Arsenal Finish Well: Brighton Report & Ratings

Finishing in Style

Our recent good form continued into the final day of the season with a well deserved home win over Brighton & Hove Albion in front of 10,000 noisy fans.

Two beautifully taken Nicolas Pepe goals secured the three points although a scoreline of 4-0 or 5-0 would not have unduly flattered us.

We also dodged a bullet by not qualifying for the Europa No-Hoper Conference competition. Results elsewhere meant that it will be Totteringham who will be trooping off to Montenegro and Latvia on Thursday nights, while we stay home and focus 100% on the Premier League and domestic cups.

It would have been nice to celebrate St Totteringham’s Day, but not at the cost of having to enter a competition with a minuscule financial upside, a laughable prize for the winner and a serious potential for disruption. By May next year the Spuds will quite likely be rueing those two late goals against Leicester.

Another benefit of not having to compete in a Euro competition is that we will not need such a bloated squad so we can clear out the unwanted and fringe players and focus on a really high quality nucleus, much of which is already in place.

Arteta made a couple of changes from the team that beat Chelsea, giving Saka a well deserved rest and bringing Xhaka back in for Elneny. Aubameyang was up front again ahead of Pepe, Odegaard and Smith Rowe.

The home crowd were in great voice and were happy to let Josh Kroenke (who was attending) know what they thought of his family’s stewardship of our club.

Despite the atmosphere Brighton started on the front foot and it took 10 minutes or so before Arsenal got into gear. After that it was mostly one way traffic. Odegaard and Smith Rowe came close to unlocking the Seagulls’ defence; Tierney fizzed a great cross through the six yard box but none of our forwards had gambled on being on the end of it.

We thought we had the breakthrough in the 31st minute when Holding poked the ball home from a corner but he was correctly flagged for offside.

There was little threat at the other end but we had a narrow escape when Smith Rowe dwelt on the ball on the half way line and had it pinched off him. A three-on-two break in Brighton’s favour was fortunately snuffed out by the alert Tierney.

Just before half time Gabriel sent a looping header onto the crossbar: it was an inch away from being a goal, but we trooped off at half time still on level terms.

Five minutes after the restart the in-form Pepe put us ahead, controlling a Chambers pass and firing home through the Brighton keeper’s legs.

Ten minutes later Pepe got his second, picking up the ball from Odegaard on the right wing and cutting inside before slotting home low in the far corner. What I liked about both of Pepe’s goals was that he didn’t just blast them: in each case he chose his spot and slotted him with laser-like accuracy. Forget the ludicrous price tag, the Pepe we have seen in the second half of the season can be a big asset in the next campaign.

The match played out with Arsenal fully in control. Aubameyang was set free down the left but sliced his shot well wide; Thomas Partey was unlucky not to get his first Arsenal goal when Xhaka rifled a pass into him in the Brighton box. Partey’s control and instant shot were top class, but the ball came back off the bar.

In the final 15 minutes Saka, Lacazette and Martinelli all got the chance to come on and feel the love of the crowd, as did the players they replaced (Smith Rowe, Aubameyang and Odegaard) who all got standing ovations.

In the end we had 16 attempts on goal (five on target) and 11 corners in an attacking display. There has been criticism of our lack of creativity under Arteta but there was plenty of creativity and attacking intent yesterday.

We end the season with the same league position as last time (eighth) but with five more points.

Perhaps more importantly, we have seen an indisputable improvement in results since Christmas – a 24 game run of W14-D5-L5 since Boxing Day. The Arteta critics don’t want to hear it, but that’s solid Top Four form and bodes well for the coming season. It’s a return of 1.95 points per game which, if sustained across a full season, would give us 74 points (the same total that was good enough to get Manchester United the runners-up spot this time round).

A relatively small number of key signings, added to the talented young players who have come into their own this year, could see us being even more competitive next time.

Player Ratings

Leno – 7

Not too busy, but looked confident playing out from the back and dealt well with crosses.

Chambers – 7

Typically reliable. I would not be unhappy with Chambo getting a run at the RB slot next season.

Holding – 7

It’s becoming almost boring to keep saying how solid and reliable Holding is. An underrated player.

Gabriel – 7

Love his power and speed. Like Holding he was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. A good performance.

Tierney – 7.5

Alert and decisive at the back; always dangerous going forward. Great player.

Partey – 7

A good game from Thomas. He seems to be ironing out his issues with misplaced passing and looked dominant in midfield at times. Also unlucky not to score (he had two good shots which did not take the usual Row Z trajectory, much to everyone’s astonishment).

Xhaka – 7.5

A tidy, accomplished performance. When he plays like this Xhaka is a real asset.

Pepe – 8

The boy has an eye for goal. He was involved for most of the game and never stops trying to take on defenders. It’s frustrating at times because inevitably he will lose the ball in some of the attempts, but you need players doing this to break the lines and Nico has been doing it well in recent outings.

Odegaard – 8.5 (MoTM)

Pulled all the strings in the CAM position. A really good game from the young man. It may well have been his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt but I would be pleased if we were able to keep him.

Smith Rowe – 7.5

Another dynamic, progressive outing from ESR.

Aubameyang – 6

It’s just not happening for the captain at the moment.

SUBS

Saka – 7

Lacazette – 7

Martinelli – 7

RockyLives

29 Responses to Arsenal Finish Well: Brighton Report & Ratings

  1. Didrik Plehn says:

    I’m really optimistic about the next season, and our statistics are much more reliable than than our so-called fan base. Thanks for your writing Rocky. COYG

  2. RC78 says:

    The last post-match report until pre-season starts…:-(

    As always, a big thank you to RockyLives!

    I am in full agreement with most of the ratings so I ll focus on where I differ and only on the starts

    Leno – Did not have anything to do. So he is a 6 for me.

    Chambers – An assist and a great partnership with Pepe. I am still not convinced he is our answer at RB for next season but he definitely earned his extension and should start at RB when the season starts but I am hoping we strengthen at RB. 7.5

    Pepe – My MOTM. Not only did he score and created but he also defended well, one of his best displays in an AFC shirt. I hope the last 3 months will show him that he can be a key player for us if he focuses and applies himself day-in and day-out. 8.5

    Odegaard – 8. Pulled the strings. Assured on the ball and brave in his passing. A good player. I am not keen to keep him though. With ESR and Willock, I feel that we have a good combo of attacking midfielders.

    Auba – Another disappointing outing. Uninvolved, did not seem interested at times and was not leading the team up front. Barely average. 5.

    Effective displays by Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka as well and a more confident one by Partey so all 7s for me.

    A nice way to finish the season. I think that we could have actually gone at least one further in the Europa League but it was not meant to be this year…nor next…

    Disappointing season in the end but some cautious optimism is permitted given the improvement of some players (Chambers, Xhaka, Pepe) in the second half of the season and the emergence of our young guns (ESR, Saka)!

    So another big thanks to Rocky, LBG, jigsol, Sue, Rasp, Peaches and all other contributors to this blog who have made this season bearable thanks to the banter, fun discussions and good humour on the blog!

    I hope this blog continues to be active especially during the Euros and the transfer season. Count on me to put a few posts up

  3. GoonerB says:

    Thanks for all your hard work Rocky and RC. Your good self and others are right that there is cause for optimism but also cause for caution as well. The truth and stats tend to indicate we should be more at the optimistic end but still with some personnel and managerial issues that need improving.

    More on that later but I was wondering if someone could pull forward my last comment and pbaramy’s. I think we both got some by the new post but some discussion points in there about Idegaard, Willock and the EL which may be pertinent.

  4. Yaw Agyin says:

    We’ve had a season to forget. A season we the funs became have become a laughing stock. I hope and wish one day the Arabs will take over our team and make us great and strong again. We the supporters of this great club are bleeding.

  5. RC78 says:

    Hi GoonerB – we will dig your comments (which post was it? Do you remember?) and sorry, I forgot to mention you in the key contributors! Although in terms of acute points and fun, you are a standout performer on the blog 😛

    If we can’t find the comments easily, would it be OK if we just put a post up on “Playmakers: ESR, Odegaard, Willock – Keep all or let go of some?”. Interestingly, Ceballos seems to be totally out of the picture now…

  6. RC78 says:

    Interestingly, it seems that our most decisive player this season was…

    Pepe: 16 goals, 5 assists – 21 goals involvement
    Laca: 17 goals, 3 assists – 20 goals involvement
    Auba: 15 goals, 4 assists – 19 goals involvement

    Saka: 7 goals, 7 assists – 14 goals involvement
    ESR: 4 goals, 7 assists – 11 goals involvement

  7. RC78 says:

    And I think we should also mention
    – Joe Willock: 11 goals, 3 assists – 14 goals involvement

  8. pbarany says:

    GoonerB, your kind words are much appreciated.
    Here is my late comment from the previous post (on the Pre-match and Predicted Line-Up of the Brighton game). I was reacting on jjgsol’s fine conclusions (see there):

    jjgsol, your observation on the limited significance of winning the last 5 games (including the Chelsea explanation) is spot on. I also agree with you on the flattering and misleading conclusion, and I may add comments from Arsenal icons but questionable pundits like Campbell and Parlor don’t help to see the big picture either.

    Indeed the squad is quite capable, yet the free flowing attacking football is missing. I have to admit, Arteta found the best midfield engine of Partey-Xhaka, but kind of limits my enthusiasm that it was obvious from the start of the season. Finally Mikel managed to bring the best out of Pepe, too. But – I admit reverting to the glass half empty type of myself – that is his bloody job, and furthermore where could have Arsenal end up if he gave more chance to Pepe and Martinelli from the start of the season, and would only start Pepe and ESR when they were in form and peak fitness. And for every player Mikel brought the best of there are 2 that he couldn’t motivate to give his best: on the other scale that holds Chambers and Pepe there are Rúnarsson, Bellerin, Willian, Auba, Nketiah. Maybe even Ceballos. And when it comes to opportunities to academy players (Balogun, Cottrell, Azeez) there is simply no reason to feel enthusiastic or even proud. On the contrary

    For what it worth you are not alone seeing the future grim, almost hopeless. It wouldn’t be much brighter with Arteta gone, but it would still be a sign, that we are not clapping for the worst league position of 3 decades, and – what’s even more important – it would show real loyalty; not the one that many demand we show towards Mikel, but some real loyalty towards the club values, players and fans.
    We lost 14000 minutes of competitive football, which is worse than losing Fabregas, Cazorla, Sanchez or Ramsey – maybe even worse than losing them all. It is sad and ironic fans unable to see that, and smiling that finally we will be able to focus on the league. And I honestly and really don’t want to offend or insult the good people here or any other fan community, but whoever hopes that Willock will be our savior next season and demands to sign Buendia as well, is either unaware that Joe, Emile Smith-Rowe and Buendia play at the same AM position, or just don’t have the basic mathematical skills…

  9. GoonerB says:

    Hi RC, it was just this morning. We both put up comments around the time that Rocky put up this post. Out and about on my phone and dont know how to do that on the phone

  10. RC78 says:

    Thanks pbarany and Gooner B

    @pbarany – I think AFC would need to decide on whether to:
    – Keep or get rid of: Willock and Odegaard

    If they get rid of both, then I would say that there would be a spot for a player like Buendia who (actually) mostly operates from the right side as an attacking midfielder.

    Now, if we keep Willock and Odegaard, then there is no room for Buendia. My preference would be to let go of Odegaard – I d rather replace him by Buendia.

    Now we have a tough choice regarding Willock. He is clearly talented and his ability to score goals, as Freddie had indicated, has really come through at Newcastle but Newcastle plays in a different system so maybe Willock just does not fit Arteta’s style or Arteta can not get the most out of Willock…It is a tough one…

  11. RC78 says:

    GoonerB’s comment:

    Cheers Rocky, I couldn’t get on yesterday. We did what we could yesterday and I was surprised that Leicester surrendered a lead at home and then went on to lose with what they were playing for.

    Just reading the comments back and picking up on a couple of things. Firstly I would like Willock back to see how he goes but he shouldn’t be compared to Odegaard. Different players with different skill sets. Odegaard will control the game much more from midfield than Willock.

    I know RC isn’t that keen but we probably need another midfielder like Odegaard and I would have him if we can get him. Willock has been scoring at Newcastle but Newcastle aren’t a team that look to control the game as we will so Willocks ability on the ball is less exposed.

    They play a robust keep it tight, all work hard and then try and get into dangerous areas in their moments of attack. I am not sure Willocks skills make for a game controlling CM or even a number 10. If anything his goal scoring prowess kind of makes him a false 9.

    However I would still want him with us to see how it goes but keeping him doesn’t alter the need for a player like Odegaard.

    I also don’t agree about not being in the EL as being a good thing, although I know I’m in the minority on this. I get the idea that it allows us to focus on getting top 4, and I hope that we continue to improve and get that. We have a good chance but it is still putting all our eggs into a rather small basket.

    Even if we improve will others not do so? Are we that hopeful that we can be better than Man City, Liverpopl, Chelsea, or Man Utd next season. They could all be a lot stronger next season as well so, even though we might tangibly improve, we still might not get top 4.

    Unfortunately, as things stand right now, we are in competition with Leicester and Spurs to try and break into one of those slots. We had an excellent chance of winning the EL this year and would have again next year.

    We would undoubtedly be one of the strongest in it so why turn our nose up at the chance to win silverware and have a 2nd option of getting into the ECL via another route over and above the difficult EPL top 4 option.

  12. pbarany says:

    RC78, thanks for the goal contribution statistics.
    To put it into further perspective, I will complete it with the minutes played, to have a more reliable comparison. Bear in mind though that due to the vast differences between opponents (Dundalk vs Liverpool) it is not yet an apple to apple comparison, but still the best we’ve got.

    Pepe: 16 goals, 5 assists – 21 goal involvements in 2929 minutes – one contribution in 139 minutes
    Laca: 17 goals, 3 assists – 20 goal involvements in 2450 minutes – one contribution in 123 minutes
    Auba: 15 goals, 4 assists – 19 goal involvements in 3018 minutes – one contribution in 159 minutes
    Saka: 7 goals, 7 assists – 14 goal involvements tin 3606 minutes – one contribution in 258 minutes
    ESR: 4 goals, 7 assists – 11 goal involvements in 2310 (senior) minutes – one contribution in 210 minutes
    Willian: 1 goal, 7 assists – 8 goal involvements in 1892 (senior) minutes – one contribution in 237 minutes
    Martinelli: 2 goals, 2 assists – 4 goal involvements in 839 minutes – one contribution in 210 minutes
    Nketiah: 6 goals, 1 assists – 7 goal involvements in 1218 (senior) minutes – one contribution in 174 minutes
    Nelson: 1 goals, 1 assists – 2 goal involvements in 448 (senior) minutes – one contribution in 224 minutes

  13. RockyLives says:

    Thanks everyone for some outstanding comments.

    None of us really knows how things are going to go from here with the club we all love. I feel generally optimistic but would not be particularly surprised if the warnings of the more pessimistic contributors prove to be accurate.

    It’s a fascinating debate and one that should have some real twists and turns during the summer as the comings and goings at Arsenal are announced (presumably more goings than comings).

    The next few posts on here will be about finding our AA players of the season.

    The first three posts will be (in order) – defence (inc GK), midfield then attack.

    The fourth post will be for overall Player of the Season as well as Young Player of the Season and Most Improved Player of the Season.

    Something to have some fun debating over…

  14. RC78 says:

    Great idea Rocky!

    pbarany – seems Pepe and Laca still thrust the first two places. As for Saka, we d have to also maybe deduct the games where he played left back to have a more accurate/refined vision of his contribution as a forward. In any case, let us see if Arteta lets Laca go this summer…

  15. RockyLives says:

    Laca’s effectiveness this season is apparent, even though very few fans think he is the answer to our attacking issues.

    It’s more proof that the style of football we’re playing suits him more than it does Auba.

    Auba should really be playing in a team that soaks up pressure and hits opponents on the break (the way we did to win the FA Cup last season).

  16. Pete the Thirst says:

    Nice one Rocky. I didn’t make the cut for the game, but it was nice to see fans back in the Stadium.

    Overall a disappointing season, but the league was made very hard by the mess that we got in before Xmas. We threw the FA Cup and the tactics for the EL semi lost us the game – they’re both on Arteta. I expect to see a number of players move on:

    Luiz – Bye bye
    Bellerin – Almost certain to go
    Lacazette – 1 year left on the contract
    Nketiah – Not good enough at this level
    Ceballos – End of loan. What’s the point?
    Nelson – Disappered
    Kolasinac – Helped Schalke get relegated
    Torriera – Hopefully we can recoup some value
    Guendouzi – Attitude spoils his potential

    Others I would like to see shifted, but it will be hard to move:

    Willian – The definition of a failed player
    Xhaka – Flatters to deceive

    For me Willock & AMN deserve a chance to prove their worth.

  17. RockyLives says:

    Pete

    Good assessments.

    I am hoping that a US or Chinese team comes in for Willian. We have to get shot of him whatever happens.

    Xhaka I’m less worried about. I think he and Partey have the makings of a decent partnership.

  18. RC78 says:

    I think Xhaka can stay as a squad player but wouldn’t mind a new DM/CM. That said, Arteta could eventually consider an unlikely but still exciting ESR, Partey, Saka trio in them midfield which would support Pepe, Laca and Martinelli up front…Just saying…

  19. RC78 says:

    For the sake of argument, how would you rate the following line-up?

    Ryan – Chambo, Holding, Gabs, Tierney – ESR, Partey, Saka – Pepe, Laca, Martinelli

  20. pbarany says:

    I like both the defensive and the attacking units, RC78, but I think the midfield could be the weak spot here. No doubt that ESR and Saka are fine players, but neither of them is strong/muscular enough to play CM, and quite attacking minded too.
    This could be a great formation though when playing against an inferior team in the cup, as your team is swarming with creative players always looking to score or assist. But if you compare it with other teams playing 4-3-3 like Real Madrid or Liverpool their midfield trios are way less creative but more robust like Fabinho-Keita-Henderson or Casemiro-Kroos-Modric.
    You might promote ESR to AM, but in that case you especially need a brute to partner Partey in midfield, someone like Xhaka or Camavinga. In fact that would be a splendid line-up.

  21. GoonerB says:

    Beautiful line up RC. I’ve said for a while that our final transition in formation is to be able play with only 1 more recognised DM and have an attacking 4 behind the number 9. Not necessarily in all games because some still suit 2 DM’s, but we could start to switch to it for many games.

    I think it would help us across a season in terms of overcoming those deep sitting teams. The idea would be to have the inverted wide attackers flanking 2 number 8 types (aka De Bruyne and Gundogan).

    Ideally the 2 number 8’s would comprise a left footer just right of centre and a right footer just left of centre. This not only allows them to switch position with the wide player just outside them but also means they will more often get into shooting positions that suit their stronger foot.

  22. RC78 says:

    GoonerB: 4141 works for me as well but with the two number 8s you mentioned 🙂

    pbarany: I think that ESR and Saka could grow into the role but you are right, for now, they are more attacking minded so maybe it is too soon to have them in the middle as part of a 433.

    Camavinga is going to be great but also watch out for Aurelien Tchouemini from Monaco…He has all the attributes to be a Ndidi / Kante type of player…

  23. pbarany says:

    I don’t follow the Ligue 1 closely, RC78, so I wasn’t too familiar with Tchouameni. But I checked him out and looks like a gem of a player. Not a key pass machine, but neither Xhaka not Partey specializes there, and probably the days of a Cazorla-esque creative #8 are over. But when it comes to tackling and interceptions, Tchouameni is the real deal (while Bissouma is not trailing much behind either). Too bad he was just signed last season and has 3 more years on his contract…

  24. LBG says:

    So Dani has gone ( according to his own Instagram). Had lots of enthusiasm but too lightweight and slow of movement for Premier League. Still hope we can keep his Madrid colleague, though.

  25. LBG says:

    Happy Birthday to Paul “the Modfather” Weller today, 63.

  26. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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