Brighton v Arsenal: PREVIEW
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Arsenal travel to the south coast to take on Brighton at the AMEX in their Boxing Day fixture. Read on for Layth Yousif’s comprehensive preview of the match.
Arsenal attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been ruled out for around six weeks with a broken foot, while Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi are doubts because of hamstring injuries and will be assessed ahead of the match.
Hector Bellerin, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Emile Smith Rowe remain out along with long-term absentees Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding.
Chris Hughton’s Brighton will have defender Shane Duffy available again after a three-match ban and is set to replace the suspended Lewis Dunk.
Wingers Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Jose Izquierdo remain sidelined through injury.
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Speaking after the 3-1 victory over a combative Burnley at the Emirates on Saturday Emery said: “Brighton is the same, a very tough match physically, very organised and, like with Burnley, a very good coach who is working very well.
“It is a challenge and I respect those teams a lot because they also have good players. They decide to do a line-up with physical players with a lot of crosses for the strikers for heading in our box.
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“We need to defend very far in our box to defend better against that.”
Brighton ended a five-match losing streak against the Gunners with a 2-1 victory back in March which saw prolonged protests in the away end against then boss Arsene Wenger – who was to leave the club fewer that six momentous weeks later.
The Seagulls have won each of their last three home games against Arsenal in the top flight and will be aiming for a fourth against Emery’s side.
However the south coast side have lost their last three league games to sit 13th on Christmas Day, nine points off Sean Dyche’s Clarets in 18th spot.
They have not lost four in a row in a top-flight season since 1982-83 when they were relegated despite reaching the FA Cup final only to lose 4-0 in the replay against Manchester United.
Previewing the game the respected Hughton said: “When you’re Brighton in the Premier League, only in your second season, every period for us is a tricky period. Every game that we play is a difficult game.
“We’re going through a number of games in a short period of time, and we’ll have to play at a level to get something from the matches.”
The North Londoners sit in fifth place level on 37 points with Chelsea and with a fifth win in nine Premier League away games this term on Wednesday would ensure Arsenal pass their entire points tally on the road for the whole of 2017-18.
While it is what happens on the pitch that matter the statistics favour the Gunners with the Premier League giants losing only one of their last 13 league games on Boxing Day.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the top flight’s leading goalscorer this season, with 12 goals.
The former Borussia Dortmund striker has netted an impressive 22 goals in 31 Premier League appearances for Arsenal while the team has grabbed an unrivalled 29 second-half goals in 2018-19.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29