Arsenal were among the first group of teams to get the Premier League back up and running, but they probably wish they hadn’t been.
A toothless performance, in which they failed to register a single shot on target, in a harrowing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Man City probably wasn’t the way Mikel Arteta would have wanted to kick the campaign back off. A statement result against Brighton is needed if the Gunners are going to chalk off their evening at the Etihad as merely a false start.
Brighton go into this game knowing that if results go against them, they could finish the weekend in the relegation zone. Graham Potter’s men haven’t tasted victory in 2020, but will be hopeful of turning the tide against an Arsenal side seemingly in turmoil.
With matches against Leicester, Manchester United, Liverpool and Man City still to come, Brighton need to hit the ground running this weekend. They need to start picking up points now.
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 20 June
What Time Is Kick Off? 15:00 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Amex Stadium
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK), fuboTV (US)
Referee? Martin Atkinson
Brighton will return to action with no new injury concerns. Only long-term absence Jose Izquierdo remains on the treatment table, so Potter has a full roster to pick from.
Top scorer Neal Maupay will be key to any success in this game, while Brighton fans may finally get to see Alexis MacAllister play after the 21-year-old attacking midfielder made his debut from the bench against Wolves in the last pre-lockdown game. MacAllister is highly rated and impressed during his loan spell in Argentina with Boca Juniors.
Arteta is not so lucky. Lucas Torreira, Cedric Soares and Calum Chambers were all already injured going into the restart, and then the treatment room got even more crowded following the City game. Both Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari were withdrawn from the game injured, and of course David Luiz’s red card rules him out of the weekend fixture too.
Add to that, a training ground injury sustained by Sokratis and Arsenal seem to be running on a skeleton staff. With Shkodran Mustafi being the only fully fit centre back available, Sokratis may be risked for this one, although Rob Holding is back in contention. Alexandre Lacazette is expected to return to the starting 11, while Mesut Ozil may be recalled to help unlock a very tight Brighton defence.
Brighton: Ryan; Martin Montoya, Webster, Dunk, Burn; Mooy, Propper, Bissouma; March, Maupay, Trossard.
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Tierney; Ozil, Guendouzi, Ceballos; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Brighton haven’t won in 2020, that’s a run of nine Premier League matches. The saving grace for the Seagulls is that six of those games have ended in draws, and they’ve only conceded 12 goals during that time. The Brighton defence is solid enough, and if they had a bit more up front they’d likely have turned a couple of those draws into wins.
Arsenal had done so much to pick their form up before the COVID-19 break and there was a feeling that Arteta had turned things around at the club. The City game however, was a call back to more tempestuous times, as individual mistakes cost Arsenal valuable points again.
It’s not a total disaster however, as after all it was their first league defeat in 2020, ending an unbeaten run of eight matches. It may just have been a one off, but if the Bundesliga has taught anything, it’s that ‘recent’ form means absolutely nothing after a three month break.
Here’s a look at how both sides’ have faired in their last five games.
Wolves 0-0 Brighton (7/3)
Brighton 0-1 Crystal Palace (29/2)
Sheffield United 1-1 Brighton (22/2)
Brighton 1-1 Watford (8/2)
West Ham 3-3 Brighton (1/2)
Man City 3-0 Arsenal (17/6)
Arsenal 1-0 West Ham (7/3)
Portsmouth 0-2 Arsenal (2/3)
Arsenal 1-2 Olympiacos (27/2)
Arsenal 3-2 Everton (23/2)
With Arsenal’s capitulation against City the only real form to go on, it’s difficult to call this one. The Gunners injury woes at the back will no doubt be an area that Brighton look to exploit, with Arsenal not great there at the best of times.
That being said, if Arsenal are firing on all cylinders they should be able to push past their opponents on the day.
If Brighton can stay solid at the back though, it’s not a stretch to imagine a Glenn Murray knee slide on the back page of the newspapers on Sunday morning.
Prediction: Brighton 0-1 Arsenal