Arsenal will not take part in the newly-formed Europa Conference League next season despite beating Graham Potter’s Brighton side who offered little in an attacking sense despite proving difficult to break down.
Two goals from the in-form Nicolas Pepe were enough to hand Arsenal their fifth Premier League win in a row, the most consecutive victories the Gunners have enjoyed since the early days of the Unai Emery era.
Results elsewhere did not fall in Arsenal’s favour, with fierce local rivals Tottenham beating FA Cup winners Leicester City though Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton were on the receiving end of a rampant Manchester City display.
Mikel Arteta was an animated figure throughout the afternoon, desperate to see his side qualify for some form of European football next season – something that seemed unfathomable before the Christmas period with the Gunners sitting four points off the drop zone.
Tottenham’s victory also ensured the Gunners finish below their neighbours yet again, with some form of European football only being played in one half of North London next year.
Glimpses of the Thomas Partey Arsenal thought they had bought
The £45m pound man has struggled to adjust to life at the Emirates since his arrival in September, his debut season littered with injuries and poor form.
However, there have been flashes of the kind of talent that saw the Ghanaian establish himself as a mainstay in a Diego Simeone-led Atletico Madrid side that were one of the best on the continent.
Partey’s best attributes were on display against Brighton, with deft touches paired with an athleticism the Gunners have lacked in recent years – the 27-year-old won the midfield battle over Yves Bissouma, who Gunners fans will be hoping is lining up alongside Partey, rather than against him.
The midfielder has received plenty of criticism over his wayward shooting in a Gunners shirt, and though he is yet to bag his first goal in an Arsenal shirt, his efforts actually tested Brighton shot-stopper Robert Sanchez rather than trouble the Emirates faithful behind the goal – even hitting the crossbar midway through the second period.
Gunners slow start woes continue
Throughout this desperate domestic campaign, Arsenal’s most potent period within the game has often come between the 45th and 60th minute, with the Gunners accused of taking far too long to settle into contests.
This was evident yet again as the first-half passed Arteta’s side by without any real chances created, central defender Gabriel Magalhaes coming closest as his lofted header hit the frame of the goal.
The first 45 minutes at the Emirates was the only game of all ten in the Premier League to pass by without a goal.
Brighton were rarely troubled in the first half, with the visitors actually spending much of the opening exchanges attacking against a deep Arsenal block, Bernd Leno forced to collect a number of crosses as Arteta’s men proved resilient against an early wave of Brighton pressure.
Brighton’s impotent attack
Graham Potter has earned plenty of plaudits for the style of football he has implemented at the Amex, but if there has been one lingering critique it is how poor the Seagulls are in front of goal.
Though they were forced to make the trip to North London without main man Neal Maupay, Brighton enjoyed spells in the Arsenal final third, despite the attacking edge that has abandoned them for much of this season continuing to evade them.
Aaron Connolly had Brighton’s best chance of the afternoon, shanking his effort well wide despite boasting sufficient space in the Arsenal penalty area, his attempt the kind of shot you would expect from a player who has scored just two Premier League goals all season.
Nicolas Pepe’s purple patch
The Ivorian winger signed off his second full season at Arsenal in style, scoring his fourth goal in two games after his brace against Crystal Palace was followed by a yet another double to guide Arsenal to their fifth successive victory.
Pepe has struggled to shake off the constant talk of his hefty £72m price tag, given he has hardly the Premier League alight since his arrival.
However, the 25-year-old was rewarded for his mid-week efforts at Selhurst Park with yet another start – something he has found hard to come by since touching down in North London from French outfit Lille.
Much of the Arsenal fanbase were hoping his second full season at the club could be the campaign that saw Arsenal’s record signing kick-on and prove his worth, and while that hasn’t entirely been the case – Pepe’s sixteenth goal in all competitions will offer both him and the fans some hope the 2021/22 season will bring performances of this calibre.
Bissouma impresses in potential audition
Few names have been touted with a move to the Emirates more than Yves Bissouma, who was comfortably the best player in a Brighton shirt, making a number of vital interceptions over the course of the afternoon.
Though the Mali international struggled to deal with Thomas Partey’s impressive performance, both Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard had their pockets picked via trademark Bissouma tackles.
Arsenal are not the only Premier League side to reportedly register interest in the midfielder, with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool also keeping tabs on Bissouma.
Josh Kroenke of Arsenal’s owners KSE was present in the crowd, and his family may be forced to get their chequebook out in the summer if they want to win the race for Bissouma’s signature.