Match Report: Arsenal need the cavalry to restore order in Brighton

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Wilshere and Walcott to the rescue as Wenger almost pays the price for picking a weak team

AMEX Stadium

Picking a team strong enough to see off lower-grade opposition without risking a giant-killing has become an art for Premier League managers, and in two long spells yesterday it looked as though Arsène Wenger might have miscalculated.

He rested Thomas Vermaelen, did not use Santi Cazorla and kept Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott in the dugout for almost 70 minutes.

Fortunately, Olivier Giroud, on from the start, is these days looking like the striker Arsenal paid almost £10 million for last summer, and his two goals – making four in the past two games – kept them in an exciting tie until the cavalry arrived and Walcott volleyed the winner.

To be fair, Arsenal had been more than adequate going forward all afternoon, whereas the defence was frequently woeful and suffering from what might be called Villa-itis; namely an inability to defend crosses. Twice unmarked Brighton players scored with headers from whipped-in crosses, the visiting captain, Per Mertesacker, notably at fault on both occasions.

“It’s a gamble you take and it can backfire,” Wenger said of his team selection. “With the number of games we play you can’t use the same 11 in every game. If it doesn’t work you are accused of making the wrong decision.”

Gus Poyet, who has overseen the construction of a Brighton side who play some fine football, admitted he was always concerned that reinforcements would be sent on if the result remained in doubt near the end. The mood in the home dressing-room, he added, was funereal, “as if we lost a final”, but he was rightly proud of his team as well as what the club have achieved since the days of ground-sharing at Gillingham.

“It would be nice every now and then to step back, look around and see what we’ve done,” he said.

Looking round yesterday, the new stadium, with a record crowd inside, was indeed a fine sight. There were 27,113 present and the capacity will rise to 30,000 by next season, when Brighton hope to be in the Premier League; they currently sit in seventh place. Poyet reckons he never had much luck against Arsenal in his Chelsea and Tottenham days. Yesterday the misfortune concerned injuries to his captain and centre- half, Gordon Greer, before half-time, and then Will Buckley, who had been causing the fallible Andre Santos all sorts of trouble down the right.

There was uncertainty at the heart of the Arsenal defence, too, illustrated early on when Ashley Barnes was allowed in to shoot at Wojciech Szczesny, who pulled off an excellent save. From there Arsenal went almost straight to the other end, with Tomas Rosicky supplying Lukas Podolski and Giroud swivelling superbly to score.

Far from being put in their place, however, the Championship side responded with a fine spell that eventually led to an equaliser. The home supporters thought it had come when Leonardo Ulloa, an Argentinian striker recently recruited for £2 million, tapped in Inigo Calderon’s cross, but was given offside. That followed a mistake by Santos, who lost possession, and the defending was worse two minutes later. A short corner was whipped over by David Lopez and Barnes ran past three defenders to reach the ball before the goalkeeper and head in.

Almost immediately Greer limped off, which necessitated a rejig as there was no central defender on the bench, and another change was required at the interval when Buckley was unable to resume. Kazenga Lua Lua came on to play down the left and kept the pressure on with some dangerous inswinging crosses.

But Arsenal made the better chances and were ahead again in the 56th minute, shortly after Podolski’s free-kick came back off the bar. Abou Diaby, receiving from the German, chipped a ball forward for Giroud, whose first touch took him wide of a defender and set up a fine finish for his fourth goal in two games.

Several times he came close to completing what would have been a deserved first hat-trick for the club, and was entitled to be furious with his team-mates as Brighton conjured an equaliser too similar to the first goal. This time Mertesacker, captain for the day, was caught on the wrong side of Barnes’s fine cross, allowing Ulloa to stretch forward for a scoring header.

It was time for Walcott and Wilshere, replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky. Giroud went close with a volley and then a scissors kick, but must have felt resigned to a replay until Wilshere’s corner was punched out a little weakly by Casper Ankergren and Walcott side-footed a volley that went in off the defender Adam El-Abd.

“Brighton are a good team and it was difficult for us,” Wenger said. “We had a slow start and they were much sharper than us in the first half. But in a Cup game you need to go through, and we did.”

Brighton (4-1-3-2): Ankergen; Calderon, Greer (Dicker, 37), El-Abd, Bridge; Bridcutt;  Lopez, Hammond, Barnes; Buckley (Lua Lua, 46), Ulloa (Mackail-Smith, 73).

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos (Gibbs, 78); Diaby, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Walcott, 68), Rosicky (Wilshere, 68), Podolski; Giroud.

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the match: Giroud (Arsenal)

Match rating: 8/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
healthMeet the volunteer users helping to see if the banned drug can help cure depression and addiction
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
News
Foo Fighters lead man Dave Grohl talks about the band's forthcoming HBO documentary series
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Simon Stephens interview: The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles

Simon Stephens interview

The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles
Holidaying with a bike nut: Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up

Holidaying with a bike nut

Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef pays homage to South-east Asia's palate-refreshing desserts

Bill Granger's fruity Asian desserts

Our chef's refreshing desserts are a perfect ending to a spicy, soy-rich meal
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison