Strange one – glass half full or half empty time.
Qualify for Europa Conference – effectively a relegation, but still in Europe, ahead of Tottenham and an extra two million.
Fail to qualify and get a clear run to a higher league position, out of the Thursday-Sunday cycle, but a break of 25 years continuous European football. Taking the medium-long view – the last minute Tottenham victory at Leicester, denying Arsenal European football is probably a blessing in disguise.
With the intention at the beginning of the season to get into a Champions League position but ending up eighth, is not success in anyone’s book.
But a look at last year’s final table shows some progress with improvements in Arsenal’s defence with nine less goals conceded (48 v39). Arsenal, have the best defence in the Premiership bar Chelsea and Man City. But improvements in defence have resulted in a less potent attack, with one goal less scored (56 v 55) but a better goal difference (8 v16) and five more points.
The game was sandwiched between protests about Kroenke – and Arteta’s quote about the Kroenkes wanting to take Arsenal to a different level – could be interpreted both ways.
Patrick Vieira said in an interview this week Arsenal have lost some their DNA. Some truth in that on the day the news broke Steve Bould was leaving after more than 30 years.
Xhaka and Odergaard came in for Saka and Elneny, with Aubameyang and Pepe up front.
Graham Potter has won three times managing against Arsenal. And Brighton have won three out of seven. Since January only Chelsea have had a better defence. The seagulls were quick to get into shape and broke quickly.
Arsenal’s attacks were classier than Brighton’s but after the first 20 there was only one shot on target.
Players obeyed the shoot cries from the crowd, several times. Understandable, after all it was the first Premiership crowd for 14 months, the last being against West Ham. And Arsenal this season had scored the least number of goals from games at home (22) since the early nineties.
Partey’s shot came close – but there was not enough curl.
Aubameyang tried to get to the byline but couldn’t beat Webster – symbolic of his season, plenty of promise but not manifesting much positive.
Gabriel tried a looping header from a Xhaka cross which came off the bar. Memories of Villarreal?
At the other end, Smith Rowe lost possession leaving a two on two. But Tierney sprinted back and cleared from Jahanbakhsh.
Connolly and Lallana came on for Trossard and Jahanbakhsh in what looked like an attacking move.
A smooth build up between Xhaka and Chambers, saw the right back drill it to Pepe who controlled it sending a fast right foot shot past Sanchez.
Arsenal could have conceded soon after when a long ball found Connolly running through Holding and Gabriel. He held it up but fired wide of the far post.
But Xhaka won the ball aggressively in midfield and set Odergaard away. He found Pepe who drove inside and sent a left foot shot through Dunk’s legs and into the corner of the net.
The Swiss than sent straight pass to Partey who seemed to want to open his Arsenal account – but hit the volley off the bar.
Moder was the most dangerous Brighton forward in the second half with a shot and a dangerous cross.
Holding cleared a couple of crosses – effectively and efficiently – symbolising his season.
Mikel Arteta said: “We played with the right energy and intensity. The fans made a huge difference. A win for them. 61 points last year and we would be 5th.”
“It wasn’t in our hands. We tried to do our best, but it was not enough.
“This club deserves trophies and the Champions League, and we haven’t managed to do that in very challenging circumstances. Now we have to be critical of ourselves and prepare for next season in the best possible way.
“The level has gone so high so the only way to do it is to be much better next season and much more consistent, and this is the challenge ahead of us.”
Graham Potter said: “We did our best, but we just weren’t good enough today. The boys kept going and I can’t criticise them for that. Sometimes you have to be honest and say we weren’t at our level.
“We have had a tough week, a tough season and maybe today was a step too far for us. We weren’t good enough to maintain attacks long enough. We didn’t do enough to win the game, so the result is a fair one.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 21Chambers, 16Holding, 6Gabriel, 3Tierney, 18Partey, 34Xhaka, 19Pépé, 11Ødegaard (Substituted for Martinelli at 86’minutes), 32Smith Rowe (Substituted for Saka at 74’minutes),14Aubameyang (Substituted for Lacazette at 79’minutes),
Brighton: 26Sánchez, 3White, 4Webster, 5Dunk, 33Burn, 13Groß, 8Bissouma, 15Moder, 16Jahanbakhsh (Substituted for Lallana at 45’minutes),10Mac Allister (Substituted for Alzate at 66’minutes),11Trossard (Substituted for Connolly at 45’minutes)