ALL GUNN WRONG
IT has looked like a fool’s errand for a few weeks now, but Arsenal’s vain pursuit of the Premier League crown is all but finished after this desperate home defeat.
Manchester City will surely clinch their fifth title in six seasons next weekend, after the concession of soft goals to Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav and Pervis Estupinan summed up a shoddy and irritable display from Mikel Arteta’s men.
The title race is all but over after Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at home to Brighton
The Gunners were swept aside by the Seagulls
Mikel Arteta’s side could hand Manchester City the title with a defeat against Nottingham Forest next week
Julio Enciso scored the opener at the Emirates
City will be confirmed as champions if they beat Chelsea at home next Sunday – but their coronation could arrive a day earlier if Arsenal lose at Nottingham Forest.
Arteta’s side had been magnificent for the vast majority of this season but their lack of experience and squad depth has cost them in a run of just two wins from their last seven games.
Brighton, who have now won on four of their last five visits to the Emirates, are well on course to qualify for Europe for the first time in their history.
And although the match was ill-tempered and ragged, Brighton deserved their victory.
If last Sunday’s impressive win at Newcastle had renewed Arsenal’s hope, then City’s emphatic victory at Everton earlier in the day was another sobering example of the problem with this title race – City are just too damned good.
Brighton had suffered an extraordinary 5-1 home defeat against the Toffees but they put that right here and look nailed-on for a place in the Europa League next season.
Assessment of players on the field
The violent opening exchanges looked like highlights from the infamous 1970 FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leeds, it was punctuated by fouls and injury stoppages, with the ball pretty much an afterthought.
Martin Odegaard was poleaxed by a ball in the face from Estupinan, Gabriel Martinelli floored Kaoru Mitouma with a flying body-charge,
which was avenged when Moises Caicedo caught the Arsenal winger on the ankle.
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Ref Andrew ‘Truly Madly’ Madley opted for appeasement, failing to show a yellow card when he might have dished out half a dozen.
Martinelli eventually limped off, replaced by former Albion man Leandro Trossard.
Gabriel Martinelli escaped punishment for this challenge on Kaoru Mitoma
Moises Caicedo brought Martinelli down just minutes later, with the Arsenal man then forced off with an injury
Martinelli was then seen wearing a protective boot on his left foot
During the occasional outbreaks of football, Aaron Ramsdale pushed wide a rising effort from Enciso and Gabriel Jesus was denied by Jason Steele’s boot when he tried to sneak one in at the near post.
Brighton’s desire to play out from the back looked more like an obsessive compulsive disorder than a game-plan and Arsenal were having some joy by pressing Brighton high and and forcing a string of mishaps.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, who makes Arteta look like the Dalai Lama, was in a permanent stage of rage, kicking his seat.
Trossard was soon cutting in from the left and clattering a shot against the bar.
Madley finally got his yellow card in the 34th minute to caution Estupinan for the most innocuous foul of the lot.
The officiating was then summed up by assistant Constantine Hatzidakis – the man who clobbered Andy Robertson – flagging for an offside against Arsenal direct from a throw-in.
Mitoma toasted Ben White and centred for Enciso to blaze over when he ought to have scored – but Bukayo Saka pinged a shot narrowly wide in injury-time.
Frustrations were rising around the Emirates even before Brighton scored an incredibly soft opener on 51 minutes.
Etupinan’s initial cross was headed out by Kieran Tierney but when the Ecuador full-back scuffed his second effort, Arsenal centre-half Jakub Kiwior had gone down clutching his ankle, allowing Enciso score from close range with a free header.
Arteta hauled off his central midfield duo of Jorginho and Granit Xhaka, sending on Thomas Partey and Reiss Nelson, while De Zerbi was positive in introducing former Gunner Danny Welbeck as an extra forward.
Arteta was booked for gobbing off and he wasn’t the only Arsenal man lacking composure as a succession of attacks broke down in the final third.
After Alexis Mac Allister had fizzed a shot wide, Arteta made a desperate double substitution, replacing Odegaard and Jesus with Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah.
But Brighton’s second goal was as avoidable as the first from Arsenal’s point of view.
Ramsdale’s pass to Trossard saw the Belgian mugged by Pascal Gross who fed Undav to lob the keeper.
Estupinan added a third in injury-time after Ramsdale could only push Undav’s shot into his path.
Deniz Undav doubled Brighton’s lead
Pervis Estupinan put the icing on the cake for Brighton in injury time