his second start in the Premier League, although Emery could prefer to place Mustafi at right back, something he has done in a few games this season.
A slight change in midfield could be anticipated with Lucas Torreira replacing Matteo Guendouzi. But other than that Arsenal are expected to go with the same front three of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and golden boot chasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Leno; Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Jenkinson, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang
Brighton & Hove Albion
Chris Hughton has a few concerns with his squad ahead of the Arsenal trip. Beram Kayal and Davy Propper are significant doubts about making it for the game, and its Kayal who is more likely to prove his fitness than the former. Solly March, who came of the bench to make an impact against Newcastle is pushing to be named among the starting-XI.
Glenn Murray who was left out of the Tottenham game in the matchday before is in line for a recall, although it could depend on Hughton’s system who played three in front against Spurs. If Murray is to start, then there would be two up front for Brighton with Florin Andone taking the other striker position.
Hughton is expected to go with a standard 4-4-2 formation with Stephens and Bissouma taking up central midfield positions. Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk will be available to marshal central defence, while Bruno and Bernardo are expected to be the full-backs. Pascal Gross and Sonny March are likely the wide options for Hughton against Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Gross, Bissouma, Stephens, March; Murray, Andone
- Arsenal have lost none of their seven previous home meetings with Brighton in all competitions (W6 D1), with the Gunners conceding just one goal in those games.
- No south coast side have ever won a Premier League away game against Arsenal (P32 W0 D7 L25)
- Arsenal have lost their last three Premier League games – they’ve not lost four in a row in the competition since March 1995 under Stewart Houston.
- Arsenal have only lost their last home league game of the season in one of the previous 21 campaigns (1-2 vs Aston Villa in 2010-11), winning their last six in a row.
- Only Cardiff and Huddersfield (10 each) have failed to score in more away Premier League games this season than Brighton (8), with the Seagulls also failing to score in each of their last three on the road.
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
2. Arsenal Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.66
1. Full-Time Result – Draw or Brighton @ 3.00
Player to Watch
The Gabonese striker was the player to watch against Valencia and again makes the cut after showcasing his importance in Arsenal’s attack. The forward put in a fantastic shift against Valencia, working hard, scoring and creating. Although it was strike partner Alexandre Lacazette who took the spotlight following his brace, Aubameyang was one of the catalysts in that Arsenal performance.
The striker, somewhat below the likes of Mohamed Salah and now Sadio Mane mentioned earlier that he is still very much in contention for the golden boot. To achieve that he needs to score a few goals and has the right opportunity against Brighton to do so and lift his side with their slim hopes in the top-four race.
Arsenal 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
The predicted scoreline above does not resonate to Arsenal’s current form in the league, losing three games in a row. The Gunners found their mojo back in the win over Valencia, and Emery would want to believe the last three games were simply a blip in their form. The showing against Valencia definitely brought some confidence back in the side, and it will help against Brighton.
Brighton will be hoping Cardiff drop points this weekend and the next, meaning even if the Seagulls lose they will still be favourites to escape the drop. It’s not to say Brighton will underperform against Arsenal, but the Gunners have a far more significant objective to achieve as they hope to finish in the top four.