The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League away game at Brighton
Record Breaking Misery Awaits?
Brighton have lost their last three Premier League fixtures, against Burnley, Chelsea and Bournemouth. However, since Chris Hughton has been in charge, they have never lost four successive league games. If anyone thinks the game is in the bag due to the Seagulls’ poor form, remember that when Wolves visited the Emirates back in November, they were on a run of three losses.
Ozil to start again?
Having shown faith in his number 10 against Burnley, Emery would undermine the chance of Mesut Ozil rebuilding his importance to the side by dropping him for this match, even in the name of rotation. As opponents go, Brighton are unlikely to be as physical as Burnley, and Ozil survived that, although his lack of general contribution outside his two assists perhaps suggests he had no desire to mix it with Sean Dyche’s men. Brighton have a reputation for playing more football, so it should not be a match in which Ozil goes missing. Assuming Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains unfit, it certainly improves the German’s chance of retaining a starting spot.
It’s strange how Shkodran Mustafi’s stock has gone up through his being out of action. Given the shortage of genuine and fit centre backs, news that he will only be returning to training this week means that Emery will have to continue to improvise at the back. Nacho Monreal could be fit for today, and having sat out the Burnley game, Laurent Koscielny is another option. And of course Stephan Lichtsteiner and Granit Xhaka could be used again. Frankly, if the Gunners are to stand a chance of getting anything at Anfield, they need to demonstrate some defensive solidity at the Amex. It’s a case of hope rather than expectation on this one.
The Spectre of Glenn Murray
Given Arsenal’s problems at the back, the Seagulls’ main weapon of attack will surely be crosses in to Glenn Murray, with memories of the Southampton defeat fresh in the mind. Murray’s record since moving back to Brighton is fairly decent, with 43 goals from 98 appearances, 20 of those from the bench. Murray has scored against Arsenal for both Palace and Brighton previously. It’s difficult to identify an Arsenal defender who could outjump him if he gets a good delivery, so either the supply has to be stopped or a subtle shove from Sokratis seems the most likely tactic for this particular 6 feet plus problem.
Boxing Day is normally good for Gunners
On the last 13 occasions Arsenal have played on Boxing Day, their record is won 10, drawn 2 and lost just once. However… that defeat came on the south coast. Anyone remember a 4-0 defeat at Southampton at the fag end of 2015… that was the season Arsenal finished runners up to Leicester.
Anyway, let’s leave that and hope that the bookies are right, as they are generally priced around the 4/6 mark for the win with bookmakers such as Betfair and Bet365. You can probably predict that both teams to score is also odds on, as is over 2.5 goals in the game. Remarkably, in all eight Premier League away matches every fixture has seen at least three goals. Given that the opposition invariably get one of those, as likely earners, if you are looking for Premier League Winner Free Bets, you’re probably better not to pin your hopes on a Gunners title.
Because of Arsenal’s defensive woes, I can see another 3-2 scoreline, although I am going to plump for an away victory for Unai Emery’s team today. At least the concession of goals should be leaving the powers that be under no doubt that they have to act in the January transfer window, to rectify this obvious weakness in the squad.