Match Review – Arsenal 2-0 Brighton

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Brighton’s first ever visit to the Emirates was more like an afternoon at the theatre than a game of Premier League football.

Lots of people don’t go to the Emirates to support Arsenal, they go to take selfies, be tourists or be entertained as you would at the theatre. And to be fair to Arsenal they did the entertaining part against us with their second goal in particular, a move that went from Petr Cech at one end through about 12 passes and a ridiculous blind back heel from Alex Sanchez to Alexis Iwobi who finished it off.

But as a result of that desire to be entertained, the atmosphere is almost theatre like with its silence. We’ve never been to a game where the support has been so quiet and that was with nearly 60,000 (allegedly) in the stadium, one of, if not the biggest crowd the Albion have ever played a league game in front of. Even Hartlepool away when we had a total of 97 supporters for an FA Cup first round replay in 2008 had a better atmosphere. And Colin Hawkins was playing so everything was right with the world.

It made Withdean under Dean Wilkins in 2006 when the likes of Chesterfield and Blackpool were all leaving the Theatre of Trees with three points seen like a cauldron of noise. The Emirates may be a beautiful stadium to look at but give us trips to Brunton Park or Spotland any day of the week over that library.

The Albion players obviously don’t feel the same way. They are clearly loving the prospect of taking on the best players in the world at the best stadiums in the world. They treated this as if it were an FA Cup third round game against opponents from four division higher, being out on the pitch an hour and a half before kick off to take selfies and photos of the ground and then swapping shirts at the final whistle. If anything, it was giving Arsenal a little too much respect. Every one of the Albion players has earned the right to be there on level terms with Arsenal and the sooner they start believing they belong at that level and will be visiting the Emirates every season rather than treating it as a one off tourists game, the better.

Three players in particular certainly looked liked they belonged yesterday. We seem to say this every week now, but again Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy were outstanding, blocking and heading everything clear. Both look more than capable of moving on to bigger and better things than the Albion and the fact that Sky Bet are still offering 20/1 on Dunk to make the World Cup squad could be the most enjoyable way to make money in the next year with the possible exception of becoming a sperm donor.

Maty Ryan was the other player who shone, taking full advantage of the fact he had to face a barrage of shots to pull off some excellent saves. The arrival of Tim Krul and some competition for the number one shirt has done wonders for Ryan and, being the slightly twatish website that we are, we’d have loved a window into David Stockdale’s mind when he was sat in the stands watching Birmingham City concede six against Hull at the weekend. Hopefully those extra noughts in his bank account are worth it.

Chris Hughton surprised everyone by making a couple of changes. Markus Suttner and Anthony Knockaert both dropped to the bench with Gaetan Bong and José Izquierdo coming in. Izzy Brown also returned from injury and ploughed a lonely furrow up front on what must have been a frustrating afternoon for the young Chelsea forward.

Brown’s skillset isn’t really suited to playing as a lone striker. He was signed predominantly as a number 10 or wide player and the fact that he was forced into the unfamiliar role highlights that, no matter what the club and players tried to tell us about the transfer window, not signing a forward was a major cock up. That opinion was reinforced when Glenn Murray came on for the final 15 minutes, his bustling physical presence immediately causing Arsenal problems. Had we had an actual striker available for the 90 minutes rather than the square peg in a round hole that was Brown, it may not have been so comfortable for the Gunners.

Nacho Monreal scored the first with a quarter of an hour played, shooting through a crowd of players after we’d made a bit of a hash out of clearing free kick. Solly March clipped a post shortly after and the only other chance of note for the Albion came when Murray headed just off target from a Pascal Gross cross.

There was however one difference between the Emirates and a theatre and that is you never leave the theatre early. The Arsenal exodus before the end was even greater than that which regularly happens at the Amex, which is saying something.

We go back to the Amex in two weeks time for the visit of Everton, a game that looks much more winnable than it did at the start of the season given their recent struggles. Could the Albion pick up three points despite the array of expensive talent Ronald Koeman signed in the summer? Possibly, but one thing is for certain – this won’t be another Sunday lunchtime game in which it is so quiet you can doze off. Thank Christ for that.

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