Arsenal and Brighton and Hove Albion are more similar than I previously thought

Arsenal and Brighton and Hove Albion are more similar than I previously thought. Arsenal, renowned for being the best passing team in the land, are as pleasing on the eye (on their day) as Barcelona who are without a doubt one of the best teams of modern times. They ooze class from front to back and have one of the best strikers in world football. However, the class at the back has looked as delicate as glass over recent years and doesn’t look any closer to being rectified. As for Brighton, they are clearly up there with the best passers in the Championship. Gus Poyet’s footballing philosophy which has been molded in his time at Real Zaragoza, Spurs and Chelsea and meant Brighton ran away with League One last year, looking much stronger this time around. The ball-playing centre halves, energetic midfield and tireless runners-up front have made Brighton and the AMEX Arena a foreboding prospect for any visiting team.

So let us look and compare. When Wojciech Szczesny forced his way into the Arsenal first-team there were still many doubters about his future prospects. He was at fault for the Carling Cup final defeat and looked nervy when coming for crosses last season. Now he really is the real deal. His brilliant shot-stopping, improving distribution and control of his area are his strongest attributes and I have little doubt he will be the No.1 for many years to come. Brighton’s Goalkeeping situation is where some issues need to be addressed. Although Casper Ankergren makes the occasional world-class save (eg. vs Spearing mid-week) he is undoubtedly weak in his decision-making and positioning at times. If Brighton were to strengthen here with someone like Kasper Schmeichel or Frankie Fielding Albion would be a real force.

In defence both teams have limitations. Albion shipped three against Liverpool and Arsenal conceded eight and four against Man United and Blackburn respectfully. Marcos Painter, Inigo Calderon, Gordon Greer and Lewis Dunk are the regular starters for Brighton (although Arsenal are reportedly interested in 19-year-old Dunk) and they work well together. The full-backs constantly support their wingers and are rarely caught out of position and Greer, who was absent for much of last season, has sured up the Brighton defence without Adam El-Abd. They pass the ball though. Some Premiership teams could take a look at these tactics. Ankergren’s hoof up field cost Albion possession against Leeds with seconds remaining and consequently a place at the top of the table. Whereas look at Victor Valdes; he rarely launches the ball long preferring to look for a team-mate. I know comparing Brighton to Barca may seem a stretch too far but with practice on the training pitch it is not impossible. Arsenal’s leaky defence looks no closer to being made water-tight than Joey Barton sending Karl Henry some flowers but a clean-sheet this week has made given the likes of Mertesacker and Koscielny a well-timed boost. Especially with Spurs to come next. Without Vermaelen things will always be shaky. Koscielny was a titan against Borussia Dortmund but horrific against Blackburn days later. And a defensive coach STILL won’t be brought in. Hmm.

Alex Song and Liam Bridcutt have similarities. Bridcutt’s distribution and calm demeanor on the ball has made him into one of the most effective defensive midfielders in the Championship. Against Liverpool he had to mark Luis Suarez, which is hard enough for most top flight enforcers. Although he struggled in the first-half he did much better in the second period and brought stability to the Albion midfield. Song’s power and upper-body strength is something Bridcutt could look at. If he was to bulk up a bit he could definitely fit this role. Dicker and Ramsey both have brilliant engines. Tireless runners make them crucial to their team’s success and everyone loves playing with someone who will cover their backs if they fall out of position. Brighton have wingers that would do a lot for Arsenal. Lua Lua, Buckley and Noone commit defenders and run into channels. Arsenal’s wide-men all cut-inside, except Theo Walcott who doesn’t even want to play on the wing. The sooner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain makes the step up the better.

Up-front both teams have quality. Mackail-Smith was an excellent, albeit pricey, buy and he really causes defenders a lot of grief. He runs at them, stands on the shoulder of the last defender and runs in behind. Not only this but he can score any type of goal. His first goal against Leeds showed outrageous skill and he has a habit of popping up in the right place. Ashley Barnes is Albion’s top scorer in the League and I wonder if there is a more accomplished penalty taker in the land? Even thought the goal-keeper may know where it is going there is no-way to get up that high and cover the entire goal. Arsenal only really have Robin Van Persie up front but this is more than enough.He scored his 100th goal for Arsenal against Bolton and became Arsenal’s 17th centurion in the process. Van Persie is as technical as they come. Brighton have just signed Dennis Bergkamp’s second cousin Roland  and I would very much like to see what he can do. Bergkamp is one of the greatest players to ever wear the red-and-white and I wonder if Roland can produce some magic in the blue-and-white.

So Brighton and Arsenal are not that dissimilar. Who knows they may be playing each other in nine months. Now that’s a prospect to savour.

´╗┐Luke Lambert

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