Brighton vs Arsenal result: Five things we learned as Gunners earn second straight Premier League win

Alexandre Lacazette scored 21 seconds after coming off the bench to give his side a 1-0 victory

Maupay blasts home late winner over Arsenal

Lacazette upstages returning Aubameyang

Following his side’s convincing win against Chelsea last time out, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta made just one change.

It was Alexandre Lacazette, a goalscorer from the spot in the victory over the Blues, who made way as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned. And – in a rare move this season – the captain was deployed as a centre-forward, with 19-year-olds Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka retaining their positions out wide after impressive performances against Chelsea.

READ MORE: Premier League records season-highest numbers of positive Covid tests results

There was a familiar issue for Aubameyang, however: The 31-year-old who was not provided with many goalscoring opportunities, with Martinelli and Saka each taking their time to find a creative spark on the night. The latter did deliver a sharp cross for the Gabon international early in the second half, but Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez somehow kept out Aubameyang’s finish from point-blank range.

On 66 minutes, Lacazette was introduced at Martinelli’s expense, and Aubameyang was forced out wide. And 21 seconds later, Lacazette tucked away a tidy finish for his third goal in as many games – meaning his captain and friend is unlikely to establish himself in that central striker’s position any time soon…

No overnight turnaround, but reasons to hope

Arteta expressed his hope that the win against Chelsea would prove a turning point in Arsenal’s season, but there was also a very real chance that the result would prove an anomaly in an otherwise troubling term for his team.

As it turned out, neither was totally true. Arsenal got the win but in a less convincing fashion than they did against Frank Lampard’s players.

For the time being, though, that is not wholly important; what matters is that Arsenal get more wins under their belt.

Fans of the club will soon want positive performances to coincide with such hypothetical results, however, with many supporters using their team’s recent poor run to criticise the style of play that Arteta engendered even when Arsenal were winning games under the Spaniard.

Smith Rowe shines again

While Martinelli and Saka showed glimpses of their promise – the latter providing an assist for Lacazette before hobbling off injured – it was Emile Smith Rowe, the other standout youngster in the victory over Chelsea, who performed most consistently and impressively here.

In the first half, the attacking midfielder was tasked more often with breaking up play than creating, and he covered plenty of ground in that venture, also showing that he is not afraid of a tackle.

Emile Smith Rowe (right) showed he is capable of doing the dirty work

But after the break Arsenal began to create more, and Smith Rowe was key to many of those forward moves.

Gunners fans will certainly be pleased to have seen evidence of the 20-year-old’s versatility, as well as further proof of his application. 

Brighton play ball

Graham Potter’s Brighton side look to play possession-based football as often as possible, and – in keeping with that – they refused to show Arsenal too much respect at the Amex.

Although Arsenal looked much improved against Chelsea in their last outing, they have been a wounded animal this term, so Brighton – just four points and two places behind the Gunners in the Premier League – avoided adopting a passive strategy.

Early on, the home team were going long through keeper Sanchez and depending on set-pieces, but as the first half progressed they exhibited their ability to hang on to the ball and press sharply when without it.

The packed fixture schedule at this time of year always test fitness levels, but Potter’s six changes led to an energetic performance. And, thankfully for the Brighton coach, his players’ chemistry did not suffer as a result of the refreshed line-up, even though they were unable to get a result.

A welcome distraction, but safety first

Earlier in the day, it was revealed that the Premier League had recorded a season-highest number of positive coronavirus test results over the Christmas period. The number of cases in Britain also rose starkly.

That latter point only further highlighted the relief in having 90 minutes of respite from the outside world during this fixture – or which ever top-flight game fans opted to watch on this night (except you, West Brom fans, I’m sorry).

The first point, however, reinforced how important it is that we only allow football to serve as a distraction if it is safe to do so. 

Here’s hoping for the best in the coming days and weeks.

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