Freddie Ljungberg will be desperate to register his first win as Arsenal manager when the Gunners plays hosts to Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday.
It has turned out to be a yet another disastrous campaign for Arsenal. Despite a promising start, the Gunners haven’t been able to put an end to their mediocrity, leading to the sack of Unai Emery.
Freddie Ljungberg is currently in charge of the club for the time being. The Swede, however, failed to guide Arsenal to a victory in his maiden game in charge against Norwich City on the weekend. The 2-2 draw with the Canaries extended Arsenal’s winless streak to a whopping eight games in all competitions.
They are already sliding down the wrong end of the table, having picked up just 19 points from 14 matches. Hence, collecting all three points this weekend will be imperative as they seek to recover from their awful start to the campaign.
However, things could get tricky against an unpredictable Brighton side, who, despite dawdling in the relegation scrap, are capable of causing an upset. The Seagulls have already secured wins over Everton and Tottenham Hotspur earlier this campaign – making them quite a challenging opposition for Arsenal.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of their crucial match-up in the Premier League this term.
Team News & Tactics
Ljungberg will continue to miss out on the services of Dani Ceballos and Hector Bellerin. The Swede coach might be tempted to make a few alterations to the side that drew with Norwich on the weekend, however, with Nicolas Pepe, in particular, tipped to make his first start under the new boss.
The Ivorian is yet to make an impact following a big-money move in the summer. But, he will be hoping that the change of managers could also bring in an upturn of fortunes. Speaking of which, Mesut Ozil is once again expected to retain his role in the starting lineup.
The German playmaker could start alongside Pepe, just in behind the two central strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. It will be interesting to see how these three players fare, especially against the rigid defensive system of Brighton & Hove Albion.
In defence, Ljungberg could recall Kieran Tierney at left-back. The Scot’s influence on the far side could be critical not only from a creative aspect but also to minimize the threat of the Brighton wingers.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is pushing for a start despite his poor run of form. The Greek could replace Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of the backline, where he will be partnered by the ever-present figure of the experienced David Luiz.
As for Granit Xhaka, he is likely to feature despite having a poor relationship with the fans. The Swiss international is tipped to operate as the holding midfielder, alongside the slightly attack-minded figure of Matteo Guendouzi.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Leno; Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Pepe; Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton are coming on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in their last game. Coach Graham Potter isn’t expected to shuffle his pack a lot given the fact that his side performed reasonably well against the Premier League league leaders. He will, however, continue to miss out on the services of key attackers in Jose Izquierdo and Solly March.
Potter is likely to employ a 4-4-2 with the first of the two banks of four consisting of Pascal Gross, Davy Propper, Dale Stephens and Aaron Mooy. They will form the second line of press for the visitors, which will look to minimize the influence of the likes of Guendouzi and Xhaka.
In attack, March and Izquiero’s absence means that Brighton will once again lack creativity in the final third. But, the offensive duo of Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly have looked quite threatening at times. These two will look to make the most of Arsenal’s vulnerable defence.
Defensively, the entire back four have pretty much remained the same for Brighton throughout the course of the campaign. Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster will form the central defensive pairing while Martin Montoya and Dan Burn are expected to occupy the full-back slots.
There is no one replacing Mat Ryan in goal. The Australian, however, will brace himself for a busy evening this week.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ryan; Montoya, Dunk, Webster, Burn; Gross, Propper, Stephens, Mooy; Maupay, Connolly
- Arsenal have never lost a home match against Brighton in any competition, winning six, drawing two and keeping six clean sheets in the process.
- Brighton are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Arsenal – they’ve never gone four without defeat against them in all competitions.
- This is Brighton’s first-ever Premier League game on Thursday. They’re winless in their last seven midweek games, losing each of the last five in a row.
- Arsenal have only lost one of their last 25 Premier League home games, though they are winless in their last three at the Emirates. They last went four league games without a home win in August 2012 while they last did so within a single season in February 1995.
- Arsenal have only failed to score in two of their last 59 home Premier League games, with both games coming against Manchester City.
Player to Watch
With Emery gone, Ozil will have a chance to redeem himself after often being frozen out of the first team by the former Arsenal boss. However, he must make a quick impact under Ljungberg if he is to have any hopes of remaining at Emirates beyond the upcoming January transfer window.
As iterated earlier, Ozil could operate behind the two strikers in Aubameyang and Lacazette while being partnered by Pepe in the advanced midfield slots. It will be interesting to see if these four players can form some sort of rectangle in and around the zone 14 and bamboozle the Brighton defenders with their speedy link-up play.
Either way, the onus will be on Ozil to provide the creative impetus going forward.
Arsenal 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal could initially find it difficult to break Brighton’s rigid defensive setup. But, with a relatively fresh unit, some gracious home support and a new coach, we expect the Gunners to finally break their recent winless streak when they come up against the Seagulls this week.