Brighton and Hove Albion could be all that stands in the way of Manchester City and a second successive Premier League title.
That eventuality will depend on Pep Guardiola’s side beating Leicester City at the Etihad on Monday night, of course, in the final match of Gameweek 37.
Either way, the title will be decided on the final day of the season and ensures Manchester City assets will have plenty to play for in Gameweek 38.
Many Fantasy managers will have a double-up or triple-up on City assets heading into next Sunday, so our Scout Notes article on Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Brighton will pay particular attention to the Seagulls’ display at the Emirates.
We also discuss the Gunners’ Fantasy appeal – or lack thereof – in Gameweek 38.
Arsenal 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) | Glenn Murray (£6.1m)
- Assists: Nacho Monreal (£5.4m) | Solly March (£4.7m)
- Bonus: Murray – 3, Aubameyang – 2, Monreal – 1
After a rush for their services in Double Gameweeks 34 and 35, Brighton players will be mostly surplus to requirements or consigned to ‘bench fodder’ status in Fantasy Premier League next weekend.
The exodus had begun last week, with Shane Duffy (£4.7m) the most-sold FPL defender of Gameweek 37.
While there will be few Fantasy managers taking a punt on the Seagulls’ assets against Manchester City next Sunday, Albion could still have a major say in many FPL bosses’ seasons.
Chris Hughton’s side certainly frustrated owners of Arsenal players on Sunday, depriving the Gunners of a clean sheet, restricting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) to one attacking return and playing a part in Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£9.4m) first blank on home soil in ten Premier League matches.
In Brighton’s last four fixtures, they have conceded only three goals – despite facing Wolves, Spurs and Arsenal away from home in that time.
While they rank 17th for shots in the box conceded over this spell, they sit a respectable joint-tenth for efforts on target conceded.
Better still, only three clubs have allowed fewer big chances than the Seagulls when filtered by their last four matches.
Despite an otherwise underwhelming season, Brighton have rarely been thrashed by the “big six”: Liverpool could only beat Hughton’s side 1-0 twice, while City ran out 2-0 winners over Albion back in Gameweek 7 and only defeated the Seagulls 1-0 in their recent FA Cup semi-final.
As the table below shows, just once this season (v Chelsea away) have Brighton shipped more than two goals in a league game against a “big six” side.
|No. of goals conceded in matches v big six sides in 2018/19||Frequency|
Underpinning their recent away displays have been commendable performances from Duffy and Lewis Dunk (£4.4m), who were again superb in north London yesterday.
The two centre-halves rank in the top four defenders for blocks this season, with only James Tarkowski (£4.7m) having registered more clearances, blocks and interceptions (CBIs) than Duffy in 2018/19.
The Irish centre-half’s excellent sliding tackle on Lacazette, when the Frenchman was clean through on goal, was representative of how well Brighton’s stoppers handled the Arsenal striker all afternoon: Lacazette may have registered 19 penalty touches and seven shots but five of his attempts were blocked by the Albion backline.
Still, there was some encouragement for owners of City assets.
Despite Duffy and Dunk’s heroics, Mathew Ryan (£4.4m) was still called into action on six occasions while Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.6m) struck the upright and Aubameyang pulled a glorious opportunity wide on 73 minutes.
Ryan made three low first-half stops from Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m), with the Australia international also off his line quickly to smother a Lacazette attempt after the interval.
Aubameyang’s goal came from the penalty spot and no side has conceded as many spot-kicks as Brighton (ten) this season – a positive omen, perhaps, for Sergio Aguero (£11.9m) ahead of next weekend.
We saw a bit more adventure from Brighton in an attacking sense too, which could be a positive for City assets heading into next weekend.
With their Premier League safety mathematically assured, would Hughton encourage his troops to have more of a go against City than they would at any other time of the season?
At the Emirates, Albion certainly appeared unshackled by Cardiff’s relegation.
Glenn Murray (£6.1m) levelled the game up from the spot after Granit Xhaka‘s (£5.2m) foul on Solly March (£4.7m) but the visitors were a threat from open play, too, with March causing havoc down the Brighton left.
Bernd Leno (£4.9m) had to make smart low stops from Murray and March either side of half-time and Brighton could have indeed won the game late on: Leno denying March with a fabulous point-blank save and Pascal Gross (£6.7m) blazing the follow-up attempt well wide with the goal gaping.
Albion were still committing bodies forward in stoppage-time, too, and had Florin Andone (£5.0m) looked up he would have released March clean through on goal for what would have been a match-clinching late chance.
Hughton said of his side’s attacking display:
We knew there was space because of the way they played. They played a diamond in midfield and we felt we could get the ball into wide areas.
I thought we were a threat but probably weren’t productive enough. We got into some really good areas, particularly in the first half, but we just needed better quality to get an end product.
Reflecting on the game overall, Hughton said:
I’m delighted with the performance, we were on the back of an albeit defensive performance at Wolves and a good 88 minutes at Tottenham, against similar quality to what they’ve got here.
We wanted a reaction. In our last game, we were very poor against Newcastle in the first half but very good in the second half, and we were able to continue that today.
The performance was certainly more like us. Even though we’ve dug out a couple of decent performances and results away from home, most people would have thought they’d get a second and third goal.
It was tough going behind so early on, but credit to the lads for adjusting well. We had to dig deep, and I thought we thoroughly deserved the result.
Arsenal are now effectively out of the race for a top-four place, trailing Spurs by three points and needing a goal difference swing of eight in Gameweek 38.
A final-day away game against Burnley is already off-putting from a Fantasy perspective, given the Gunners’ recent struggles on the road (two wins in 12) and the fact that Sean Dyche’s side have conceded fewer big chances than any other Premier League club in their last six home fixtures.
Added to this we now have a shift in focus away from the Premier League and towards winning the Europa League, which represents Arsenal’s most realistic chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
The Gunners face Valencia in Spain in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday, with their Gameweek 38 match against Burnley kicking off less than 72 hours later.
The final of that competition isn’t until the end of May, of course, so we may still see the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette feature at Turf Moor.
Unai Emery said after the match:
We knew it was going to be difficult but our focus is now the Europa League. We have the opportunity in the Europa League to do something important and we will try and do that.
The unpredictable team selections continued at the Emirates, with Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) benched and the Gunners lining up in a 4-4-2 diamond – Emery having previously favoured a 3-4-1-2/3-4-2-1 in Arsenal’s last seven home matches in all competitions.
Aubameyang and Lacazette were lively despite the missed chances and resolute defence they encountered but the Arsenal backline still left much to be desired and those Fantasy managers considering a Gameweek 38 punt on Ashley Barnes (£5.6m) or Chris Wood (£6.3m) would have been further encouraged by Sunday’s match.
This was Arsenal’s fourth league match without a clean sheet and the Gunners have shipped ten goals in that time – only Huddersfield have conceded more when teams are filtered by their last four league fixtures.
No team has allowed more big chances or shots on target than Emery’s when filtered by the above criteria, while the Gunners rank 18th for attempts in the box conceded over that period.
Arsenal XI (4-4-2 diamond): Leno; Lichtsteiner (Kolasinac 76′), Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka, (Iwobi 76′) Mkhitaryan (Guendouzi 76′), Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-1-4-1): Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Stephens; Jahanbakhsh (Knockaert 46′), Gross (Kayal 90′), Bissouma, March; Murray (Andone 77′).