Brighton 0 Arsenal 3: Clinical Saka, devilish Havertz and a title charge in rude health

Arsenal’s title charge shows no signs of slowing, with Mikel Arteta’s team stretching their unbeaten run to 10 games in the Premier League with a dominant 3-0 victory at Brighton.

Bukayo Saka’s first-half penalty got Arsenal motoring at the Amex Stadium before Kai Havertz and former Brighton man Leandro Trossard rounded things off to fire the north Londoners to the top of the league following Manchester City’s earlier win at Crystal Palace.

Liverpool could return to the league summit after their game against Manchester United on Sunday but Arsenal’s title ambitions remain in rude health.

Art de Roché breaks down the main talking points from the Amex.

Saka continues to deliver when it matters

Bukayo Saka’s ruthlessness continues to reach new heights.

The winger reached 30 goal involvements for Arsenal this season by putting them ahead against Brighton with his fifth Premier League penalty of the season, leaving any doubts over his spot-kick credentials even further in the rear-view mirror.

Arsenal began the season by swapping takers. Saka, Martin Odegaard, and Kai Havertz all took penalties before the new year, but the England international has been the sole taker in the league since then, scoring all three.

The 22-year-old’s last two (against Brighton today and in the penalty shootout win over Porto) have epitomised his ruthlessness. Both were drilled low to the goalkeeper’s right, leaving neither Diogo Costa or Bart Verbruggen any chance of saving.

Saka had some bright moments in the game, a first-half shot just wide and a chance created for Gabriel Jesus, but was still finding his rhythm on his return to Arsenal’s starting line-up. Similar to earlier this season, his output got his team through a tough moment.

He has now equalled his best scoring season in the Premier League (14 goals, a record set last season). With eight games to play, he will likely break that and will continue to be vital to Arsenal’s title hopes.

Bukayo Saka opens the scoring from the penalty spot (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Havertz, Jesus and the importance of off-the-ball movement

Kai Havertz giving Arsenal their two-goal cushion with his 10th goal of the season in all competitions is what settled the nerves but the importance of his and some of his team-mates’ off-the-ball movement cannot be understated.

Brighton’s early confidence meant Arsenal’s attack was not as fluid early on and it was the German’s runs in behind that helped disrupt matters. This led to Havertz crossing for Jesus in the first half but the Brazilian misdirected his header.

The dynamic of Havertz through the middle with Jesus on the left is still slightly new. Both players have played in those positions this season but this was just the second time they started in those roles together, with last week’s goalless draw at Manchester City the first.

Havertz’s willingness to stretch the line worked well. For Jesus, aside from an early shot that forced a save on the edge of the box and when he held his width before winning Arsenal’s penalty, he often took too many touches to move the ball. That allowed Brighton to get back into a decent defensive shape and reinstated the importance of off-the-ball movement — which returned in the unlikely shape of Jorginho.

With Saka on the floor, Jorginho overlapping made up Odegaard’s mind. He had to play that pass. Havertz’s double-movement to find space in the six-yard box was similarly instructive for Jorginho, resulting in an easy finish to put Arsenal in total control, the 24-year-old scoring the 1000th goal of this Premier League season.

With the ball for Leandro Trossard’s late chip, Havertz now has five goals and four assists in his last seven games. 

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Havertz celebrates with Jorginho (left) after scoring (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

If defence wins championships, Arsenal have every chance

Arsenal keeping yet another clean sheet means this is just the second time they have kept five in a row away from in the Premier League era. Alongside that, David Raya became the first Spanish goalkeeper to keep five clean sheets in as many away starts in the Premier League, and just the ninth keeper to do so overall.

This was Arsenal’s seventh clean sheet in 11 league games in 2024, a feat even more impressive considering Arteta’s recent selection tweaks.



Arteta trusting his squad players can only make Arsenal stronger

Oleksandr Zinchenko starting against Brighton was somewhat surprising. The left-back does need more rhythm ahead of the run-in and this game would have helped build that, but Jakub Kiwior’s impact of late and physical attributes may have made him a better fit at the Amex.

That is not solely because of Zinchenko but due to how the entire left flank functioned. With Jesus ahead of him on the left wing, the dynamic sometimes gifted space for Brighton to attack. In the first half, this happened when Jesus either stepped up to apply pressure or failed to check his shoulder, leaving space in behind that was exploited by Tariq Lamptey who had free runs at Zinchenko multiple times.

Brighton also isolated Zinchenko with direct balls to that left channel later in the first half and early in the second, but Arsenal rode out those particular storms.

How that defensive dynamic on the left develops, especially with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Gabriel Martinelli both returning from injury, could be interesting to watch over the coming weeks.

Once multiple goals ahead, the collective effort of Arsenal’s players to keep their clean sheet intact were embodied by Gabriel’s late block on a Joao Pedro shot. Had he not got there, someone else would have, and the group celebration showed just how dominant this squad want to be.

What next for Arsenal?

Tuesday, April 9: Arsenal (H), Champions League, 8pm UK, 9am ET

Sunday, April 14: Aston Villa (H), Premier League, 4.30pm UK, 11.30am ET

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(Top photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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