STAR PREVIEW: Arsenal v Brighton

Matches towards the end of the season are normally filled with tension for both sides but there should be less nerves in the air at the Emirates than there would have been 24 hours earlier. Cardiff’s defeat to Crystal Palace yesterday means that Brighton have survived, and all the pressure will be on Arsenal in today’s clash between the two.

Arsenal are still chasing a top four position (although they do have a two goal lead in the Europa League semi-final against Valencia), and with Tottenham’s remarkable late defeat against Bournemouth, they have a chance to cut the gap on them to just two points with victory this afternoon.

Teams in the race for the top four have been falling over themselves to spurn big chances to seal one of the two available spots, including Arsenal themselves, but they should be able to put one foot in the Champions League places with victory here.

Three defeats in a row, all in the Premier League, had derailed their Premier League challenge, but they should have had confidence restored by their 3-1 win against Valencia that has put them in the driving seat of that Europa League semi-final. They are also a far superior side at home.

A 3-2 defeat against Crystal Palace was only their second defeat of the campaign at the Emirates – the other came against Manchester City – and they have won 14 of their 18 games at the Emirates in the Premier League, with two draws against Liverpool and Wolves in that time.

Brighton carry far less of an attacking threat than those two teams, or indeed Crystal Palace who last won here. Palace were in the perfect situation – that of facing an Arsenal side which needed goals from the first minute – given the pace they had on the break with the likes of Wilfred Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the side.

Chris Hughton has been employing a hugely conservative strategy in order to get the points needed to inch Brighton over the line and that has seen them sit deep with Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy making a number of last ditch blocks. They have been protected by Pascal Gross, one of Brighton’s most talented attacking forwards and the scorer of their equaliser last week, but a deep lying defensive midfielder this season along with Dale Stephens and Beram Kayal.

Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh will be trusted with going forward but they, along with Brighton, have struggled to get much purchase going forward. Albion have scored just once in their last eight matches but perhaps even more remarkably, they’ve had just eight shots on target in that time.

Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion
Premier League
16:30 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD

(Maximum 10 matches, from past 10 years)
DEC 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Brighton 1-1 Arsenal
MAR 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
OCT 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Brighton
JAN 2015 FA CUP Brighton 2-3 Arsenal
JAN 2013 FA CUP Brighton 2-3 Arsenal

Arsenal went behind early and could, perhaps should, have conceded more than one against Valencia but they deserved victory there and their success demonstrated the firepower of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Lacazette’s two goals in less than 10 minutes changed the momentum of the game and the atmosphere and Aubameyang’s late goal from a tight angle was a perfect example of his finishing prowess.

The pair have 32 Premier League goals between them this season and Emery has enough firepower to supply them even with changes. Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should be able to give enough support to whomever starts upfront and in the midfield, even without Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal can prove themselves too good.

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