Arsenal moved again to the highest of the Premier League desk with a managed 2-0 win towards Brighton and Hove Albion on the Emirates Stadium. At instances there was a routine, energy-saver really feel to Arsenal’s twelfth victory of the league season towards a Brighton workforce that performed for a lot of the opening hour like opponents nonetheless feeling the burn from a Europa League fixture on Thursday evening.
The important thing second arrived after Mikel Arteta’s workforce, unchanged from a superb efficiency in defeat at Villa Park final week, had re-emerged predictably geed up after a primary half of low-throttle dominance. Arsenal had 16 photographs at objective in that first half, dominating each territory and possession with none actual sense of satan or precision. The half had ended with what felt like a recurrent space-time loop of the previous 45 minutes, Bukayo Saka veering inside on the left and taking pictures excessive over the bar, to a generalised seethe of frustration.
There was extra motion, extra overlaps, extra attacking starvation because the match restarted, though the opening objective got here from one other in a collection of knife-edge Brighton passing strikes inside their very own field. Jack Hinshelwood received the ball again as Saka tried to discover a route by on the appropriate flank. At which level the Brighton defence enacted a startlingly intricate passing zigzag throughout their very own penalty space, little question with the intention of sucking Arsenal in, creating house, avoiding the counter-press and so forth, however they have been hurried and harried and ended up conceding a pointless nook.
Saka took it. The ball swung violently in in the direction of objective, Jan Paul van Hecke flicked it on inadvertently, and Gabriel Jesus stooped to nod the ball into the online, unmarked shut in.
From there Arsenal pressed with extra vigour. Declan Rice was controlling the angles in midfield. Kai Havertz discovered house on the left. Roberto De Zerbi made a triple substitution, however Arsenal have been comfy taking part in on the break as Billy Gilmour started to see extra of the ball in midfield. Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard each had probabilities so as to add to the lead earlier than Havertz added a second shortly earlier than the tip.
Havertz had spent a lot of the autumn operating on sympathy, saved afloat by the odd pity-penalty, however right here he picked up Arsenal’s participant of the month award earlier than kick-off, posing slightly awkwardly with the trophy (no change there: until particularly acknowledged in any other case Havertz is all the time doing issues slightly awkwardly. It is a footballer who can win the Champions League slightly awkwardly). This was his fourth objective within the final 4 weeks.
The Emirates had been a cold, drab, Sunday-ish place at kick-off, touched with a sprinkling of pre-festive glitz. It took 50 seconds for Saka to engineer his first run on the stand-in left-back, James Milner, who wheeled again doggedly and smothered the hazard, as he did all through the primary half, extra an act of will and persistence than any nice defensive approach.
It made for a riveting double act at instances, in an in any other case slow-burn first half. Arsenal had management, with Rice easing about like a triple-masted galleon in midfield. However Brighton don’t thoughts if in case you have management. It’s a part of the plan.
With half an hour gone Ødegaard produced the cross of the day, a shocked, back-spun, curving piece of stage route, eased contained in the tiniest channel of house on the Brighton left to place Saka in on objective, however his cut-back was scooped excessive over the bar by Martinelli.
And Arteta managed to make his own mark again here with another booking just before half-time for a moment of sideline rage. Kaoru Mitoma had pulled Saka back, then scooted off with the ball. Arteta responded by leaping about weirdly with both hands in the air, like a man on a desert island spying a distant sail just as it fades over the horizon.
Mitoma was booked. Arteta was also booked, and reacted by throwing back his head in disbelief. What was he expecting? The foul had been given. There was no logical reason to go full touchline-disco.
Otherwise this will have been a hugely satisfying game for Arsenal and their manager. This is a relatively novel fixture, to the extent just over a third of all Arsenal versus Brighton games ever have taken place with Arteta on the touchline. Even in that short time Brighton have acquired mild bogey-team status. But they were kept at arm’s length here for most of the afternoon.
Pascal Gross had a chance to equalise ten minutes before the end after fine work by Mitoma but poked his shot wide from four yards out. Havertz sealed the game shortly afterwards, with a fine finish after another quick break down the left flank. Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United later on Sunday means Arsenal are a point clear at the top.