Arsenal came out on top of a six-goal thriller at the Amex Stadium, beating Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points.
Fresh from a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over West Ham United on Boxing Day, Mikel Arteta’s men took the pitch with confidence coursing through their veins.
Only two minutes into the game, Gabriel Martinelli slipped Tariq Lamptey’s mark and forced a diving save from Robert Sanchez.
Unfortunately for Brighton, Bukayo Saka was quickest to react to the rebound, slotting home from point-blank to put the Gunners in front.
Reluctant to take their foot off the gas, Arsenal came agonisingly close to doubling their advantage only three minutes later, but Sanchez denied Oleksandr Zinchenko in a one-on-one.
It turned out the visitors were just warming up. Eddie Nketiah was next to threaten the Seagulls’ goal, yet he fired the ball inches wide of the right post after receiving a pinpoint pass from Martin Odegaard.
Brighton grew into the contest as the match progressed and managed the first shot on goal through Leandro Trossard. However, Aaron Ramsdale pulled off a last-ditch save to keep his net intact.
The Belgium international lined up another shot from inside the box in the 25th minute but only to see the Arsenal goalkeeper deal with his attempt effortlessly.
When it seemed Roberto De Zerbi’s men could fashion a comeback, the Gunners struck again late in the first half to earn a sailing two-point cushion through captain Odegaard.
Saka bent in a left-footed cross into the box from a corner kick, with the Norwegian latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the box, riffling it first time into the right side of Sanchez’s goal.
Arsenal picked up where they left off the in the first half, with Nketiah landing a killer blow two minutes into the second half, stabbing home the rebound after another stellar run from Martinelli.
There was never a way back into this fixture for the Seagulls, but De Zerbi’s substitutes made sure to give Arteta’s team a run for their money.
They refused to give up and were rewarded for their effort as Kaoru Mitoma received a pass inside the box and placed the ball past Ramsdale after the hour mark.
Brighton’s hopes of turning the game on its head collapsed in the 71st minute when Martinelli netted on the counter to restore a three-goal cushion for the Gunners.
When it looked like Arsenal would walk away without a further scratch, William Saliba committed another rookie mistake to help second-half substitute Evan Ferguson score the second for the hosts.
Mitoma then stole the show again, dancing past a few visiting defenders before picking out the bottom corner. He wasn’t fortunate enough to see it stand as VAR spotted his trailing line fractionally offside.
Everything lined up perfectly for the runaway Premier League leaders on New Year’s Eve. After Everton held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad, the Gunners seized the opportunity to extend their lead at the top.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Robert Sanchez (5/10) – It’s difficult to give a goalkeeper a high grade after conceding four times, yet the Spaniard’s numerous stops prevented a greater catastrophe.
Pervis Estupinan (4/10) – Humiliated by Saka time after time, the Ecuadorian left-back was nowhere near the Englishman’s high standards tonight. Come to life when Brighton tried to chase down a two-goal disadvantage.
Lewis Dunk (3/10) – Not nearly as pacey as it was required to keep track of Arsenal’s lightning-fast exchanges in front of Sanchez’s goal.
Levi Colwill (4/10) – Not exactly magnificent, but he did a much better job than his more experienced defensive colleague.
Tariq Lamptey (3/1) – Like his colleague on the opposite flank, the young right-back spent most of the evening chasing Martinelli’s shadow.
Pascal Gross (5/10) – It’s little wonder De Zerbi prefers him over Moises Caicedo. Made numerous clean tackles and delivered a delightful assist to Mitoma.
Billy Gilmour (4/10) – If you’re looking for a definition of what a holding midfielder should do, maybe you should skip the youngster’s highlight from this match.
Solly March (3/10) – Completely cut out of the game, the left-footed forward never came close to giving his team a foothold in this contest.
Adam Lallana (3/10) – Frustratingly slow to move the ball around when it did come his way, the veteran midfielder couldn’t catch a break the whole evening.
Kaoru Mitoma (8/10) – His blistering pace could make a difference against low-profile opponents, but it takes much more than raw talent to penetrate Arsenal’s backline. It took him about an hour to figure out how. Then he added another one. It didn’t count though.
Leandro Trossard (6/10) – Brighton’s best-performing player in the first half by miles, the diminutive forward was the only one to give Ramsdale a reason to worry.
Jeremy Sarmiento – 6/10
Evan Ferguson (7/10) – In addition to scoring, he made the Gunners’ backline sweat over and over again since coming on.
Julio Enciso – 4/10
Aaron Ramsdale (6/10) – Made several comfortable saves to build his confidence early on but still conceded two goals after the break. None of which were his fault.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (6/10) – Such a shame he failed to spice his assured performance up with a goal, but Sanchez was quick off his line to deny him a breakthrough goal in the Arsenal colours.
Gabriel Magalhaes (7/10) – Unlike some of his recent games, the Brazilian looked much more solid on the ball and was ruthless with his tackles as ever.
William Saliba (4/10) – Was his usual haphazard self, gifting Ferguson the second goal with a wayward first touch. Not like his other interventions were brimming with confidence.
Ben White (5/10) – When you have Saka spinning his markers and bursting down the flank, you should at least try to give him a helping hand. The Englishman wasn’t able, though.
Granit Xhaka (6/10) – Not one of his most exciting showings for sure. At least he was error-free on New Year’s Eve.
Thomas Partey (7/10) – You won’t find his name on the stats sheet today, but what a performance he had! Stong with the ball at his feet as he was at winning it back, the Ghanaian enjoyed his game at the Amex.
Bukayo Saka (8/10) – In the right place at the right time to give the Gunners a much-needed early lead and continued to dominate Pervis Estupinan on the flank for the rest of the night.
Martin Odegaard (8/10) – Was a pleasure to watch him do his magic in the front third. In addition to scoring a screamer, he was in the thick of every Arsenal move.
Gabriel Martinelli *MOTM* (9/10) – Twisting and turning the whole night long, causing Lamptey a sizeable headache. After being denied twice by Sanchez, he scored at the third time of asking to seal his match-winning performance on a high.
Eddie Nketiah (6/10) – Tapped in the rebound to build on his scoring exploits against West Ham. It was pretty much all he did tonight.
Kieran Tierney – 6/10
Takehiro Tomiyasu – 5/10
Mohamed Elneny – 5/10
Rob Holding – NA/10
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