Brighton hope to continue their good start to the season when they meet an Arsenal side who are buzzing after a scintillating North London Derby victory.
Brighton have exceeded expectations so far with a superb start to their season, as Graham Potter’s side sit sixth with 13-points on board after six games. In perspective, they are level on points with all four teams ahead of them on goal difference and two points behind leaders Liverpool.
Potter’s side have not done anything different from last season and honestly rode their luck a bit into getting into such a promising position. It seemed that Brighton were punching above their weight before the Crystal Palace clash, where a win would have seen them top the table, something they have never achieved in the club’s history.
Brighton have scored eight goals and conceded five in the six games, exceeding their expected margins so far. In the last term, they played good, fluid football, without favourable results. This season they haven’t done anything different and have stuck to their usual strategies as Potter seems to have oiled the system pretty well.
The club are reaping the rewards of showing patience in their manager when results went south last season. The Seagulls are a club with a clear identity, playing style, and a manager who is getting his tactics right. However, they face their biggest test yet this season when they face a buzzing Arsenal side.
Arsenal look like the real deal after three consecutive victories to bounce back from a horrendous start to their season. A scintillating win in the North London Derby last Sunday has given them a confidence boost, as Mikel Arteta finally expresses his ideas onto the pitch.
The win over Tottenham should become the springboard for Arsenal to improve this season, as they have six favourable looking fixtures coming up. Without European football this term, Arteta will have plenty of time to work with his squad while allowing them ample time to recover after games.
The Gunners have shown defensive resilience and attacking fluidity in recent games, as Arteta stamps his authority on the team after weathering the early storm. Brighton will be a real challenge to test Arsenal’s mettle after the Derby win, and three points against Potter’s side could help them dream of a top-four challenge if they manage to keep their important players fit for most parts.
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Brighton & Hove Albion
Graham Potter has made few changes through the transfer market to retain the identity and shape of his team, which has helped in achieving steady results. However, it will be a real test on the manager’s hand when they face Arsenal, as some key players are expected to miss this important clash.
Working towards the weekend… 💪 pic.twitter.com/o9Ci5d3VLL
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) September 30, 2021
Potter confirmed key midfielder Yves Bissouma is doubtful for the match, although there will be a late call on his inclusion. Brighton dos not have a like for like replacement in the squad, but the manager could ring the changes in midfield by pairing Adam Lallana with Jakub Moder, with Pascal Gross taking up the advanced role.
Brighton might opt for a more pragmatic approach towards Arsenal’s attacking threat. Meaning, Potter could restore a back-three instead of a back-four he played against Crystal Palace. Moreover, having an additional centre-back increases Brighton’s threat from set-pieces, having scored three times from such situations this season already. They also have the highest percentage in the league of turning corners into chances.
So we can assume a back-three of Joel Veltman, Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy to hold the defence. The impressive Marc Cucurella will take up the left-wing-back role, while Sonny March could come over on the right side.
Neal Maupay should be able to continue for his form and recent history against Arsenal. Leandro Trossard should play alongside the Frenchman, while Aaron Connoly will likely be on the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Sanchez; Veltman, Dunk, Duffy; March, Lallana, Moder, Cucurella; Gross; Maupay, Trossard
Following Arsenal’s victory over Tottenham, they lost Granit Xhaka to a knee injury, and the midfielder will not play for three months. Arteta will now need to tinker with his midfield while missing out on the Swiss captain’s influence. Before last Sunday’s game, Xhaka had been missing for three matches, and the Gunners did fine.
🆕 Fresh training edit!
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 1, 2021
Arteta will make a late call on his midfield, and the decision will depend on how the manager sees fit to use Thomas Partey’s qualities. If he decides to keep the Ghanaian in a holding role, then the likes of Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe might start alongside in a midfield three, or else Albert Sambi Lokonga should replace Xhaka.
Both setups have their benefits, as playing a midfield-three should enable Arteta to reinstate Nicolas Pepe in one of the wide attacking areas. The Ivorian has a good record against Brighton, scoring three goals in as many games. However, bringing Pepe means shifting Bukayo Saka’s position, despite the youngster’s star showing promise from the right side.
Meanwhile, for Sambi Lokonga, things are opening up quite nicely. Due to Xhaka’s injury, he might have an extended run in the team and will get the chance to stake a claim at a starting position. However, his inclusion against the Seagulls will be a late call and a tactical one.
The back four and goalkeeper are expected to keep their places, along with striker and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. On a side note, this will also be the first return for Ben White to his old stomping ground after he sealed a big move to the Gunners in the summer.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang
- Nicolas Pepe has scored three goals in as many games against Brighton, his most prolific record against an opposition since moving to Arsenal.
- This season, Aaron Ramsdale has an 87.5% save rate with Arsenal and has conceded just one goal from three games. He is only behind Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy who has a 94.7% save rate.
- Arsenal have won their last three Premier League matches.
- Brighton have the highest percentage of creating chances from corners among Premier League sides this season.
- No team has scored more set-piece goals this season than Brighton (3).
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The spotlight falls on the Ghanaian once more after Xhaka’s knee injury. Against Spurs, it seemed like the Swiss was doing all the holding work behind, which allowed Partey to contribute more in terms of attack. With his injury, the Arsenal No.5 might have to play the holding role once more, allowing others to attack in front.
Either way, Partey is an expert in controlling midfield battles, and with him cementing on one particular position, Arteta can plan for life without Xhaka. The Ghanaian will be key against Brighton, and irrespective of which role he plays in midfield, the Seagulls will have to focus on tactics to keep him quiet.
Brighton 0-2 Arsenal
On paper, this is a tremendous clash between two teams on form and looking for momentum. Brighton had some luck along the way with their fixture list, while the Gunners have already played some tough teams. Arteta would ideally like to build on the NLD victory and hope to take maximum points from their next six.
Arsenal have an edge in attacking and defending quality, but Brighton’s numbers suggest they might be up for a task. Our prediction is a little generous towards the Gunners, but this is because they have a newfound rhythm in attack and will probably oust the Seagulls, with Ramsdale keeping yet another clean sheet.