Draw with Brighton demonstrates why Arsenal will miss Granit Xhaka

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Draw with Brighton demonstrates why Arsenal will miss Granit Xhaka

Arsenal outclassed on the south coast but escape with a point

Brighton continued to prove that 2021-22 is the year of “Potterball” as the Seagulls well and truly outclassed Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal at the Amex Community Stadium tonight.

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Despite the dominant performance, Arsenal were lucky to escape with a point in the 0-0 affair that was a throw back to last term where Brighton’s performance in front of goal and overall point total were both far below what the expected data showed.

The Gunners only managed just 8-shots (two on target) across the 90-minutes, while Brighton logged nearly three-times that amount (21) but still only tested Aaron Ramsdale directly with the same number of efforts on frame.

And it was the Seagulls that played like the traditional Premier League big-six outfit, boasting 58.2% of the possession and a passing success rate nearly 10% higher; 84%-76%.

The result saw Brighton enter and exit the weekend program joint-second in the table – now on 14-points – while Arsenal failed to extend their three-match winning run, but have temporarily climbed into the top-half.

Absence of Granit Xhaka felt

A Brighton without Yves Bissouma is usually cause for celebration, but in Arsenal’s case, the absence of Granit Xhaka countered the Malian midfielder not making Graham Potter’s match day squad.

Arsenal’s Brighton stalemate shows why Granit Xhaka will be sorely missed

Arsenals Granit Xhaka leaves the pitch after being sent off during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday August 28, 2021. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

It was always going to be tough going for the Gunners without the influential Swiss international deployed in the heart of the team.

The key duopoly of Xhaka and Thomas Partey that was so effective in the second half of last season as Arsenal ran riot to climb within earshot of the European places, is very difficult to replace by default. That issue is magnified when of the current central options at the club only Xhaka boasts the overall package that he brings to the table.

Belgian youngster Sambi Lokonga is a very capable player for his age, but he lacks the refinement that Xhaka has long since received during his spell at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Lokonga and Partey hardly dominated proceedings in midfield this evening, and the amount of second balls that the Seagulls were able to win uncontested just outside the area showed a distinct lack of defensive awareness from the pairing and an inability to read the flow of the match.

It is early doors in Lokonga’s career and there is still time to iron out the kinks to make the aforementioned pair click on the pitch, but should Mikel Arteta fail in that task, Arsenal’s season may be in for an unfortunate – and lengthy – speedbump.

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