Sunday sees us attempt to secure another vital three points to keep the title race going to the wire when Brighton & Hove Albion head to Emirates Stadium.
The Seagulls are set to have a huge say in who lifts the silverware at the end of the month as they’re the only team still to face both ourselves and Manchester City, and are fighting for a first-ever taste of European football next season.
They’ve triumphed on their last two visits to N5, including back in November in the League Cup, but since then we’ve been beaten just once on our own patch. In fact, we have won five of our last six home league games, scoring at least three goals in all of them. That firepower could prove crucial at this vital time in the campaign.
Seagulls' European hopes in the balance
Despite the upheaval of Graham Potter’s departure to Chelsea in September, Roberto De Zerbi has transformed the Seagulls into a more free-flowing attacking outfit, and they’re now on course to secure a landmark European qualification.
They haven’t been out of the top half of the table all season, and went into the World Cup break sitting in seventh. That has been largely where they have remained since, pushing the top six all the way in their quest for a Europa League spot, but as they get closer to the finishing line the past month has seen a mixed bag of results.
Three wins have come from their last six games, including a victory at Chelsea, a 6-0 thumping of Wolves and a last-gasp success over Manchester United. On the flip side, they lost on the travels at Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest before suffering an unexpected 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Everton on Monday night to put a sight dent in their continental aspirations.
What the managers say
Arteta on Brighton: “They are a really complete side. The way they are playing under Roberto and the coaching staff is remarkable, it’s just a joy to watch them play. He’s brought a different idea to the league and that’s a different challenge for managers as well.
“This is what you want. We want to be the best league in the world and we need the best managers and the best players. What he’s done with the team, after all the foundations that Graham Potter left at the club, is incredible. It’s going to be a very tough match." - read everything from Mikel's pre-match press conference
De Zerbi: “Before I started to work here, the target was 10th place and after two months I fixed the target in Champions League, Europa League and I am not afraid if we don’t achieve our target.
“If I don’t achieve my target, you will say: ‘Roberto, you lose your target’. But I have a different vision, I have different opinion about this. To play five games in 15 days will be impossible, I think. But impossible was to achieve Europa League three or four months ago.”
Michael Cox, writing in the official matchday programme: Brighton's approach is the same – short passing to draw pressure, then quick passes through the press. Adam Webster and Lewis Dunk are the current first-choice centre backs in what is usually a 4-2-3-1 system.
Elsewhere De Zerbi has a habit of chopping and changing and often deploys his players in unusual positions. The right-back in Brighton’s most recent three matches have been Joel Veltman, a conventional full-back, Moises Caicedo, a central midfielder, and Pascal Gross, more naturally a No10. On the left, Pervis Estupinan is a relentless runner, while Caicedo, and World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister are likely to feature in midfield.
In the attacking line of three, there are plenty of options. Facundo Bouananotte may deputise for Solly March while Deniz Undav and Julio Enciso have forced their way into the side recently, Undav offering more goalscoring threat, while Enciso is tricky and creative. The impressive Kaoru Mitoma should start on the left and is very dangerous when popping up at the far post to finish crosses.
Danny Welbeck needs no introduction, and has shown great link-up play and aerial ability in recent weeks, while youngster Evan Ferguson has constantly impressed when coming off the bench.
William Saliba will definitely once again be missing with his back issue, while Mikel Arteta is still running the rule over Oleksandr Zinchenko who was forced off against Newcastle United last weekend - hear more from the boss on injuries.
Mohamed Elneny has stepped up his recovery efforts by running again in training but is not in contention for a return before the end of the season, which is the same with Takehiro Tomiyasu who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Having starred all season, Solly March’s campaign could be over after he limped off with a hamstring issue on Monday, while Adam Webster will also be missing to add to De Zerbi’s woes.
He was already without Adam Lallana (thigh), Tariq Lamptey (knee), Joel Veltman (hamstring) and Jeremy Sarmiento (foot), while Jakub Moder has been injured all season.
Facts and stats
Following our 4-2 win at the Amex Stadium in December, we are looking to complete a Premier League double over Brighton for just the second time (also 2020/21).
Brighton have lost nine of their 10 Premier League away games against sides starting the day in the top two, conceding 23 goals while scoring just six in reply.
Brighton could suffer consecutive Premier League defeats for only a second time this season (previously in October). Away from home, the Seagulls have lost two of their last three league games (W1), as many as their previous 10.
We could become the third side to score 3+ goals in seven consecutive Premier League home games, joining Manchester United (7 from December 2009 to March 2010) and Manchester City (10 from April to October 2022).
We have won 25 of our 35 league games; only in 1930/31 (28), 1970/71 (29), 2001/02 (26) and 2003/04 (26) have we ever won more in a single campaign. We lifted the title in all four of those seasons.
De Zerbi’s 27 Premier League matches have seen 92 goals (52 for, 40 against). Among managers to take charge of 20+ games in the competition’s history, only John Gorman’s had a higher goal rate (3.50 – 147 goals in 42 games).
Martin Odegaard has been involved in four goals in his four Premier League games against Brighton (2 goals, 2 assists), both scoring and assisting in our 4-2 win in December. The Norwegian has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances.
Alexis Mac Allister has scored 10 Premier League goals this season; the only player to score more in a season in the competition for the Seagulls is Glenn Murray, who netted 12 in 2017/18 and 13 in 2018/19.
For just the second time this season, Andy Madley has been handed one of our fixtures having also overseen the goalless draw with Newcastle United back in January.
This will be just the fourth game of ours that he will officiate, with the others being a 1-0 win at Aston Villa in March 2022, and a League Cup success against Norwich City in 2017/18.
Brighton will enjoy the sight of him on Sunday, as out of the 18 games of theirs he has managed stretching back to 2013/14, they’ve lost just once. His last three appointments saw them beat Chelsea 4-1 and draw 3-3 at Liverpool in October, as well as thrash Manchester United 4-0 last May.
- Referee: Andy Madley
- Assistant Referee 1: Constantine Hatzidakis
- Assistant Referee 2: Nick Hopton
- Fourth Official: Darren England
- VAR: Peter Bankes
- Assistant VAR: Wade Smith
Recent visits from Brighton
The Seagulls return to Emirates Stadium for the first time since their 3-1 League Cup success in November, when Mikel Arteta opted to make 10 changes. Despite Eddie Nketiah putting us in front, a Danny Welbeck penalty plus second-half strikes from Kaoru Mitoma and Tariq Lamptey ended our interest in the competition.
In fact, Brighton have won on three of their last four visits, having been winless in their first eight trips to N5. They also triumphed back in April 2022 when Leandro Trossard got on the scoresheet during a 2-1 win, meaning you have to go back two years to May 2021 for when we last tasted success over the Sussex side, when a Nicolas Pepe brace saw us win 2-0.
Tune into our matchday show on Arsenal.com and the official app an hour before kick-off on Sunday afternoon for all the best build-up to the game.
Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke will be joined by club legend Gilberto Silva to get his thoughts on the clash against the Seagulls and how he sees the run-in, plus they'll chat with Tim Stillman and Clive Palmer from the ArsenalVision podcast as well as Jojo & Scully from No Signal.
Our new Jewish Gooners supporters’ group will also be in attendance, while come kick-off Dan Roebuck will be joined by Perry Groves on commentary to describe all the goings-on at Emirates Stadium.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.