Alexandre Lacazette scored within a minute of coming on as a second-half substitute to help Arsenal beat Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday.and end the year with back-to-back wins in the 2020-21 Premier League.
There was very little of note in the first half, as both sides, who came into the game in 15th and 16th place respectively in the Premier League table, looked bereft of ideas and struggled to create any meaningful chances.
However, the second half began with much more energy and intent from both sides, but the game’s only turning point arrived in the 65th minute when Lacazette replaced Gabriel Martinelli for the visitors.
Within a minute of his introduction, the French striker had the ball in the back of the net, taking a touch to tee himself up after receiving Bukayo Saka's cutback before firing an accurate near-post finish past Robert Sanchez to give his side the lead.
Despite their best efforts to get back on level terms, the home side were left to rue their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal while the Arsenal defence held firm to maintain their clean sheet and secure the three points.
The win sees Mikel Arteta’s men move up to 13th in the league table while their opponents sit perilously close to the relegation zone in 17th place. On that note, let's have a look at Arsenal player ratings in a game that produced a positive year-end result for the embattled Gunners.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
After suffering a season-ending injury in this fixture last season, Arsenal’s goalkeeper Bernd Leno enjoyed a happier return to the Amex Stadium this time around.
Barring one nervy moment in the first half that involved a bobbling back-pass, Leno was supremely confident in his ball-handling and was well worth the clean sheet.
Hector Bellerin: 5/10
Although Hector Bellerin's regular forward runs allowed Brighton large amounts of space down Arsenal’s right flank in the first half, the player tightened up in the second period and concentrated more on his defensive duties, especially after his side took the lead.
Rob Holding: 5/10
Like many of his teammates, Rob Holding recovered from a nervy first-half showing and grew more and more comfortable as the match wore on. He dealt competently with the threat posed by Alireza Jahanbakhsh and subsequently Maupay, helping Arsenal keep their clean sheet intact.
Pablo Mari: 6/10
In addition to performing his defensive duties, Pablo Mari also assumed the responsibility of bringing the ball out from the back on occasion before following his Arsenal teammates in focusing on defence in the second half.
Kieran Tierney: 7/10
It was yet another impressive showing at left-back for Kieran Tierney, whose displays on and off the pitch have already put in motion conversations about him being a future Arsenal captain.
He defended adeptly and got forward well, delivering a number of searching crosses into the box for his strikers to attack.
Mohamed Elneny: 5/10
Mohamed Elneny did the defensive part of his duties with minimum fuss and formed a fairly effective shield in front of his defenders. However, the Egyptian was sloppy when in possession and turned the ball over in dangerous positions on a few occasions.
Granit Xhaka: 5/10
It was a fairly uneventful outing for Swiss international Granit Xhaka , who tended to sit back alongside Elneny and concentrate on defending rather than join up with the attack. Xhaka took up a position as a third centre-back when Brighton came forward with intent.
Bukayo Saka: 8/10
Arguably Arsenal’s player of the season thus far, Bukayo Saka was electrifying down the wings, showcasing his pace and trickery as he got in behind the Brighton defence time and again.
Saka left Dan Burn for dead, stormed down the right flank and set up Lacazette for the opener before he was forced off in the final ten minutes of the game after picking up a knock.
Emile Smith Rowe: 6/10
With promising displays full of clever running and precise passing in an attacking midfield role against Chelsea and now against Brighton, young Englishman Emile Smith Rowe is playing himself into contention for a regular starting berth as Arsenal look to revive their season going into 2021.
Gabriel Martinelli: 5/10
Young Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli put in another energetic display full of running, cleverly switching positions with his fellow attackers at regular intervals to keep the Brighton defence guessing. Martinelli was taken off after 65 minutes as he works his way back to full match-fitness.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5/10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grew into the game in the second half after an anonymous 45 minutes following his return from a calf injury.
Arsenal’s captain found himself in a few promising positions in front of goal but failed to find the target.
Ratings of Arsenal Substitutes:
Alexandre Lacazette: 7/10
It was straight from the subs bench to the scoresheet for Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette. He gave Arsenal the lead within 30 seconds of coming on to replace Martinelli and bagged his third goal in as many games.
Dani Ceballos: N.A.
On the pitch for the final 10 minutes, Dani Ceballos got stuck into a few tackles but offered little else, as his side focused on preserving their lead.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: N.A.
Ainsley Maitland Niles replaced Smith Rowe for the final few minutes of the game but hardly got a touch of the ball during his time on the pitch.Published 30 Dec 2020, 02:25 IST