Brighton vs Arsenal: Mikel Arteta's two shining diamonds who can cut through Graham Potter's defence
It’s funny how quickly things change in football. After three games and a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal sat bottom of the league.
Their following Premier League game with fellow basement side Norwich City was being jovially called an early relegation six-pointer by rival fans of the Gunners.
Having made their worst start to a league season since 1954, Mikel Arteta’s side have since climbed to 10th in the league with three wins, five goals scored, one conceded and are nine points better off.
They were without senior players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the opening game against Brentford, and Alexandre Lacazette for the first two while Thomas Partey and Gabriel missed the first three Premier League games.
They come into Saturday’s game with Brighton off the back of a hard fought 3-1 win in the North London derby over Tottenham. The importance of that win cannot be understated for Arteta, who would have been feeling the pressure of the fans without it.
Following the win, Arteta said, “When externally there are a lot of things happening and you are trying to rebuild a project, you have to stay by your values and we kept the people together inside the club and now we are creating a connection with our supporters.”
It condemned Spurs to a third consecutive loss but also saw the Gunners score more than one goal in a Premier League game for the first time this season.
The fact the three goals were scored by Emile Smith Rowe, Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka said a lot about the blueprint of that Arsenal side.
Saka assisted Smith Rowe for the first, the latter then assisted Aubameyang’s second before playing the ball to Saka who, after some individual endeavour, found the back of the net for their third.
Smith Rowe and Saka have been shining diamonds in a rough Arsenal side who finished last season winning their last five games, which made their poor start to this season the more surprising.
Smith Rowe was rewarded with a five-year contract and the number 10 shirt in the summer and has been a star performer in a difficult start for the Gunners. Saka earned the number seven shirt after his breakthrough season in 2019/20.
Such significant shirt numbers are a sign that they are both firmly part of Arsenal’s future having proved their worth in the difficult moments in North London in the past few years. Arsenal’s Hale End graduates have been joined by a recruitment strategy based around bringing in talent for the future.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale are yet to lose in an Arsenal shirt while former Brighton defender Ben White looks more assured with every game as he settles into life at the Emirates after a difficult start.
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares are yet to have made a significant mark on this Arsenal side while now-permanent signing Martin Odegaard scored a brilliant free
kick against Burnley in their 1-0 win in their previous game before Tottenham.
Arsenal will be without Granit Xhaka through injury, reported to be a ruptured inner ligament in his right knee from, caused accidentally by Lucas Moura in the North London derby.
Potter and Arteta have won two games apiece in four meetings with Arsenal doing the double over the Seagulls last season. Brighton will hope to continue their fine start to the season and ensure it’s a not too happy first return to the Amex for White.