Nicolas Pepe finishes the campaign on a strong note, scoring a brace in Arsenal’s final day victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Arsenal miss out on European football for the first time in 26 years, despite a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on MD38. While they were initially on course to finish top seven for the large parts of the game, a late comeback from Tottenham Hotspur against Leicester City saw them finish the campaign in eighth place.
The Gunners were on top right from the beginning, dominating possession and putting pressure on the opposition defence. However, Brighton did really well to congest the centre of the park to make it difficult for Arsenal to play through their lines. The efficacy of it was reflected in the scoreline as the two drew blank going into half-time.
The second half was a bit more open from Arsenal’s perspective, although they actually made better use of the wings to try and destabilise the back four of Brighton. They were eventually rewarded in the 49th minute when Nicolas Pepe put the ball past Robert Sanchez to find the crucial opener for his team.
Although the Seagulls tried to put more bodies after the goal, they ended up conceding another goal around the hour mark, scored once again by the in-form Pepe. It was though to seal all three points for the hosts, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the Arsenal players in their convincing victory over Brighton & Hove Albion this weekend.
Bernd Leno: 6.5/10
Bernd Leno had absolutely nothing to do for the large parts of the game, as Brighton struggled to offer anything going forward. In fact, the Seagulls mustered only one shot on target, which was a powerful driven effort from the left by Jakub Moder. The goalkeeper did well to save the strike from distance, thus retaining his clean sheet.
Calum Chambers: 7.5/10
Calum Chambers enjoyed an excellent game in the right-back position. He was consistent going forward, providing consistent support for the attackers in the final third. His overall ball distribution was also quite impressive, as the defender notably registered the assist for Pepe’s opener with a driven cross into the box.
Rob Holding: 7.5/10
Rob Holding was a solid presence at the heart of the four-man backline for Arsenal. His imposing presence at the back made him an intimidating figure for the opposing attackers, especially in physical and aerial duels. The centre-back also made important tackles and blocks, keeping the Brighton attackers at bay.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 7/10
Gabriel Magalhaes complemented Holding quite well in the defensive department. He offered a lot of solidity in possession, distributing the ball well without making any real defensive error in the game. The Brazilian was solid in his positioning too, making it more difficult for Brighton to create chances going forward.
Kieran Tierney: 7.5/10
Kieran Tierney was exemplary in the left-back position for Arsenal. His immense work ethic, coupled with his positioning sense and clever movements were an invaluable asset for the Gunners, as the left-back not only provided support going forward but also tracked back and had total control of the opposing attackers.
Thomas Partey: 8/10
Thomas Partey looked in the mood to perform, after a largely disappointing campaign. He was always keen on going forward, threading some neat passes in and around the final third. The midfielder probed the opposing backline quite, especially with his efforts from distance, one of which rocked the crossbar.
Omg!!! How I’m dying to see a Thomas Partey goal! That was a super strike but hits the post. It’s a wonderful direct pass into Partey who turns and strikes. The footballs been absolutely brilliant in the last 5 mins. Ripping Brighton to pieces
— Gunner Since 96 (@gunnersince96) May 23, 2021
Granit Xhaka: 8.5/10
Granit Xhaka was assigned a more conservative role in the midfield, with the Swiss international mostly seen orchestrating the play with his passes. He also looked to neutralise potential counter-attacking opportunities for Brighton with sharp tackles. Controlled the play extremely well, ending the game as one of the best performers for Arsenal.
Nicolas Pepe: 9/10
Nicolas Pepe continued his excellent run of form with yet another excellent display on the right flank. He was a menace in the final third, with his trickery and pace causing all sorts of problems for the Brighton defence. The Ivorian also showed good finishing skills to score the opener, before a curled effort to find the second goal around the hour mark.
Nicolas Pepe has scored in three consecutive matches for the first time in his Arsenal career.
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) May 23, 2021
One of the positives from an otherwise dire campaign for Arsenal has indeed been the return of form for Nicolas Pepe, who is bound to enjoy an even better season next term.
Martin Odegaard: 8.5/10
Martin Odegaard was given the nod ahead of Emile Smith Rowe, in what was the final game of his loan spell from Real Madrid. The playmaker looked very energetic, often dropping deep to collect the ball and driving it forward. He was very sharp in his passing as well, creating a few opportunities for his side, although he will be disappointed to have not found the back of the net.
Emile Smith Rowe: 6.5/10
Emile Smith Rowe retained his place in the starting lineup, in light of his good form. The youngster, unfortunately, struggled to make a tangible impact on the proceedings. Although he was not short of ideas going forward, the attacker often lacked the execution to pull it off. Subbed off during the final phase of the game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5/10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang endured another goalless game in the Premier League, ending his campaign with just ten goals. The forward was not influential at all, mostly operating as a mere bystander as the players around did most of the probing. It will be interesting to see whether he will be given the green light to leave the club in the summer, following a disappointing campaign.
Bukayo Saka: 6.5/10
Bukayo Saka replaced Smith Rowe during the final phase of the game. He looked lively on the ball, probing the Brighton defence with his pace and trickery out wide.
Alexandre Lacazette: N/A
Replaced Aubameyang in the 79th minute, in what could well be his final appearance for Arsenal. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Gabriel Martinelli: N/A
A late replacement for Odegaard. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.