FOOTBALL journalist Adam Goodwin (@AGJournalism) shares his verdict on Boxing Day's showdown between Brighton and Arsenal.
Brighton v Arsenal | Wednesday 26th December 2018, 17:15 | Sky Sports
Brighton’s third loss in a row came on the south coast on Saturday, as they were beaten 2-0 by Bournemouth. To make things worse, centre-back Lewis Dunk was sent off and will miss this game against Arsenal – and he has Boxing Day off!
That result leaves the Seagulls 12th and nine points clear of the relegation zone so, although they’re looking pretty cushty in mid-table, they’re not in the clear just yet.
Brighton have a pretty impressive record of consistently scoring at home and, within the last year, have only failed to score in three matches at The Amex. That’s 20 odd games, and some of those games include the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United, and Tuesday’s opponents, Arsenal.
Chris Hughton does have a slight striking dilemma at the moment, however. Glenn Murray, Brighton’s top goalscorer this season, was dropped for the clash with Bournemouth on Saturday and replaced by Dutch striker Jurgen Locadia. Locadia has scored just one goal for the club since his £15 million move from PSV at the start of the year, so it was a bit of a shock to see him partner Florin Andone up-top.
Perhaps Murray was being saved for this game against Arsenal, so don’t be surprised to see the 35-year-old bag on Wednesday – especially as he scored in this fixture last season.
Unlike Brighton, Arsenal prevented a third loss in a row after their 3-1 win over Burnley on Saturday lunchtime. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued his fine run of form with another brace in that game, keeping the Gunners within touching distance of the top four.
The league defeat to Southampton and a cup exit to Tottenham were minor blips in an incredible unbeaten run, and I can see them picking up another three points on Wednesday.
Although their strike force is still firing, their defence is continuing to fall apart. Another defensive injury, this time to Nacho Monreal, means that they’re likely to field a centre-back partnership of Granit Xhaka and potentially a far from fully fit Laurent Koscielny. Murray will relish going up against those two and keeping a clean sheet looks almost an impossibility for Unai Emery’s side.
They’ve kept just one clean sheet when playing away from home in the Premier League in the last year, and that was to a Huddersfield side really struggling to find the back of the net. So, you’d expect Brighton to bag against a makeshift Arsenal defence.
The betting angle
I think Both Teams To Score will undoubtedly land in this one, but I fancy taking a punt and adding in Arsenal to win at 12/5 with Bet365.
Arsenal need to back their win against Burnley up with a victory here, and three points could take them into the top four.
Brighton v Arsenal – Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score (12/5 Bet365)