Xhaka at left-back?! Arteta facing flak after Arsenal's Champions League bid rocked by Brighton blow

Bukayo Saka Arsenal Brighton Premier League 2021-22Getty

Arsenal 1-2 Brighton: Match Statistics

Advantage Tottenham!

This was supposed to be the day that Arsenal posted a positive response to a damaging defeat at Crystal Palace, but instead it felt like the moment that the race for the Champions League swung firmly in the direction of their north London rivals.

Mikel Arteta’s side were beaten 2-1 by Brighton on Saturday afternoon and, with just eight Premier League games remaining, they now have it all to do if they want to secure themselves a top four spot.

Leandro Trossard scored the opening goal of the game for the visitors on 28 minutes and a fabulous strike by Enock Mwepu doubled their advantage midway through the second half.

Arsenal did pull a goal back late on through a deflected Martin Odegaard strike but, by then, it was too little, too late.

Up until the final few minutes, the hosts looked void of any sort of ideas, with the changes made by Arteta to fill the gaps left by the injured Keran Tierney and Thomas Partey leaving his team looking totally unbalanced.

Arsenal offered next to nothing all afternoon against a Brighton side who had gone into the game with just one win and one goal in their last seven league games.

It was a disastrous day for the Gunners and for Arteta, who will now come in for some severe criticism for how he lined his team up.

Mikel Arteta Arsenal Brighton Premier League 2021-22 GFX

After Nuno Tavares’ poor performance at Selhurst Park on Monday night, the Arsenal boss opted to use Granit Xhaka at left-back in the absence of Tierney.

But with Partey also missing because of injury, that left the home side woefully short in midfield.

Arsenal couldn’t get any sort of control as a result and Brighton went through the 90 minutes almost completely untroubled.

They did get one stroke of luck when Gabriel Martinelli had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR just before half-time, but other than that, the visitors’ defence barely had to break sweat until the final few minutes when Odegaard’s strike set up a grandstand finish.

There is, of course, still time to arrest this slump, but it’s difficult to see Arsenal coming back from the events of the past week.

Back-to-back to defeats have sucked the life out of their top-four bid and the injuries to Tierney and Partey has left an already small squad looking woefully short of what is required to finish the season with a flourish.

If they are to have any chance of keeping their Champions League dream alive, Arteta must find a way of coming up with a system that makes up for the loss of two of his most influential players because the one he used against Brighton was not fit for purpose.

Eddie Nketiah Arsenal Brighton Premier League 2021-22 GFX

Using Xhaka at left-back and having Odegaard so deep in midfield left Arsenal unable to get any sort of foothold in the game.

It was no surprise that the Gunners looked at their most threatening late on when Odegaard was able to operate in the final third after some late attacking changes gave him more licence to go forward.

Arteta’s side go to Southampton next weekend and then they face Chelsea and Manchester United in the space of just three days.

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They now have no room for error in any of those games if they want to ensure the keep pace with a Tottenham side who have found their form just at the moment that Arsenal’s has fallen off a cliff.

When they won at Aston Villa on March 19, it looked like Arteta’s side had one foot in the Champions League, but the way things are looking now, they could even find themselves in a battle to secure a Europa League spot.

What a difference a few weeks make!