Arsenal’s diminishing European hopes dealt further blow after Neal Maupay’s late winner

Neal Maupay

Brighton vs Arsenal

The first full Premier League gameweek since COVID-19 forced the season to be suspended got underway on Friday evening.

The marquee tie that day saw Tottenham and Manchester United play out a 1-1 draw.

This result was fairly helpful for one of the sides in action on Saturday.

The outfit in question were Arsenal – who began the day languishing in a rather disappointing 9th place.

The Gunners’ 2019/20 campaign resumed earlier this week, with a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City.

Their opponents on Saturday, though, appeared to present a much more straightforward challenge for Mikel Arteta and co., as they strive to keep their fading European hopes alive.

A win over Brighton would have seen Arsenal, temporarily at least, move level on points with 7th placed Wolves.

Brighton, on the other hand, are still in the thick of a relegation scrap, with Graham Potter’s men having started the day just two points clear of the bottom three.

The teams

As was to be expected, Mikel Arteta made several changes to his side that lost to City during the week.

The injured Pablo Mari was replaced by Rob Holding at the back, while Dani Ceballos came in for Granit Xhaka, who is also injured.

Both Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette, meanwhile, were handed their first starts since football’s resumption.

As for Brighton, their first tie back saw Graham Potter put out a fairly standard eleven.

Arsenal lose Leno

Nicolas Pepe hasn’t enjoyed a great start to life at Arsenal, but the Ivorian nearly got the Gunners off to a perfect start on Saturday, floating a decent cross to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose acrobatic effort was blocked.

Arsenal then came close to opening the scoring less than 10 minutes later via Bukayo Saka.

The youngster, operating on the left of Arsenal’s midfield three, beat his defender, before seeing his curling effort smash off the bar.

The north London outfit sustained the pressure during the early exchanges of the first 45, but they were unable to capitalise on their dominance.

Alexandre Lacazette should have scored on the half-hour mark, but Matt Ryan did well to get down and save the Frenchman’s header.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, they then lost Bernd Leno to injury, after the German appeared to land very awkwardly when collecting the ball on the edge of his box.

Emiliano Martinez replaced the injured Leno, and was called up just moments after coming on, with the Argentine having saved well from an Aaron Mooy strike.

Some solid Brighton defending then prevented Aubameyang from finding himself through on goal, with the first-half having drawn to a close shortly after.

Arsenal’s European hopes diminishing

Brighton began the second 45 with Solly March on in place of the aforementioned Mooy.

The second-half also started much the same way the first did, though, with Arsenal on top.

Aubameyang would have the ball in the back of Brighton’s net 52 minutes in, after being slipped in by Bukayo Saka, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Brighton had a decent chance of their own 56 minutes in, with Martinez once again producing a solid save.

Then, once more, Arsenal top scorer Aubameyang came close to bagging the first goal of the day a short time later, forcing Maty Ryan into another solid stop.

Ryan was unable to do anything about Pepe’s brilliant effort moments later, though.

The winger cut inside on the edge of the box, before curling a scintillating effort into the Brighton net.

The hosts responded well, though, and went on to equalise 75 minutes in, after Lewis Dunk poked the ball over the line following a brief scramble in the box.

Mikel Arteta reacted to the Brighton equaliser by bringing on Eddie Nketiah and Kieran Tierney.

The Gunners were unable to carve out any more real chances, though, with their lack of creativity pretty apparent.

To his credit, Saka was, for the most part, the only Arsenal player looking to take on players and make goal-threatening passes.

But relying on such a young player to be your main creative outlet really isn’t what a side like Arsenal should be doing.

As such, despite having been left out vs City, it was something of a shock that Mesut Ozil was left on the bench, given the German’s abilities in the final third.

Arsenal would then be punished for failing to kill off the tie. Neil Maupay chipped the ball over Martinez in second-half injury time to ensure that Graham Potter and co. were going home with all three points, courtesy of a 2-1 win.

Brighton will no doubt be extremely pleased with the result, as they are now five points clear of the drop.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have been dealt yet another blow in their pursuit of European football. Should Wolves pick up three points later today vs West Ham, Arteta’s outfit will be four points adrift of 7th-placed Sheffield United, who have a game in hand on the Gunners.

See also: Aston Villa vs Chelsea live streaming and betting tips

Everton FC vs Liverpool FC live streaming & betting tips

Newcastle United vs Sheffield United live streaming & betting tips

This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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