Whisper it quietly but Arsenal could probably be in a relegation battle – without enough of the right type of players at the moment to get them out of it.
Older Gooners will remember the last time when Brian Kidd’s goals enabled the great escape in the mid-seventies.
To make things worse a couple of managers on their list who could make the defence better are not available immediately. Allegri has said he wants to start work again next season, while Leicester have drawn up an improved contract for Brendan Rodgers.
So, it wasn’t all Emery’s fault after all. Arsenal played slightly worse. The Ljungberg bounce isn’t happening.
The same problems aren’t being addressed. There was very little Arsenal pressing and it was primarily individuals rather than packs. The defence dropped back as Xhaka and Torriera were by-passed in midfield, with Luiz and Sokratis having to go out wide to cover 2 on 1s, leaving gaps in the middle for Maupay or Connolly to drive through as Brighton stretched the pitch wide and Arsenal forwards didn’t track back enough.
Ljungberg made changes from the last match – Bellerin in for Chambers, Torriera in for Guendouzi and Sokratis in for Mustafi – who wasn’t in the match squad.
Brighton boss Graham Potter had already won at Emirates with Ostersunds last February and Brighton nearly got a point at Anfield in their last game.
Arsenal attacks featured individual skill. Lacazette passed to Aubameyang in the Brighton area but it was cut out by Dunk. Bellerin found Ozil whose back-flip led to a corner.
At the other end a Mooy cross was cleared to safety by Kolasinac.
The first half was littered with potential penalties. Gross grabbed Lacazette by the shirt twice from corners and pushed him from another. Dan Burn – the six-foot seven left back grabbed Lacazette’s shirt in another Arsenal attack. Where were the Arsenal protests – in the referee’s face? The lack is symbolic of the current crisis. The team relies on technical football minus the aggressive attitude shown by some other teams.
VAR chiefs say that the shirt has to be away from the body in a triangular shape and not up the body. And they can’t intervene if the referee doesn’t blow, due to clear and obvious rule.
At the other end Bellerin panicked as Connolly got goal-side and pulled him back – just on edge of Arsenal area.
And Brighton were dominating. Connolly cut in and shot – saved by Leno and Webster headed goalwards from a corner, Maupay and Propper both had runs and shots – saved by the sprawling German. Luiz had a go at his colleagues.
But the writing was on the wall and from a Brighton corner as the giant full back headed across to Maupay. There was even time for Sokratis to miskick, before Webster fired it low into the net.
Arsenal had a good chance to go in level at half-time when Aubameyang dinked a ball from the right and Willock unmarked near the six-yard box headed straight at Ryan.
Pepe came on for Willock after half-time – the third time the 20-year-old has been taken off at the break which can’t do his confidence any good, with Ozil moving to the middle behind Lacazette. Pepe’s impact was immediate with a couple of dribbles into the heart of the Brighton area.
Ljungberg’s team talk at half-time was having an impact. An Ozil corner headed on by Lacazette luckily looped into the net into the net.
Arsenal were dominating. Bellerin flashed in a cross after a well-timed tackle and it just missed Aubameyang. And the Kolasinac whipped one from the left which just missed the Gabonese again. Pepe broke and sent Aubameyang away but his effort was blocked.
Lacazette latching on to a long ball found Ozil who swivelled and shot but it was wide. The Frenchman was substituted by Martinelli soon after.
An Arsenal free kick from the right was me sweetly on the volley by Luiz and found the back of the net. But VAR adjudged the Brazilian offside. How much that disappointment caused Arsenal’s efforts to fade away is uncertain. But such is the fragility of the team at present – it can’t be discounted as a causal factor.
Brighton were soaking up the pressure and finding a foothold. Arsenal didn’t have the team spirit and discipline to maintain the pressure.
Mooy headed to Maupay whose shot was saved by Leno.
The Australian received the ball down the left and Sokratis chased him and got out of position – Bellerin backed off, the ball came into the area and Maupay moved out and then in beating Luiz and deflecting the ball into the corner.
Pepe had a run and shot, and dribble drew a foul and a free kick in a dangerous area. Thoughts turned to previous games when individual skill had gained draws from losing positions. But it was not to be as the Ivorian’s shot went wide.
Perhaps symbolic of the performance was when Xhaka lost the ball by mis-controlling in the final third leaving Trossard the chance to wrap it up in a run on goal. But he hit it over.
Ljungberg by this time was slumped in his chair looking smaller than kick-off. It all looked a bit too much.
Afterwards he said the problem with the team was a confidence thing adding that the players can pick up the nervousness of the crowd. But the problems go deeper than that. More a personnel thing – which he is not going to say in public.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerín (Booked 20), Papastathopoulos (Booked 45), David Luiz (Booked 68), Kolasinac (Substituted for Tierney 72), Xhaka, Torreira, Aubameyang, Willock (Substituted for Pépé 45), Özil, Lacazette (Substituted for Martinelli 77)
Brighton: Ryan, Alzate (Substituted for Duffy 88), Webster, Dunk, Burn, Stephens, Pröpper, Mooy, Groß (Booked 60) Substituted for Trossard 80), Connolly (Substituted for Montoya 76, Maupay