The outcome of today’s (Sunday) trip to the south coast is as much a mystery as every other match we have played in the two or three months.
Our stature as a club and the quality of our players would suggest victory but the disparate nature of the XI who take to the pitch, coupled with the listless management mean that anything could happen.
It is an excellent time for any side to be playing the Gunners and Chris Hughton’s team will doubtless be looking at today’s encounter as an excellent opportunity to take all three points, and why shouldn’t they?
As anyone who has watched Arsenal in the last few months will tell you, pressing high and hard from the outset leads to almost certain victory against a group of individuals whose morale has crashed through the floor and whose ability to cope with any sort of pressure is woeful at best.
In front of a buoyant home crowd and with the TV cameras rolling, I would expect Brighton to come out firing and I wouldn’t expect that to change even if they fall a goal behind early on. As countless sides have shown this season, it isn’t too hard a task to recover from going behind against this Gunners side. In fact, it looks to be something of an advantage.
Arsenal’s best and only hope is to put the game beyond reach as early as possible, as they have done in recent times against Everton and Crystal Palace. They are perfectly capable of doing so again today, but the conditions and circumstances must be so perfect that it is, sadly, unlikely against a side that is scrapping for survival and has plenty to play for.
If nothing else, it is important that everyone involved, from the players to the management, show that these last few weeks in particular have hurt them as professionals.
The club is in an awful mess at the moment and they have taken an enormous amount of criticism. The only way to assuage that is to go out and perform, to give their maximum from the first whistle, and to play to the utmost of their abilities – not just as individuals but as a collective.
I don’t doubt they tried to do as much against Manchester City on Thursday but so far has their confidence fallen and so fragile are they at the moment that they showed themselves to be embarrassingly vulnerable.
The manager, meanwhile, is simply unable to muster a response, or even a plan to right a badly listing ship, while the players appear desperate for direction and guidance through an absolute maelstrom. It is the most desperate period most of this side are ever likely to experience in their careers.
For most, the final nail in Arsene’s Wenger’s managerial coffin was the failure in the Carabao Cup final, with Thursday’s hammering just further proof that it is past time for the Frenchman to ride into the sunset.
I don’t think defeat or victory against Brighton will make any difference to what are a lot of made-up minds but it is vital that no more damage is taken to what is an open and festering wound, a gaping chasm between fans and manager that will take a long time to heal.
While it would be nice to see a few changes to the side, and perhaps a shake-up in the formation and approach, it is almost certain that Arsene will stick with the same team that faltered against Manchester City. Backed into a corner, all the veteran manager can do is back the quality that is available and, in fairness to him, it is probably the safest and most sensible approach.
In Aubameyang, Ozil, and Mhkitaryan, there is more than enough quality to hurt a team of Brighton’s calibre and, in truth, our hopes for taking the three points rest on that potential being converted into chances and goals.
Further back, the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Xhaka must ensure that possession is not so easily squandered as it has been for a while now. Arsene’s legacy has been built on sinuous, instinctive, progressive football but we seem to have lost our way in that regard. A return to the basics is long overdue.
Since I can’t remember the last time we put in a defensive performance that really gave me pause, I won’t pin any hopes on seeing one today, save to say that I really hope Petr Cech manages that 200th clean sheet before the end of the season. It would be a real shame if our self-inflicted woes denied him that personal milestone.
With the general mood around the club so sour at the moment, and confidence at an all-time low, I’ll try not to attach any great expectation to the outcome of this match. Instead, and like most in the Gooner family, I’ll role the dice and hope for the best and pray that our luck is in.