Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned from Gunners' Win
In typical Arsenal fashion, they made things much more difficult than they needed to be. The Seagulls put in a spirited performance, and after Olivier Giroud's sumptuous curled opener, atrocious goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny allowed Brighton to get back on level terms.
Giroud then got a second in the 56th minute when a lovely pass from Abou Diaby over the top of Brighton's defense allowed him to smash past backup goalkeeper Casper Ankergren. But Leonardo Ulloa took advantage of awful Arsenal defending to level the score again six minutes later.
After some very open play in the ensuing minutes, Arsenal got the break they needed. A corner was cleared into the path of Theo Walcott just outside the box, and his first-time shot careened off a defender and into the back of the net.
Let's look at six things we learned from a frenetic fixture.
We Should Talk About Mertesacker
Per Mertesacker started the season in stunning form, keeping last season's best defender, Laurent Koscielny, out of the team with several solid displays at the back.
However, that consistency and composure seems to have deserted him in recent games. And, given the captain's armband today in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta, Mertesacker put in another shoddy performance.
His "defending" on Brighton's second goal said it all. As a cross came in from the right flank, Mertesacker completely lost track of Leo Ulloa running behind him and failed to deal with what should have been an easy clearance.
I very much like Mertesacker's defensive abilities, but Arsene Wenger should examine whether he merits a place in the starting XI on current form when Thomas Vermaelen returns from injury.
Andre Santos Doesn't Cut It
At halftime, Warren Barton of Fox Soccer said that Andre Santos "is the worst player I've seen in an Arsenal shirt."
That comment is so extreme as to be laughable (does anyone remember Mikael Silvestre?), but it is clear that Andre Santos is a liability to Arsenal at this point, at least at left-back.
Though Per Mertesacker was largely at fault for Leo Ulloa's goal, Santos simply jogged past Ashley Barnes as he prepared to whip in a cross. When Santos came forward, he tried futile 35-yard bombs instead of simple passes or crosses.
Add a backup left-back to the list of positions that Arsene Wenger needs to reinforce in this transfer window or in the summer.
Y'All Need to Relax About Olivier Giroud
I've always been fond of Olivier Giroud, and not just because of his embarrassingly good looks. The Frenchman's come under fire recently for failing to convert his chances, but he did so with aplomb against Brighton—like the top-class striker he is.
His first goal was an absolute peach. With only a step of momentum, Giroud curled a sumptuous shot around a defender and into the back of the net. It was a finish that few are capable of.
The second was almost as good, and required a different set of skills. Using his powerful physique to hold off a defender, he managed to smash the ball past the goalkeeper while falling down.
He might be the only true striker that Arsenal have, but he's growing into one of the best in the Premier League. A round of applause for Olivier Giroud, man of the match.
Congratulations Theo, Now Pass the Ball
Perhaps now that Theo Walcott has signed da ting, he can learn how to pass da ting.
Good for him for getting on the scoresheet again. And it was no small goal, either, as it handed Arsenal passage into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
In fact, Walcott was very productive after he came on, turning defenders and creating chances. But he failed to capitalize on the chances he created because he tried to take all of them himself.
Multiple times, he had Olivier Giroud in the middle, just waiting to tap the ball into the back of the net. Yet he always opted for a drive right at the goalkeeper from an impossibly acute angle.
Walcott can be a massive asset to this Arsenal team, and he's still getting better. But the biggest thing he needs to change is his selfishness. A striker needs some, but he has to temper it.
It's a Crazy Day in the World of Football
Allow me to recap some of the events in the world of football today:
- Semi-pro team Luton Town knocked out Premier League side Norwich City.
- QPR lost to mighty MK Dons by the score of 4-2. At one point, the Hoops were down 4-0.
- Rafa Benitez doesn't think Chelsea is spending enough money (via ESPN FC).
- Lukas Podolski played a full 90-minute game, and, to top it all off:
- Abou Diaby played well without getting injured.
It's certainly been a wild day in English football.
Much Defensive Work Needs to Be Done
Don't think that I'm trying to be a downer after Arsenal won a very important game. It hasn't been a very common occurrence this month, so I'm taking nothing for granted.
However, after the customary congratulations are passed around the locker room, Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould need to get to work on the training ground and redouble their efforts to solidify Arsenal's defense.
Well done to Brighton for putting in what was probably one of their most spirited displays of the season. but Arsenal still should have won this game with relative ease.
Were it not for a terrible goalkeeping blunder (that could have been avoided by better defending) and a totally avoidable series of errors later on, the Gunners would have won by multiple goals and kept a clean sheet.
This is becoming far too common for Arsenal. According to EPLIndex, Arsenal average 71 minutes per defensive error, while Tottenham average 110 minutes.
If they want to scrape their way into the top four, or perhaps even steal the FA Cup trophy, this season, it is essential that they shut the back door.