It was another frustrating evening for Arsenal on Saturday as they let a lead slip to lose at relegation-battling Brighton & Hove Albion.
Having enjoyed the majority of possession and chances, the Gunners took a deserved lead thanks to a sublime strike from Nicolas Pépé.
A short corner caught out the Arsenal defence and Lewis Dunk was able to knock the ball home before Neal Maupay, who was earlier involved in a collision that saw Bernd Leno leave the field on a stretcher, snatched the winner at the death for the Seagulls.
But what else did we take away from a second defeat in four days?
Saka has to play, wherever that may be
It was painfully obvious how much Arsenal lacked creativity but Bukayo Saka was the only player making things happen. Having failed to impress on the right wing against Manchester City, the teenager was deployed on his preferred left-hand side albeit in a less-natural three-man midfield.
The youngster was back to his best as he struck the crossbar, was always forward thinking and linked up well in and around the box. Unfortunately, his teammates were not on his wavelength as fellow midfielders Dani Ceballos and Mattéo Guendouzi were too passive in possession and slow to release the ball. That allowed Brighton to get back and cover the space.
With Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolašinac both fit and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a nailed-on starter a LW, Mikel Arteta must find a way to use Saka that gets the best out of him.
Martinelli struggling for game time
After a promising start to his Arsenal career, Martinelli is currently on the outside looking in, and we’re not sure why. With 14 goal contributions (10 goals/4 assists) this season he has proved he has end product but has struggled to force his way into the team.
If it’s due to fitness then that’s understandable but it is more likely down to the fact he plays in the same position as Aubameyang – who is the first name on the team sheet. Although impressive playing as a striker earlier in the campaign, it’s clear Arteta sees Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette as his options there.
If Aubameyang was to be moved centrally – a move a lot of fans are keen to see – then Martinelli may get a look in but even then, Saka would probably get in ahead of him. Even Tierney got a couple of minutes on the wing ahead of Martinelli against Brighton.
We may have seen Martinelli had Arteta not been robbed of three of his 10 substitutions since the restart due to injuries. With the games coming thick and fast and the full five substitutions available to Arteta, the Brazilian will hopefully be involved more.
Leno will be a big miss
When Granit Xhaka and Pablo Marí were both injured against Manchester City, we were all thinking “can it get any worse?” It turns out that yes it can. Bernd Leno has arguably been the club’s Player of the Season (alongside Aubameyang) and we would be a lot further down the table – scary thought – without him but that is now a reality we have to face.
We are still awaiting confirmation of the injury but it’s clear he won’t play again this season so Emi Martínez will get his chance. The Argentine is an adequate goalkeeper but he hasn’t shown the quality needed to be the number one at a club like Arsenal.
It’s hard to blame him for the equaliser – although a more defensively solid team would have kept that out – but his decision making in the final seconds opened up the space for Neal Maupay to fire in the winner. I can’t help but think that would not have gone in had Leno been in goal.
Leno has faced the second-most shots in the league, behind Newcastle United’s Martin Dubravka, and has performed admirably. With a lack of protection from the midfield and defence, Martínez will be exposed and if he can’t replicate the form of Leno then we may be in a rough few weeks.
Effective use of substitutions
Substitutions is an area where there is a lot of room for improvement for Arteta. The Spaniard is still getting to grips with being the main man and substitutions have not been his strong point. So adding an extra two adds even more confusion to the mix.
The rules for the rest of the season are that teams can make up to five substitutions per match using a maximum of three separate periods as well as the half-time break. So it was strange to see Tierney stripped and ready alongside Nketiah but fail to come on and then sit back down as Arteta wasn’t ready to use his final substitution period – that came far too late in the 87th minute.
Indecision and timing have let Arteta down when making changes and he needs to improve on this aspect of the game going forward. Admittedly, he has had substitutions taken away from him due to injuries but making a triple change with only a few minutes to go doesn’t give the players much time to make an impact.
It hasn’t been all bad. Martinelli was due to come off following David Luiz’s red card vs Chelsea. Rob Holding was stripped and ready to come on but Arteta had a change of heart. It worked out well that day with Martinelli scoring a superb solo goal but it did show his uncertainty at making changes,
Arsenal are refereed a certain way
I don’t think there is an agenda against Arsenal or anything of the sort but I do think referees officiate a certain way when we are involved.
How many players or teams have come out and said they enjoy playing against Arsenal because they we know we never fancy it? We have gained the reputation as struggling against physicality and when teams want to get in our faces. That has led to referees being far too lenient when teams adopt this approach. A foul in another game is seen as Arsenal been soft.
The 4-4 draw vs Newcastle United is a prime example. We flew into a 4-0 lead; the second half was assault after assault on Arsenal players and the referee just let them get away with it. That encouraged them more, then when Arsenal gave it back, we got penalised. That game saw Abou Diaby sent off following his reaction to a horrendous Joey Barton tackle, which went unpunished, and the Magpies were awarded two penalties.
Nicolas Pépé has been on the end of several tackles this season that have warranted cards but have gone unpunished and this game was another example. Nothing was given when Maupay ‘left one in’ on Leno, which caused his injury, when the goalkeeper had control of the ball in the air and Maupay had no chance of winning the ball but when Lacazette went sliding in to try and get a ball off Matty Ryan that was in play and there to be won, he got booked. I agree with the booking but I don’t see how one was a foul and the other wasn’t.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Yves Bissouma conceded six fouls against Arsenal and did not receive a yellow card.<br><br>Only Jordan Ayew has made more fouls without being booked in a Premier League game so far this season (7 vs. Arsenal). <a href=”https://t.co/URsN6auO5b”>pic.twitter.com/URsN6auO5b</a></p>— Squawka Football (@Squawka) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Squawka/status/1274376686864343042?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 20, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Then you have Yves Bissouma who spent the game knocking people over and hauling them down and was given free reign to do so by Martin Atkinson. I saw a stat via Squawka Football on Twitter that stated Bissouma made six fouls without receiving a booking on the weekend. Only Jordan Ayew can better that record with seven fouls, also against Arsenal, which sort of confirms my point.
To clarify, I don’t think Atkinson was the reason why we lost but had he protected the players better and penalised players more efficiently then the game may have panned out differently.