Kickoff – Sunday, 1200 GMT. The Emirates.
The recovery seems very much in motion in recent weeks.
Five wins and one draw against Chelsea sees us climbing the League, topping our Europa League group and restoring some confidence in our men and in the stands to some degree.
Three clean sheets on the trot has also allowed us to maintain a solid foundation on the pitch. There have been some shaky moments of course, but that only serves to underline our defensive stats. No goals conceded in three games means that Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are forging a strong triumvirate.
The trio have faced stronger attacks in the past, but the beauty of the Premiership is that no matter the position of the opposition in the league, they can still steal away points. This is very much the case with the visiting Brighton side.
Bereft of their striking options, they may well be forced to play a winger as a striker but don’t let that fool you. We as Gooners are more than aware that it doesn’t matter if our foes are playing with a lonely gibbon up front, they could still catch us cold.
Chris Hughton will have his side working hard in midfield and he will pack the final third and attempt to play on the break and earn a few set-plays. We have succumbed to this tactic before, but the Gulls have shown they can be teak-tough to break down.
Manchester City rocked up to the Amex recently and it took them an hour to finally break the resistance of Hughton’s team, finally winning 2-0. We will have to be patient and continue to play our game, and we can at least feel safe in the knowledge our defence has been equally as tough or more so recently.
With our rivals all winning regularly, we cannot allow our slow start to be an albatross around our necks, stretching the gap into a yawning chasm before we even hit the halfway mark of the season. Win, and then win some more is what is needed, and our squad is more than capable of this after seemingly overcoming the curse of the Europa League.
The fixture scheduling for competing teams in the Europa League has often been the death knell for sides in the Premiership. Everton, tottenham, Southampton and others have felt the pinch when playing on Thursday and then the weekend. Our squad size is large enough to cope though, and the fringe players have been excellent on Thursdays thus far.
This leaves our supposed first-team refreshed enough to leave it all on the field each matchday in the Premiership. Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly make changes for this game, but there are a few conundrums to sort out.
Last weeks win over West Brom saw Aaron Ramsey pushed forward into the front three, with Mohamed Elneny partnering Granit Xhaka in the centre. After the Egyptian then played in Thursday’s win over BATE Borisov, will our manager continue with the Welshman in attack, or will he rest Elneny and revert back to the Ramsey/Xhaka duo?
Also, Mesut Ozil is fit and ready, but does he come back into the side? If not, then Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez may be partnered with Alex Iwobi instead. Ozil should come back in, but a winning side shouldn’t be tinkered with too much.
Our team other than these two points of thought pretty much pick itself. There are no new injury concerns, the good news that Santi will be back in January is a huge boost, and our team is looking in great nick for the rest of the season.
We will look to Lacazette for goals most likely. His four goals have all come at home so far and the Frenchman is acclimatising well to the demands of our domestic league. Brighton may be tough to break down, but will they be able to keep quiet our crafty striker? Laca to score for me I think.
Positives are important, they must be grasped when times are tough. Our next few fixtures are against teams we should be looking to beat, and this is the time to build more confidence, more momentum to carry into the games against rhe big guns.
The bottom line though, is that we are at home again, against a promoted side and we have a nearly fully-fit squad. No excuses.
Let’s just enjoy the game, we have two weeks of international football coming up, so savour every minute.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – screw it. 3-0 to The Arsenal