Arteta’s Arsenal put themselves 7 points clear at the top of the table

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side sit comfortably at the top of the table, with a seven point buffer separating them from title rivals Manchester City. The New Year’s Eve fixture at the Amex Stadium saw Arsenal emerge 4-2 winners in a thrilling match, having opened the scoring in the second minute.

There were fireworks on and off the pitch as the two sides contested the final Premier League game of the calendar year – with Martin Odegaard delivering a sensational performance once again to highlight just how crucial he is to the side’s success. The captain started in a midfield three, alongside Xhaka and Partey. Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba and White formed the defence, with Ramsdale between the sticks. Martinelli, Nketiah and Saka lined up in attack for the Gunners.

As for Brighton, De Zerbi opted for a 4231 formation that would see Roberto Sanchez in goal, with Estupiñan, Colwill, Dunk and Lamptey just in front of the Spaniard. Pascal Gross and Billy Gilmour formed the defensive midfield partnership – with Mitoma, Lallana and March acting as support for Leandro Trossard who would operate as the sole striker.

Fans had barely had time to find their seats before Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka opened the scoring. Odegaard’s run had been intercepted by Tariq Lamptey, who was dispossessed by Partey. The Ghanaian sent the ball to Martinelli on the edge of the box, who unleashed a powerful strike that fell to Saka’s feet after taking a few deflections. The Englishman duly converted the opportunity, giving the Gunners an early lead and widening the gap to City in the table.

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A fabulous bit of linkup play between Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli resulted in the ball making its way towards Zinchenko – who shot first-time but Sanchez was able to smother his effort.

Brighton did grow into the game as the first half progressed, with Lamptey finding Lallana, who in turn found Trossard. The Belgian’s first-time effort was parried wide by Aaron Ramsdale, with the resulting corner not coming to much for the hosts.

Arsenal’s ‘Captain Fantastic’ doubled the visitors’ lead after 39 minutes, with Odegaard’s half-volley rifling into the back netting having made a blistering run into the box to capitalise on a poor clearance from Saka’s corner. Three yellow cards were issued between the Norwegian’s goal and the half-time interval – with Gilmour, Gabriel and Partey all finding themselves in the book.

Arsenal started the second half just as they had in the first – though this time it was Eddie Nketiah who scored after two minutes to give Arteta’s side a 3-0 lead. Martinelli’s cross into the box had been pushed away by Roberto Sanchez – but only as far as Nketiah who was there to send the ball into the back of the net from close range.

Brighton appeared to emerge from the interval with a renewed confidence, which was evident in their play style despite conceding early on in the second half. Mitoma’s run down the left flank led to a cross towards March in the centre of the box – who was able to shoot, though his effort was blocked by Gabriel.

The hosts continued to apply pressure to the Arsenal defence, as March played in Lallana – who then fed Pascal Gross. The German’s effort glanced wide of the post, but the offside flag was raised anyway. Bukayo Saka was booked for clipping Estupiñan’s heel in a desperate bid to stop the Ecuadorian’s run. He was soon joined by Solly March, who would receive a yellow card for a late challenge on Zinchenko.

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Sanchez was forced into action by William Saliba – who managed to get on the end of Odegaard’s free kick and head it towards goal. His header was straight at the Spanish keeper, however, and posed no real threat. Both managers decided it was time for substitutions – for Arsenal, White and Zinchenko were replaced by Tomiyasu and Tierney, while De Zerbi opted to introduce Ferguson and Sarmiento, with Trossard and Lallana returning to the dugout.

Brighton were able to give their fans something to celebrate after Kaoru Mitoma found the back of the net in the 65th minute – which would go on to inspire a valiant comeback attempt from the Seagulls. The Japanese forward had been played in by Pascal Gross – who had received the ball from Billy Gilmour. Mitoma unleashed a curling shot aswiththe ball headed for the bottom corner, and Ramsdale was unable to make the save.

Gabriel Martinelli shattered hopes of a Brighton comeback after he restored Arsenal’s 3-goal lead, having launched a counterattack. Odegaard sent a pass through to the Brazilian, who then burst into the box and rolled the ball between Sanchez’s legs.

Elneny was brought on to replace Thomas Partey, and Julio Enciso was introduced as Solly March’s replacement for the final fifteen minutes of the fixture – just before Brighton scored another goal to reduce Arsenal’s advantage once again. A long ball over the top of the Arsenal defence from Lewis Dunk found Saliba – but his first touch was poor and Evan Ferguson was poised to punish the Frenchman for his mistake. The substitute lifted his effort over Ramsdale, restoring hope to the thousands of Brighton fans within the ground.

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Jeremy Sarmiento’s attempt to hold up Tierney landed himself in hot water with the referee, who booked the Brighton player for simulation as he dived after realising the tackle wasn’t on.

Martin Odegaard made way as the final substitution of the game, with Rob Holding taking his place shortly before Kaoru Mitoma scored again to send the Amex into furore as the game appeared to be heading towards a frantic finale. Ferguson hadn’t been able to control Gross’ throw-in, and the Japanese forward took over – cutting inside from the left flank before space opened up for him to send a curling shot into the far corner. However, a VAR check showed that Mitoma was narrowly offside and as such, the goal was chalked out.

Brighton weren’t ruling themselves out just yet, though. Gross delivered a corner to the middle of the box, meeting the head of Lewis Dunk – but his effort was glared over the bar. Gross was presented with another chance in the final minute, having received the ball from Sarmiento. His low strike was met by Ramsdale, with the referee blowing to signal the end of the match.

Arsenal escaped a spirited Brighton comeback in the second half, and return to the Emirates with all three points. The Gunners remain at the top of the table, where their lead over Manchester City extends to seven points. As for Brighton, they drop to eighth. The Seagulls are next in action on Tuesday, as they head to Goodison Park where they’ll be expecting to secure a victory against a struggling Everton side. Arsenal also play on Tuesday, hosting Newcastle United in a top of the table clash – the Magpies currently sit in third. Both fixtures kick off at 19:45 UK time.

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