With the race for fourth heating up, this felt like a loss. 1 -1 was the fair result, but the manner at which our performance waned as the game progressed was disappointing. The players have given a lot in the first half of this campaign, but with injuries and pressure mounting they look jaded and out of ideas.
I thought the starting line-up was correct considering the options available and we started well. The goal on 7’ by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was awesome even if we had a tad bit of fortune. Alexandre Lacazette was offside from the first phase, but Brighton failed to clear. The Frenchman then managed to secure control in the penalty box before laying off to Aubameyang who curled a delightful effort past Matt Ryan.
Despite not looking imperious, we looked good enough to go on and secure the points. Aubameyang had a great chance to make it 2-0 on 31’ after being put through one on one by Torreira, but Matt Ryan saved excellently. From that point onwards, the game ran away from us and the Brighton goal was one of the worse pieces of defending I’ve seen. The ball somehow found Brighton midfielder Propper from our corner. He lofted a simple ball over the top that Lichtsteiner failed to clear. The ball then landed to Locadia to round Leno and make it 1-1. Mesut Ozil should have tracked the run of the scorer but gave up on the half way line. It continues to perplex me that teams have a better chance of scoring from our corners than we do. Yet another half time passes without a lead.
Emery hauled Ozil off at half time for “tactical” reasons, but we simply cannot afford to have a luxury player on £350k per week who’s not integral to the team. Either we get rid of him or Emery uses him and accepts the enigma he is.
Full time: Brighton 1 – 1 Arsenal
Top 6 Boxing Day results:
Leicester 2 – 1 Manchester City
Liverpool 4 – 0 Newcastle
Manchester Utd 3 – 1 Huddersfield
Spurs 5 – 0 Bournemouth
Watford 1 – 2 Chelsea
1 Liverpool – 51 points
2 Spurs – 45
3 Man City – 44
4 Chelsea – 40
5 Arsenal – 38
6 Man Utd – 32
With Spurs now closer to Liverpool than us in terms of points, the race for top 4 appears to be down to Arsenal, Eden Hazard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenated Man Utd. I’m still confident that with our fire power we have enough to secure the points needed, but unless we address our defensive structure and eliminate the individual errors, even Auba and Laca won’t be able to bail us out.
Next up: Liverpool at Anfield
On Saturday we line up against the best team and best defence in the league. Liverpool have only conceded seven goals and with the Rolls Royce Virgil Van Dijk, they look like they are playing with 12 men. With Auba and Laca you always have a chance, but Anfield is the last place you want to go when you are lacking confidence and the ability to defend simple balls over the top.
Torreira and Leno will need to be on top form if we are to get anything from the game. More importantly we need to be competitive. Despite our poor form, I’m confident we will be.