Five things we learned as Arsenal draw 1-1 with Brighton to end top-four chances
A penalty for both sides saw Arsenal draw 1-1 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, all but ending Unai Emery side’s chances of a top-four finish this season.
Talented striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave the home side the perfect start, converting from the penalty spot inside the opening 10 minutes of the match.
However, Brighton were awarded their own penalty in the second half, which Glenn Murray tucked away to draw Brighton level. Aubameyang missed a late chance from eight yards out, later on, personifying Arsenal’s lack of clinical ability in front of goal on Sunday afternoon.
The referee blew for full-time with Arsenal knowing that a top-four place was now realistically out of reach this season.
Here are five things we learnt as Arsenal draw 1-1 with Brighton, thus ending their top-four chances.
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1. Arsenal miss out on top four
Unai Emery’s side knew they had to get a win today to ensure they gave themselves a fighting chance of finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
However, they couldn’t fight back from Murray’s penalty kick and thus are enforced to watch London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur finish above them in the Premier League pecking order.
Arsenal's Premier League home form in Arsène Wenger's final season vs. Unai Emery's first:
Points: 47-45#WengerIn? pic.twitter.com/kyg3kL8zhb
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 5, 2019
Chelsea are guaranteed a place in the Champions League, four points clear of the Gunners, whereas Spurs have a better goal difference than Arsenal, meaning, barring a massive eight-goal swing – and a Spurs loss – Arsenal can’t make the top-four.
They have recently dropped points against the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and now Brighton, all games in which they were expected to pick up maximum points.
It would have been a massive achievement for Emery in his first season at the club but he will know that results such as today are the difference between themselves and the sides above them.
2. Aubameyang still in ‘Golden boot’ contention
Signed from Borussia Dortmund last season, the forward didn’t take too long to adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Now almost at the end of his first full season in England, everyone has a better idea of what the Arsenal striker can do.
This afternoon, he looked lively and it didn’t take too long for him to register his name on the scoresheet, calmly converting Arsenal’s penalty in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
That was his 20th goal of the campaign, leaving him level with both Sergio Aguero and Sadio Mane but still two behind Liverpool’s starman Mohamed Salah with one game remaining.
Aubamayang could have cut that gap in half had he converted a chance from eight-yards out late on but he volleyed the ball wide of Brighton & Hove Albion’s goal.
3. Europa League becomes a necessity
The draw this afternoon leaves Arsenal out of reach of the Champions League, at least via a domestic door.
Emery will now know that the only realistic way his side can get back into Europe’s biggest competition is by winning the Europa League.
One positive is that Arsenal hold a 3-1 advantage over Valencia in the Europa League semi-final heading into the second leg, which is to be in Spain this week.
A win today would have put less pressure on that tie but now there is so much at stake, it’ll be interesting to see how Emery and his squad can hold their nerve in a surely hostile and intimidating environment.
A poor result out in Spain will not allow Emery and company to enjoy their summers, with Arsenal fans demanding Champions League football next campaign.
4. Murray hits 200
Who would have thought at the age of 35, Glenn Murray would still be one of the most important and influential players in the Brighton squad?
After falling behind, most would have believed Arsenal would push on and find more goals to ensure their top-four race went down to the final day next Sunday.
⚽️ 200 senior club career goals for @OfficialBHAFC’s Glenn Murray – breakdown by competition:
54 League 1
31 League 2
8 FA Cup
4 League Cup
1 Football League Trophy pic.twitter.com/YP0pWDHBU7
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 5, 2019
However, after Solly March was fouled, Murray was the man to step up and draw his side level, as a result, scoring his 200th goal in professional football.
35 of those have come in the Premier League with Brighton and rivals Crystal Palace, but this one today ensured a happy journey home for the south coast side, who knew they would be playing top-flight football again next season prior to kick-off.
5. Xhaka can’t resist a penalty
Today was a vitally important game for Arsenal, who could not afford to pick up anything but maximum points in their pursuit of Champions League football.
Their form of late hasn’t been great but that has been partly down to individual errors, with today’s fool-guy being Granit Xhaka. The Switzerland international struggled in their last Premier League outing at Leicester City and today he was the man to allow Brighton back into the match.
Granit Xhaka has now given away four penalties in the Premier League since joining Arsenal in summer 2016, more than any other player has conceded for a single team in that timeframe.
Guilty again. ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/F348JDuCrA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 5, 2019
With Albion winger Solly March heading towards the box, Xhaka’s ill-advised attempt to tackle the on-rushing March led to Brighton being awarded a penalty kick.
It means the Arsenal defensive midfielder has now given away more penalties (4) than any other player since he joined the club in 2016.