Arsenal lost 3-1 at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in the League cup, it was Arsenal’s first home defeat in 12 matches, the last also being at the hands of perfidious Albion.
Here in North America we couldn’t watch the match. The commentary was live on the dot com, with images of the commentators looking annoyed when Arsenal made mistakes. But that was the thin gruel of coverage I received for this one.
I didn’t listen/watch to the entire match but I did catch enough of the reaction from the two commentators to know that Arsenal had a mixed bag of play for this match. Apparently we were more dominant to start the second half, giving lots of energy, and were caught out against the run of play for their second goal. I take solace in the fact that Arteta after the match praised his players for their efforts.
“Losing is [disappointing], but the way the boys tried and played, and the amount of changes that we had to make because of the congestion and we have to protect the players and give them chances. I’m really happy with that, but obviously, we wanted to continue in the competition and unfortunately, we are out.”
On the one hand many are pleased or at least non-plussed about the loss. Arsenal have to make up two matches (Everton and Man City) when football returns after the World Cup, and so there’s a level of relief at the idea that one more stopper has been pulled out to relieve fixture congestion.
But there’s an equally legitimate worry that the Arsenal backups aren’t quite at the level needed to push all the way in a title challenge. If Arsenal are a band, the starters are playing some fine fine music. So, we are hoping the backups sing like the Supremes but time and again they hit a note so sour that they seem to sound like the guy who backed Joe Cocker at Woodstock.
While I can’t say for certain that’s what happened yesterday we have seen Arsenal hit sour notes recently in the Europa Leagues and now the League Cup with our backups. Arteta suggested after the match, however, that he was more pleased with this performance and was ready to forgive the players, depending on their reaction to the defeat.
Which is another way to look at a loss like this: the 2nd string needs matches, and even defeats, to get themselves fit enough and experienced enough to step in when the openings appear. And there will be openings. Arsenal resume League football on December 26th and from then until the end of the season the schedule is going to be packed with FA Cup, Europa League, and Premier League matches.
Many of the Arsenal first team are heading to Qatar for the World Cup (Benjamin White was selected today along with Saka, Ramsdale, and as we know Jesus and Martinelli were selected for Brazil) and those players will almost certainly return with fitness problems and even probably some injuries. The opportunities are going to be there for the players who played yesterday to play more first team matches. We need them fit and firing and the only way to get that is for them to play.
Losing to Brighton isn’t ideal but reading in to what Arteta said after the match, it feels like he was happier with the way that we played than the score line would suggest. That bodes well for the backups and the first team. We can’t have players hitting sour notes when Arsenal face Newcastle, Spurs, and Man U when Arsenal play them on January 3rd, 14th, and 21st.