After losing 1-0 to Aston Villa last weekend, Arsenal bounced back this afternoon with a vital yet slightly nervy 2-0 win over Brighton at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta’s side opened the scoring ten minutes after the break through a Gabriel Jesus header from a corner. Poor finishing let Arsenal down, but a Kai Havertz strike in the 87th minute secured the victory.
Arsenal’s stats vs Brighton
The first 45 minutes saw Arsenal dominate the game, registering 15 shots, tallying up 0.93 xG and preventing the Seagulls from having a single strike. The Gunners found the most joy in wide areas and happily recycled the ball, which led to 58% possession.
The best opportunity of the half fell at the feet of Gabriel Martinelli after he drifted inside to get on the end of a Bukayo Saka cutback, but the Brazilian blazed it over the bar.
After the opener from Jesus in the second half, the hosts endured spells without the ball as Brighton began to get more of a foothold in the game and registered 59% possession. The Seagulls had six attempts at goal, with Pascal Grob squandering their best opportunity just before Arsenal’s German finished the tie.
In truth, Roberto De Zerbi’s side didn’t test Arsenal, and the hosts looked far more dangerous on the break, taking 11 shots and missing a couple of big chances.
Declan Rice’s game in numbers
Despite Jesus and Havertz getting on the scoresheet, Declan Rice was by far the most impressive player on the field.
The number 41 oozed class from the first whistle to the last, and it isn’t often that a player looks just as energetic in the first five minutes as they do a minute from time.
The England midfielder set the tempo, switched the play, and retained the ball brilliantly, as Brighton rarely had a sniff. This is shown by his 91% pass accuracy in the game, completing 53/58 passes while having 69 touches and completing 3/3 long balls.
The table below showcases a handful of Rice’s stats from the game.
Rice stats vs Brighton
Passes into final third
Stats via FotMob
In the second half, Arteta instructed his side to be more aggressive and on the front foot when the visitors were playing out from the back. This was a successful switch in approach from the boss, with Arsenal stealing the ball high up on multiple occasions, with Rice being particularly dominant and the driving force behind the squeeze.
However, his performance can be summed up with one move in the 84th minute. The 24-year-old received the ball inside his own half, spun past Gro,ss and drove at the defender before breezing past him and having a left-footed strike saved by the keeper. A one-of-a-kind midfielder who can do almost anything with ease.
The most impressive part is that he plays to this standard every week, earning the nickname of “Mr 9/10” from soccer correspondent James Benge.
Rice displayed once again that he’s a true professional and a pure athlete with his sublime display, which is why he was Arteta’s true hero on the day ahead of the two scorers.