In a weekend that saw Manchester City and Liverpool flounder their chances to win their respective matches, Arsenal had Kai Havertz to thank for securing a well-earned victory against Brighton. Brighton is a team that has repeatedly troubled the Gunners on numerous occasions in recent times, and it looked the same as the front trio of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus squandering clear-cut opportunities in the first half. Fortunately, Arsenal earned their justice rewards as Gabriel Jesus headed the hosts in front in the 53rd minute before Kai Havertz, probably the most in-form Arsenal player currently, sealed the deal with three minutes left from stoppage time.
Arsenal Broke Brighton Hoodoo with a Well-Balanced Display
As highlighted earlier, Brighton is somewhat of a hoodoo club for Arsenal. For context, Brighton won their last three encounters at the Emirates, including knocking them out of the EFL Cup and ending their title chase with Manchester City last season. Therefore, many home fans remain on high alert as the Seagulls came into the fixture on a momentous high after qualifying in the top spot in their Europa League group.
However, what transpired was a one-sided affair for the hosts, with a 26-6 shot ratio as Arsenal dominated proceedings from the first whistle. Bukayo Saka, in particular, outwitted his counterpart James Milner as the young Englishmen spun his senior left and right, with the latter fortunate to escape a booking before his eventual substitution at the hour mark.
The midfield trio of Declan Rice, Martin Ødegaard and Kai Havertz also worked like a well-oiled machine as they claimed ownership of the pitch. For example, Rice’s physical strength and defensive prowess allowed the other two to venture forward without worry as the Norwegian captain dictated play, allowing Kai Havertz to get into goal-scoring opportunities, which he took with aplomb in his recent outings. Arsenal’s defence remained solid throughout the match as they only limited Brighton to one shot on target and broke the Seagulls goal-scoring run (32) in the Premier League.
32 – Brighton had scored in each of their last 32 Premier League games before today, averaging 2.1 goals, 2 xG and 17 shots per game in that period.
vs. Arsenal: 0 goals, 6 shots and 0.7 xG.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 17, 2023
Kai Havertz Has Now Scored Four Goals in Last Seven Appearances
After a rough start to his Arsenal career with fans demanding him to sit on the bench, Kai Havertz has turned things around from his 007 meme to a must-starter for Mikel Arteta’s side. It all started in October against Bournemouth when captain Ødegaard, who had scored an earlier penalty, gave the ball to Kai Havertz, which the German cooly slotted home for his first goal for the Gunners.
While he did not score in his next eight outings for Arsenal, he showed more confidence and determination on the pitch. In the next matches, he got his rewards against Brentford as he netted the winner in the 89th minute and followed it up with another goal in the UEFA Champions League against Lens.
His purple patch continued against Luton as he scored the equaliser in this dramatic match where Arsenal won 4-3 before netting the sealer today against Brighton. With the fans now on his side chanting his name and bestowing a song for him, Kai Havertz could finally ascend to the player Bayern Leverkusen promised when he moved to the Premier League.
Kai Havertz scores again…and again. pic.twitter.com/eYOm2LpS03
— AfcVIP⁴⁹ (@VipArsenal) December 17, 2023
Mikel Arteta Applauded Kai Havertz and Martin Ødegaard’s Performances
It is not often that Mikel Arteta remained smiling after being brandished a yellow card by the referee for dissent, but he was full of joy in his press conference after the match. He stated: “Outstanding, incredible from the start to the end. Big compliment to the players. Against a top side, we had an incredible performance and fully deserved to win the game.”
Mikel Arteta continued: “We had to be patient but, at the same time, determined against this team. Because the moment you have certain doubts, they start to open you up, frustrate you and dominate with the ball. We didn’t allow that to happen today. We showed a lot of maturity but also intelligence. This game against them requires you to be really intelligent, in certain areas especially, and we have done that in a really good way.”
As for the performances of Kai Havertz and Martin Ødegaard, the Spaniard praised: “Kai Havertz’s confidence is growing, and he feels more secure on that field. His performance, the intelligence he shows on the pitch, the aggression, his work rate, it is top notch. For Martin, he wanted to celebrate his beautiful birthday in a great way, and he’s done it with a win and a huge performance.”
Can Arsenal Pass Their Upcoming Liverpool and West Ham Test with Flying Colours?
The festive period is a crucial moment in the title race for Premier League teams, and often, teams leading at Christmas would go on to win the league in May. However, Arsenal will contest this fact as they topped the table on Christmas Day last year before eventually fading away in the final two months to eventual Champions Manchester City.
Could this year prove any different? For starters, if Arsenal managed to beat Liverpool at Anfield this coming Sunday and inform West Ham United at the Emirates five days later, there is no doubt they will be favourites for the title heading into the new year. On paper, Arsenal’s toughest opposition is Liverpool. With the Reds goalless draw against Manchester United and a loss in their most recent Europa League match, the Gunners will hope to separate themselves from the pack again.
For more football-related news during this busy holiday season, follow AsiaSport for daily updates and high-definition highlights of the top five leagues.
Manchester City 2-2 Crystal Palace
Arsenal 2-0 Brighton
Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
Cheers. 🍷 pic.twitter.com/PIgCT6TCLa
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 17, 2023