Arsenal 1-1 Brighton: Gunners top-four bid all but over
Report and highlights as the Gunners are held at home to Brighton
Last Updated: 05/05/19 10:20pm
Arsenal's bid for a top-four finish is all but over after Unai Emery's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton on Renault Super Sunday.
Following Chelsea's win over Watford earlier in the day, Unai Emery's side knew nothing but a win would do in the race to finish in the top four and they took an early lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's ninth-minute penalty after Nacho Monreal was brought down by Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
However, the Gunners were pegged back by Glenn Murray's second-half penalty (61) after Granit Xhaka tripped Solly March, leaving them three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with one game remaining.
Arsenal could still secure a fourth-placed finish but it would require them to win at Burnley and Spurs to lose against Everton with an eight-goal swing.
Realistically, Arsenal's only remaining chance of Champions League qualification is through winning the Europa League.
"We wanted to win today and we worked in the Premier League to be with the possibility of getting into the top four but today we lost the chance," said boss Unai Emery. "Now, it's too big [the gap]."
Arsenal: Leno (6), Lichtsteiner (6), Mustafi (6), Sokratis (6), Monreal (5), Xhaka (5), Torreira (6), Ozil (6), Mkhitaryan (6), Lacazette (6), Aubameyang (7).
Subs: Iwobi (6), Kolasinac (6), Guendouzi (5).
Brighton: Ryan (8), Bruno (7), Duffy (8), Dunk (9), Bernardo (7), March (8), Stephens (7), Bissouma (6), Jahanbakhsh (5), Gross (6), Murray (7).
Subs: Knockaert (6), Andone (6), Kayal (n/a).
Man of the match: Lewis Dunk
Top-four: The situation
ℹ️ Chelsea will play in the Champions League next season— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 5, 2019
ℹ️Tottenham need a point to confirm qualification
ℹ️ If Spurs lose, Arsenal would have to win & turn around an 8 goals worse GD (or win the Europa League)
ℹ️ Man Utd will play in the Europa League next season pic.twitter.com/D57F72JxzS
Arsenal bid to win the Europa League
Arsenal are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Spain to face Valencia for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final.
The Gunners hold a 3-1 advantage after the first leg at the Emirates Stadium last Thursday.
How Arsenal slipped up
Everything looked to be going Arsenal's way when Aubameyang scored from the penalty spot after Monreal went down under seemingly minimal contact from Jahanbakhsh.
Referee Anthony Taylor took his time before pointing to the spot Aubameyang made no mistake, sending Ryan the wrong way to score his 20th Premier League goal of the campaign.
⚽️ Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang becomes the 4th player to reach 20 PL goals this season - is only the 3rd player in the last 11 seasons to score 20+ goals in PL for Arsenal— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 5, 2019
18/19 - Aubameyang (20)
16/17 - Sanchez (24)
11/12 - Van Persie (30) pic.twitter.com/nyBX4Y4WAy
However, the Gunners couldn't maintain their bright start as Brighton grew into the game.
Brighton dominated the ball early in the second-half and they almost drew level when March forced Bernd Leno into action at his near-post
They found an equaliser in the 61st minute, though, when referee Taylor awarding the visitors a penalty after Xhaka tripped March.
Just like Aubameyang in the first-half, Murray tucked the spot kick away with minimal fuss for his 200th senior goal.
The leveller drew a response from Arsenal and Aubameyang had their best chance to win the game but he fired a volley wide from eight yards
Emery made a triple substitution with Alex Iwobi, Matteo Guendouzi and Sead Kolasinac all introduced for the final 15 minutes, but it was March who came close to winning it for Brighton, forcing a brilliant save from Leno before Pascal Gross fired the rebound wide.
Arsenal could not find a winner and the performance from the home side saw plenty of their fans head for an early exit, with many of those who remained jeering at full-time despite the post-match lap of honour and farewells for the retiring Petr Cech and Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey.
Man of the Match - Lewis Dunk
Nothing was getting past Dunk at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Alongside Shane Duffy, he marshalled the Brighton defence brilliantly and he was equal to anything Arsenal threw at him.
Time after time he made crucial interventions to thwart Arsenal's forward line, A real impressive display from the 27-year-old.
Pundits on Arsenal's top-four failure
Jamie Redknapp: "I don't think they have the quality to get into the top four. What will hurt is that they gave themselves the chance and they've given it away today. You can see how disappointed the players are."
Alex Scott: "They had the chances at the end, but I sound like a broken record. We know where Arsenal have been vulnerable defensively all season, and they targeted the right-hand side. If Emery lifts the Europa League trophy, you'd say it's been a great season but his hands are tied. You look at Arsenal's season, and they deserve to be where they are."
Unai Emery: "We deserved to win. We are very defensively very strong and we had chances to score first half, and in the second half we didn't take our chances but they defended very well. I have to congratulate them for the way they worked.
"We fight and we tried to win but each match in the Premier League is very difficult and today was a prime example. We need new energy and new players to change the performance. Scoring makes all the difference."
Brighton boss Chris Hughton said of Arsenal's penalty: "My first impression was that it was soft, but sometimes what happens is you then see it at half-time and at the end of the game and find it was a penalty.
"I've seen it since on two or three occasions and for me, absolutely not a penalty.
"It's tough, particularly at that stage of the game when we wanted to get something and put on a performance but credit to our players I thought they played really well. We had to dig deep and I thought we thoroughly deserved the result."
- Arsenal are winless in their last four Premier League games (D1 L3), their longest run without a victory in the competition since February 2016 (also four games).
- The Gunners failed to win both league meetings against Brighton this season (D2), despite opening the scoring in both games - they last did this against an opponent in a Premier League campaign in 2010-11 v Spurs (D1 L1).
- Brighton avoided defeat away from home against "big six" opposition for the first time in the Premier League - they had lost each of their last 11 games before today.
- Arsenal have conceded 50 or more goals in consecutive top-flight campaigns for the first time since 1982-83 and 1983-84.
- Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the sixth different player to score 20+ goals in a Premier League season for the club, and the first since Alexis Sánchez in 2016-17. Since making his debut in the competition in February 2018, only Mohamed Salah (35) has scored more Premier League goals than Aubameyang (30).
Arsenal are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Spain to face Valencia for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final. The Gunners hold a 3-1 advantage after the first leg at the Emirates Stadium last Thursday.
They are back in Premier League action next Sunday when they travel to Burnley (3pm) on the final day of the season.
Brighton have had their say in the race for the top four but they could have a crucial role to play in the destination of the title. Chris Hughton's team face Manchester City at home for their final game of the season, live on Sky Sports.