Brighton 2 Arsenal 3: Three talking points
Three talking points as the Gunners book their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup
Walcott shows glimpses of what Arsenal have been missing
It’s been a tough year for Theo Walcott after suffering a knee injury against Tottenham last season which kept him out for nine months. He returned back in October, only to be ruled out again after picking up a groin injury while on international duty with England. It has been frustrating for Arsene Wenger, for the fans, and for the player himself because he offers something which no other Arsenal man really does. In the 2012-2013 season we saw the best of the winger, he bagged 21 goals in 43 appearances but it wasn’t just his goals that were impressive, it was his ability to time runs which helped stretch opposing defences. He also managed to get 10 assists in their Premier League campaign, and there was a real feeling around the Emirates that Walcott was finally starting to come of age. Things haven’t quite worked out that way but once Walcott gets back to full match-fitness, he will play a pivotal role in the last few months of the season. His pace gives Arsenal a good counter-attacking threat, but he is also a good finisher. His ability to time his runs also helps more creative players like Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil, as he gives them an option when they are looking to unlock defences. There were signs today of an understanding developing between the forward players, and his performance was rewarded with a goal.
On a weekend of shocks, Arsenal prove their class
Some of the movement between Aaron Ramsey, Ozil and Tomas Rosicky was outstanding against Brighton and they just could not deal with them. The second goal in particular was a reflection of this. They were patient in their passing before Rosicky added a bit of penetration releasing Ozil, who slotted the ball home. But it was carefully planned as they dragged Brighton’s defenders out of position, in the end Lewis Dunk and Gordan Greer were made to look like amateurs as they gave the German so much freedom in the penalty area. Sometimes Arsenal can keep hold of possession but lack penetration, this was the antithesis to that as they always looked to play the killer pass which would lead to a goal. This performance was even more impressive in the context of who wasn’t playing – there was no Alexis Sanchez, no Cazorla – and it showed a real strength in depth to Arsenal’s squad, with the likes of Rosicky and Walcott demonstrating their class. The win against Manchester City could be a turning point for Arsenal as they now appear to have something they haven’t had in years: belief.
Brighton gave Arsenal far too much space despite pushing them close
There are many ways to play against Arsenal, you can chose to be physical against them and win the second-balls, you can chose to sit back and hit them on the counter, what you should never do is give them time and space. The amount of times Rosicky and Ozil picked the ball up in space, and there wasn’t a Brighton player in sight was alarming. They gave the Gunners too much respect and it led to their downfall. The defence was also given no protection, Rohan Ince and Danny Holla were chasing shadows in the first-half as they failed to press, and stood far too deep. Things changed in the second-half and Chris Hughton altered his tactics slightly, it worked well as the Seagulls showed much more quality in attacking positions. Chris O’Grady and Sam Baldock scored two very good goals as Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny struggled, they also started to pressurise Mathieu Flamini who had the freedom of the pitch in the first-half. But ultimately, Arsenal’s variations in attack proved too much despite a spirited effort from Brighton.