Plenty for Gus Poyet to be positive about as Brighton just fail to better Arsenal in the FA Cup
Brighton 2 Arsenal 3
Liam Brady, the former Brighton manager who is Arsenal's director of youth development, said at half-time during Saturday's dramatic tie at the American Express Community Stadium that the Sussex club's rise from ground-sharing at Gillingham to their present status is "the best story in football for a long, long time". He also admitted that, given his present role, he only wanted them to manage a draw against the Gunners, which for much of the second half seemed a likely outcome.
In the end, Brady's wish was thwarted in part by the introduction of his latter-day incarnation as an Arsenal hero and playmaker, Jack Wilshere. Having left the England midfielder and Theo Walcott on the bench for 70 minutes, Arsène Wenger decided they were needed to avoid the replay that Brady would have so welcomed.
Brighton's impressive manager, Gus Poyet, was expecting reinforcements to arrive if the game was tight and admitted some concern about how his side would cope, especially after losing two players by half-time.
"We knew pretty well they would come on in the last 20 minutes and [wondered] how we were going to be at that time physically to compete with them. I saw one sprint from Theo Walcott and it was scary. How to stop him? Maybe shoot him?
"You play 70 to 75 minutes and you have to compete with someone sprinting like that in the last 20 minutes. And Wilshere going past people in the middle."
Sure enough, Brighton were pushed back, Walcott eventually scoring the late winning goal with a volley that took a deflection after Wilshere's corner had not been punched far enough by the home goalkeeper, Caspar Ankergen.
Arsenal's Invincibles of a decade ago have become the Unpredictables. From one game to the next, and even within the same match, it is impossible to predict how well they will play. When Wenger decides he can afford to rest key players, the unknown element becomes even greater, which was very much the case on Saturday. The biggest risk, it transpired, was not so much leaving out Walcott, Wilshere and Santi Cazorla as trusting a much-weakened back four to contain Brighton's lively attacking.
If Arsenal's Spanish scouts did not know about Michu in La Liga, they will have been equally ignorant about Leonardo Ulloa, a similarly priced signing from Almeira, where he had hardly been playing. Ulloa made a scoring debut, taking advantage of Per Mertesacker's poor marking, just as Ashley Barnes had done earlier, and left Poyet optimistic that he can now emulate the impact made by Saturday's outstanding individual performer, Olivier Giroud, who scored two fine goals.
"The biggest problem was Giroud," said Poyet. "I knew he was strong but he was massive. Very difficult, you learn a lot from that. He was very strong. I won't say unstoppable, but for us he was not like the normal striker from the Championship. He put himself between the ball and the player and he didn't lose too many challenges. When you are defending against a very good player and you are not too smart, and it's a very good team, it is almost impossible."
An example for Ulloa then? "That's the idea. At Championship level, Leo should give us that kind of power. It was a good start for Leo. He scored and he was feeling the atmosphere, so we will see where that takes us."
The desired destination is the Premier League. "I think we have a great chance," added Poyet. "I know there are six teams ahead of us but I still think it's in our hands."
Brighton: ANKERGREN 6/10, CALDERON 7, GREER 6, EL-ABD 6, BRIDGE 7, BRIDCUTT 8, LOPEZ 6, HAMMOND 6, BARNES 7, BUCKLEY 7, ULLOA 7
Arsenal: SZCZESNY 6, SANTOS 3, KOSCIELNY 6, MERTESACKER 4, JENKINSON 6, PODOLSKI 7, RAMSEY 6, ROSICKY 7, DIABY 6, OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN 6, GIROUD 8
Goals: Brighton Barnes 33, Ulloa 62. Arsenal Giroud 16, 56, Walcott 85. Substitutions: Brighton Dicker 7 (Greer, 37), LuaLua 7 (Buckley, h-t), Mackail-Smith (Ulloa, 73). Arsenal Walcott 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 68), Wilshere (Rosicky, 68), Gibbs (Santos, 78). Bookings: Brighton Lopez. Arsenal Giroud, Ramsey. Man of the match Giroud. Match rating 8/10. Possession: Brighton 41%. Arsenal 59%. Attempts on target: Brighton 3. Arsenal 6. Referee M Oliver (Northumberland). Att 27,113
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