One-off wins are great but Arsenal will need to find some consistency if they want to build momentum in the second half of this season.
Victory over Chelsea lifted some of the heavy clouds that had gathered over the Emirates in recent months and restored a little of the feel-good factor that fans had been craving. Much like our successful foray to Old Trafford in November, it was a statement win over a traditional rival that garnered plenty of plaudits – and rightly so.
In order for that win to be something more than just a frisson amid the wider misery of our season, it has to be followed up with a win at Brighton – a lesser scalp but no less valuable in terms of points.
For all its glory at the time, success over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men has faded into insignificance as we fell headlong into a slump and United turned their form around with a string of victories. They may have been ugly, extremely fortune wins but they were wins nonetheless and have propelled them into the upper reaches of the Premier League while Arsenal have slid towards the exit door.
If we could swap positions now, there wouldn’t be a single fan among us who would take the one-off victory over the bigger picture of results. That is why following up with a good performance and three points at Brighton is of such importance, in both the short and longer term.
A defeat on the south coast means all our hard work is undone in an instant, the ill feeling returns and the highs of victory forgotten. Another win, however, and our confidence grows, our momentum builds and the Chelsea win becomes more than three points in isolation, it becomes a potential turning point. That’s what’s at stake.
Despite their lowly position, Graham Potter’s Brighton play good football and have a knack of scoring goals. We had an awful time against them last season and there should be plenty of motivation to enact a measure of revenge this time around. The smirking, smug visage of Neal Maupay should be motivation enough in and of itself.
If it isn’t the players should be well aware that Brighton are, at this stage, a relegation rival (yes, really) and they will be targeting this fixture as an opportunity to grab a win and move themselves up the table. To that end, I expect they will be well-motivated and looking to make the most of whatever edge they can, particularly in terms of our discipline. This will be a game for cool heads.
Having played barely 72-hours previously, I expect there will be a measure of rotation in Mikel Arteta’s squad, although I would be loathed to do away with an attacking quartet in Alex Lacazette, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka that proved so much more potent than almost anything else we have fielded this season.
Necessity may well see Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drafted into to fill some of those positions and give the young Guns a much-needed rest with plenty of games still to come in a short space of time.
For my money, however, I would go for the momentum-building win now by fielding the same side we saw at Chelsea and worry about rotation in a later fixture Let’s strike while this particular iron is hot and ensure the spark that was kindled in the Chelsea win isn’t extinguished as quickly as it came to life.