In what seems a blast of Déjà vu for their fans, Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal will meet again at the Falmer Stadium in the fourth round of FA Cup as they did in January 2013, although this time the home side will be looking for a different result. The current cup holders Arsenal head into this tie off the back of one of their biggest league victories in recent time after they beat current league champions Manchester City at the Etihad. You can expect Wenger and his side to want to keep momentum and confidence up with a victory against championship strugglers Brighton.
However, although Brighton are languishing at the foot of the Championship table, only 6 points off the bottom 3 there has been signs of improvement in recent weeks. With 4 wins in their last few fixtures Brighton have started to put together a run of positive results topped with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday against promotion hopefuls Ipswich town. Chris Hughton has been able to lead his new side to 3 victories in 4 since his appointment on December 28th, but he will know that nothing could warm the Brighton fans to him more than a home victory against the current cup holders and premier league superstars like Arsenal.
The home side will be able to welcome top goalscorer and centre half Lewis Dunk into the side after he served his one match ban during the Ipswich game on Wednesday. Brighton boss Hughton is also hopeful that trio Craig Mackail-Smith, Jake Forster-Caskey and Greg Halford can all return to the squad after missing the clash with Ipswich midweek through injury
Arsene Wenger has said that it is likely that Mesut Ozil will start the match against Brighton. Meanwhile, it is also expected that Theo Walcott is in contention for a start against the Seagulls now that he is fit again. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and young full-back Hector Bellerin will both face late fitness tests ahead of the FA cup fourth round clash. Unfortunately there will also be no place for striker Danny Welbeck as he still suffers with a thigh problem. Along with Welbeck, Arsenal’s injury list still consists of Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and French full-back Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder).
- There have been 14 previous matches between the two sides. Arsenal have won on 10 occasions, while Brighton have only beaten the Gunners twice.
- The last time the two met was in January 2013 in FA Cup also in the fourth round. The game was also played at the AMEX stadium. Arsenal won the tie 3-2.
- They have played each 4 times in the FA Cup and Arsenal won each time.
- 3 of those previous FA Cup victories for Arsenal were at Brighton’s home ground.
- Last time Brighton beat Arsenal was in a league fixture in September 1982. Brighton won the game 1-0 at home.
- Brighton have not failed to score in a home game against the Gunners since April 1981. Arsenal won 1-0.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Lewis Dunk
Brighton’s young centre-back Lewis Dunk has been doing jobs for his side outside his remit. The centre half is the clubs top goalscorer with 6 goals in all competitions this season, 4 of which have come in the league where he is tied top scorer with loanee signing Joao Texeira (and he only scored 2 of his goals this season on Wednesday against Ipswich Town). Not only that but the young defender has chipped in with two assists for his side. This in itself personifies the troubles the Seagulls are having this season as they sit 19th in the Championship only 6 points off the bottom 3 with a game in hand. If Brighton hope to achieve anything against the current FA Cup holders they will need first and foremost for Lewis Dunk to put on a commanding performance in defence as expected of his position especially when faced with Arsenal and their attacking talents. The 23 year old has been successful in 59% of his tackles attempted this season and 62% of his headed duels. Against an Arsenal side where the majority of the threat is expected to come on the ground but he may still have to win a few aerial battles should Wenger choose to play Giroud up top. What would be helpful for the side also is if Dunk could continue his attacking exploits and perhaps chip in with a goal too for the cause.
Arsenal: Santi Cazorla
With rumours of star man Alexis Sanchez to be rested for the FA Cup tie, Arsenal supporters will look at their diminutive Spanish playmaker Cazorla to continue the fine form he has shown this season and put their championship opposition to the sword. So far this season the Spanish international has scored 5 goals for the Gunners in the league, only Giroud and Sanchez have been able to find the net with more frequency. Furthermore, Cazorla has created 49 chances (4 of which were converted to assists) for the red side of North London, second only to again their summer signing Sanchez. The Spaniard’s influence cannot be denied and last week against Man City he showed his worth for Wenger’s side. It was a throwback to that initial affinity the Arsenal fans felt towards the player when he first burst on the scene for the team and also a firm reminder that he is key to any ambitions of success they have. Given Wenger’s history with cup games and squad rotation it is hard to say with any certainty that Cazorla will start the clash, but with his recent performances I can imagine the player will want to keep his own momentum going and you could understand why.
This is the first season in a long time where Arsenal are defending a trophy after last season’s FA Cup victory, therefore the fans are expectant of a good showing in the competition. Even with Wenger’s penchant for fielding a youth side in years gone past I can see the Arsenal boss taking this tie seriously against a resurgent Brighton team under Chris Hughton’s management. With the opportunity to welcome back players from lengthy injuries such as Walcott and Ozil, and a chance to continue momentum after a huge away win at Manchester City in the league it is hard to look past an Arsenal victory on Sunday. However, that doesn’t mean we can write off the home side that has shown improved form before the turn of the new year onward. A massive victory against promoting chasing Ipswich Town on Wednesday will have confidence high at the AMEX and in a game against Arsenal the pressure is off on a championship side allowing them tpo go out and try ot enjoy their football. Having said all this Arsenal have been impressive in recent weeks and I can see that continuing