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Bukayo Saka went close with a tremendous strike against the woodwork in the first half, though the big talking point was an unfortunate injury for Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring midway through the second half with a tremendous curling strike, but Lewis Dunk prodded home an equaliser with 15 minutes to play and Neal Maupay wrapped up the win with almost the last kick. Here are five things we learned from the game as Arsenal suffered a second successive defeat:
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Rotation quickly on show
Arsenal are the first team to play two games since the restart, and they’ve given everyone a sign of what is likely ahead with most teams: large-scale rotation.
The Gunners lost Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari to injury against Manchester City in midweek, and there was a poor all-round performance to factor in, too. But Mikel Arteta would have made some changes anyway, as he looks to get his entire squad back up to speed as soon as possible.
Nicolas Pepe, Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac returned to the side after playing no part against City, while Dani Ceballos and Alexandre Lacazette started, having only appeared as subs in midweek.
Add in another five changes made in-game as are now allowed and it’s clear that spreading the minutes around will be high on the list of priorities for Arteta and many other managers.
Leno could be out for a while
The Gunners lost two players to injury in midweek, plus David Luiz to a red card, and the absences continue to mount up with goalkeeper Leno departing on a stretcher here.
Arsenal’s No. 1 claimed a high ball as Brighton striker Maupay challenged him, with the German landing awkwardly on his leg as a result as he attempted to not cross the penalty box line with the ball in his hands. Recriminations followed as Leno left the pitch, as he angrily remonstrated with Maupay, clearly blaming him for the injury.
While it was certainly a foul, the striker connecting with the keeper after he had clutched the ball, it appeared no more than a routine attempt by a forward to put his opponent off and potentially earn a free-kick of his own if the ball was carried outside the area. That didn’t diminish the on-pitch tempers in the slightest, particularly when the Brighton man netted the winner late on.
Arteta will at least be relieved that Leno’s replacement, Emiliano Martinez, played with authority and confidence after coming on, with a good low save from Aaron Mooy and some fine aerial claims particularly noteworthy – despite conceding two goals.
Brighton centre-backs impress again
One of the biggest positives for Brighton all season has been the consistency in the partnership of Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster at the back.
The central defenders were again at the forefront of the team’s efforts against Arsenal, in both penalty boxes in fact. Dunk got himself bravely in the way of more than one goalbound shot, before being in the right place to knock home a rebound at the other end and save a point for his side.
Individually they were good, as a pairing they are exceptional and Brighton need them to be at their very best for the games ahead if they are to avoid the drop.
Saka’s link-up play stands out
Arsenal had to change matters with the line-up somewhat, given their suspensions and injuries, with one of the alterations seeing Bukayo Saka play a more central role.
We’ve usually seen him play wide – be it in defence or in attack – but here he thrived in a free-roving role, cutting inside at times and dovetailing down the channel with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at others. His early drive almost opened the scoring, while his link-up play with the forwards was exceptional and his use of space was one of the best features of Arsenal’s attacking play.
All this quality in attack – plus his work rate in the other direction – only serves to underline how important it is that Arsenal resolve his contract situation soon, or else risk losing out on yet another talented young player.
European hopes fade for Arteta
Arsenal would have headed into the season’s restart still harbouring hopes of a strong finish to secure European football for next season, even if that was only in the Europa League again. But with zero points from their first two games back, those hopes will fade fast if they cannot overcome the troubles of earlier in 2019/20.
Arsenal were already the team with the most draws in the league before this fixture and they’re now close to having as many defeats as wins this season, too – a clear indication of their need to improve efficiency in both penalty boxes.
Some of the play is exceptional and Arteta is slowly getting his tactical message across, but until the Gunners can consistently win matches they’ll continue to fall short of achieving their aim – particularly galling when the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United remain above them in the table.