Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger celebrated the 21st anniversary of his arrival at the club with a routine victory over Brighton. Nacho Monreal put the Gunners ahead early on when he shot through a crowded penalty area after Brighton had failed to clear a free-kick. A well worked Brighton free-kick resulted in Solly March striking the post from 20 yards shortly afterwards. But Arsenal added a second goal after half-time when a slick passing move on the counter-attack was emphatically finished off by Alex Iwobi. The win ensures Wenger’s side are a point behind north London rivals Tottenham in the chasing pack behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Brighton became the 45th different club that Wenger has defeated in the Premier League – more than any other manager in the competition’s history. There was criticism for Wenger earlier in the season and he remains a divisive figure among Arsenal supporters, but their season now appears to be on an upward trajectory. After an impressive September, in which the Gunners went unbeaten with five victories and a draw in all competitions, they began the month of October with a dominant victory and performance. For the first time in Wenger’s Arsenal tenure he has had to juggle the different challenges posed by the Europa League but the erudite Frenchman appears to have got a handle on the requirements of playing on Thursday and Sunday. Indeed, against newly promoted Brighton the Gunners looked something akin to the flat-track bullies of old. While not at their brilliant best, it was a display with the swagger and fluid football which has become Wenger’s trademark.
This was epitomised by Arsenal’s stylish second goal 11 minutes after half-time, which was a thing of beauty; a swift interchange of passes involving Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette left Brighton’s players in a spin before Iwobi fired home. The acid test for Arsenal will come against their rivals for the top four, but there at least appears to be growing momentum and belief about Wenger’s side. The Brighton players were out on the Emirates turf an hour and a half before kick-off taking pictures, giving the impression they were treating the game like a cup final. The reality when the game kicked off was that Arsenal simply possessed too much quality for the visitors and the margin of victory could easily have been greater. Arsenal have now won their last 11 games at the Emirates in all competitions, their second longest ever run at the ground (12 between May and November 2009).