Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette provided match-winning performances as Arsenal edged Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 at the Amex Stadium.
Arsenal secured back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since the first two matches of this season, following a hard-fought 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday.
Despite coming on the back of a 3-1 victory over rivals Chelsea, there were shades of the poor old Arsenal right from the beginning as they were bereft of ideas going forward. Their opponents faced a similar problem as neither of the two teams failed to create any clear-cut opportunity during the first 45 minutes of the game.
Things didn’t change much after the restart up until the arrival of Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman, who had starred in the win over Chelsea, made an immediate impact by breaking the deadlock – just 43 seconds after coming on for Gabriel Martinelli. The goal gave Arsenal the incentive to play their usual disciplined game under Mikel Arteta.
Although Brighton did try to push for an equaliser, which even led to a few nervy moments for the Gunners during the late stages of the game, they were simply not ruthlessness enough in front of goal. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the Arsenal in their important victory over the Seagulls this midweek.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
Bernd Leno did well to save Alireza Jahanbaksh’s first-half effort that was on target. It was followed by another save in the 65th minute when he denied Davy Propper, thus keeping his first clean sheet in the Premier League since mid-November. It should give him the much-needed confidence as he hopes for a better year ahead.
Hector Bellerin: 6/10
Mikel Arteta made a rather interesting decision of assigning a more defensive role for Hector Bellerin, thereby allowing Kieran Tierney more freedom to move forward. The move didn’t exactly pay off as the right-back looked sloppy on more than one occasion, but he did eventually improve, showcasing impressive diligence.
Rob Holding: 7.5/10
While his teammates provided the flair in the Arsenal defence, it was Rob Holding who put in the most defensive work. The Englishman’s imposing frame in the backline gave the Gunners a considerable advantage in physical and aerial duels. In addition, the centre-back read the game very well too, making it difficult for the opposition to create too many goalscoring opportunities.
Pablo Mari: 7.5/10
After making his first Premier League appearance of the season against Chelsea on the weekend, Pablo Mari put in a much more improved performance in defence. He looked composed in possession and refrained from making any rash challenges or errors, which already makes him a class apart from some of the other defensive options that Arsenal have, in David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi.
Kieran Tierney: 7.5/10
Kieran Tierney is really starting to enjoy the attacking role he has been given by Arteta over the past matches. The left-back impressed against Brighton as well, showing excellent enthusiasm and stamina while making a host of darting runs forward. Massive coverage on the left-hand channel.
Mohamed Elneny: 5/10
Mohamed Elneny almost handed Brighton an excellent opportunity to score a goal early on in the game with a sloppy error inside his own half. It characterised his performance throughout the course of the evening as he struggled to impose his presence in the middle of the park. He was also rather lucky not to be taken off, with Saka picking up an unfortunate injury.
Granit Xhaka: 6.5/10
Granit Xhaka certainly wasn’t as influential as he was in the game against Chelsea. However, the Swiss international looked in inspiring touch, at times, especially during the defensive phases where he emerged as a real leader. His passing wasn’t top-notch by any means but it was enough to see Arsenal through.
Bukayo Saka: 8/10
Bukayo Saka was by far the most influential player for Arsenal in this hard-fought victory over Brighton. The Englishman often looked like the lone spark in an otherwise dire offensive unit for the Gunners, especially in the first half.
And it was his ingenuity that led to the opener, as the youngster beat a couple of players to produce a delicious square pass to Lacazetete. Picked up an injury late in the game but it didn’t look too serious.
Bukayo Saka has created more chances vs. Brighton so far (3) than any other Arsenal player — he assisted the opening goal.
A primary creator at 19. 🔑 pic.twitter.com/KsgGyCRHAt
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 29, 2020
Emile Smith Rowe: 7/10
Starting with Emile Smith Rowe ahead of Lacazette was always going to be a controversial decision for Arteta. However, the move paid off as the youngster offered nice movement in the final third. He was particularly impressive in tight areas and did well to thread useful passes across the final third. Something to be excited about for Arsenal fans.
Gabriel Martinelli: 7/10
Gabriel Martinelli was once again a livewire in the Arsenal attack, especially in the first line of press. His tremendous energy, pace and enthusiasm is something the Gunners were missing throughout the season. Although the Brazilian never quite found the opening to score the first goal, he clearly looks like a better option than the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Willian.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 6/10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his return to the field after missing out a few games due to injury. Unfortunately, it was evident that the Gabonese international was lacking the usual touch in his game. He was rather ineffective with his direct runs and failed to get into the groove, before being slotted into a wider role in the second half.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first half vs. Brighton:
8 passes completed
0 dribbles attempted
0 chances created
Very concerning numbers for a striker. 😬 pic.twitter.com/OsdZLOQsrP
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 29, 2020
Alexandre Lacazette: 8/10
Lacazette’s cameo after coming on for Martinelli in the 66th minute was an absolute game-changer. Aside from his fantastic finish to score the winner, the Frenchman caused a real menace for the Brighton defenders while his link-up play was solid.
Dani Ceballos: N/A
Replaced Saka during the final phase of the game, slotting into the number ten role. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: N/A
A late replacement for Smith Rowe. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.