Arsenal stars shine as Saka and Odegaard dazzle with Partey v Brighton

Brighton v Arsenal: Pictures

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Arsenal under Mikel Arteta have firmly continued where they left off in the first half of the Premier League season by going seven points clear at the top of the table following their 4-2 win away to Brighton on New Year’s Eve. The Gunners signed off 2022 in style with goals from Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli as they took apart a Brighton side that have caused many teams problems this campaign.

Arsenal, extremely strong starters this season, continued in the same vein on the south coast as Saka gave the visitors the lead inside two minutes. After Thomas Partey won the ball back in the Brighton half, Martinelli’s shot was deflected twice into the path of Saka, who controlled the ball well before firing past Robert Sanchez.

Gunners icon Paul Merson explained the difficulties of scoring that goal so early into the game, as Saka had only a few touches before taking on the strike. “I can’t express how hard that is a minute into a Premier League match,” Merson told Sky Sports. “It looks cold, windy, you see it bounce and you think ‘If I’d have got that after 20 minutes’, it was just a phenomenal finish. Brighton have had phases but Arsenal have been comfortable.”

Arteta’s outfit were buoyed by the news that both Manchester City and Newcastle had dropped points in draws to Everton and Leeds respectively earlier in the day, and Odegaard continued his rich vein of form with another goal. The Norwegian has been the heartbeat of the team this campaign, and was consistently able to find pockets of space once again as the Brighton midfield struggled to keep him at bay.

His deflected strike got their second, and played what Sky Sports commentator Alan Smith described as one of “the passes of the season” for Martinelli to tee up the Brazilian’s goal, the fourth for the Gunners. The Seagulls without Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo struggled to cope with the intensity and ability on the ball from the trio of Odegaard, Partey and Granit Xhaka.

The Ghanaian, who began the play for the opening goal, has stepped up this year and become one of the most important players on the Arsenal team sheet, prompting Merson to claim that he is the best defensive midfielder in the entire league.

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“They started off on fire, came out of the traps, into their faces,” Merson added. “This is everything you dream of for a holding midfielder to do [for Saka’s goal], cuts the ball out, then the ball is out wide.

“For one-a-half minutes gone in a football match, that is just an unbelievable touch and goal from Saka. it’s the type of thing you don’t want so early in the game, Partey, I think he’s the best holding midfielder in the league as we speak at the moment.”

Nketiah, meanwhile, continues to prove an able deputy for Gabriel Jesus, and with two goals in two games, the Brazilian may be worried about his future place in the team. The striker got on the end of a rebound from Martinelli’s initial effort, showcasing his predatory instincts inside the penalty area for his side’s third.

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