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Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3

I`ve written much before about the domestic cups representing something of a "lucky dip" for the travelling fan. A chance to visit a new ground, a new city, to draw a team from another league that friends support (Millwall away in Round 5 please) or that has family nearby. Since my mum moved down to Brighton a few years back, Brighton & Hove Albion have always been on the "wish list" for these precise reasons. So my joy when we knocked Swansea out via a replay was manifold. By serendipity, my flatmate was unable to attend the game, so I even managed to nab my mum a ticket next to me in the away end.

Having taken the journey down on Friday evening, a Saturday morning lay in followed by a bacon sandwich breakfast was the perfect preparation for the day ahead. We left at around 1pm, fearing heavy match day traffic. It was not yet 1.20pm by the time I was supping a pint of Harvey`s Best Bitter in the vast away concourse. Tickets were incredibly popular for the match and the fact that 4,100 tickets sold out in a matter of hours to supporters with 10 credits minimum, exposed the flaws of category pricing away supporters. Away fans don`t tend to "categorise" games in any case, but if they do, the values are often different than just how much the opposition cost to put together. Brighton and Bradford have been our quickest selling away fixtures of the season, does that make them Category A?

In any case, it was clear that a large portion of the visiting support had enjoyed the seaside town`s many drinking establishments pre match. Arsene made changes, with Cazorla, Wilshere, Sagna, Gibbs and Walcott rested to the bench. Aaron Ramsey reprised his deep midfield role. Regular readers will know of my staunch belief in Ramsey`s ability, but I must say I never saw him as a deep midfielder. Granted it`s only been two games thus far, but he`s been excellent in both of them. His game is simplified, which you get the impression he needed to do to improve. His energy is also better channelled harrying opponents off the ball. This could be the making of him.

The game began slowly as you`d expect with a starting XI that can`t have played together too often. Just after the quarter hour mark, Liam Bridcutt`s lofted ball split the Arsenal defence, Barnes controlled and steered a shot goalwards, Szczesny came out, made himself big and made an incredible pointblank stop. He collected the resulting corner and bowled it out to Rosicky. The Czech showed the positive qualities which make him such an asset, buccaneering forwards with the bal. He found Podolski, who touched the ball into the path of Giroud on the edge of the box. The Frenchman had plenty to do as he controlled and curled a delicate finish into the top corner.

Brighton looked momentarily stunned as Arsenal began to monopolise possession, but the away side didn`t look for the killer goal. Their play slowed again and the Seagulls looked to take advantage. Lopez`s low cross was only palmed away by Szczesny, into the path of Ulloa, but fortunately the linesman`s flag spared the Pole`s blushes. If that was a warning flare, Arsenal failed to heed it. A few moments later, Podolski was caught napping on a short corner and allowed Buckley to play it short to Lopez, his inviting cross was nodded home by Barnes with Szczesny grasping thin air. The keeper`s reaction was, bizarrely, to harangue Santos, who had absolutely nothing to do with the goal whatsoever. (Santos made this point forcefully and rightly so, it was Podolski that allowed the cross to come in and Szczesny that made a balls up of the cross).

Santos had actually started the game well but the tongue lashing he took from Szczesny seemed to melt his fragile confidence. The supporters saw it and got on his back, he`s clearly operating at a low level of confidence as it was. I`m all for players telling one another what`s what, but it was poor form by Szczesny to target him in that way when he`s low on self belief. That said, it probably suggests that the players don`t have an awful lot of faith in him any longer. He was forcefully jeered off by the supporters too. He`s not a bad left back, but he doesn`t really fit the team any longer and it`s hard to see any way back for him at Arsenal now. Three separate arguments, one physical, broke out in my block yesterday. The febrile air of anger amongst the support is beginning to manifest itself in increasingly bizarre ways. A fella three rows in front of me turned his anger on a bunch of teenagers behind him because they were being too supportive for his liking! (After Santos had aimlessly blasted a shot over the bar, one of them clapped his hands together with words of encouragement for the Brazilian which offended the purple faced gentleman immediately in front of them).

The Gunners emerged for the second half with greater purpose. Podolski`s floated free kick crashed against the cross bar. But just before the hour mark, the pressure paid off. Diaby dinked a ball over the top of the Brighton back four (Diaby has executed this style of pass several times in his Gunners career). Again, Giroud had plenty of work to do as he held off the attention of Dicker, took the ball down and slammed it into the net from close range. Giroud has endeared himself to the support through his tenacious work rate, but both of his goals were top class. Let`s hope he can manage this kind of elan in front of goal on a consistent basis. I have certainly felt that he hasn`t always been clinical enough this season, but I`ve never had any doubts that he would work very hard to rectify.

Oddly enough, Giroud was booked for his celebration as he leapt into the crowd. Rosicky and Podolski did likewise and weren`t booked. Arsenal had a good chance to bury Brighton when Rosicky`s bright brain sprang into action, he sent a quick, raking ball over the top of the Brighton defence, Giroud held off Dicker and drove a shot goalwards, but Ankegren was equal to his powerful shot. But Arsenal`s frailties allowed the home side another equaliser, even though they hadn`t looked terribly dangerous in the final third. Diaby and Santos stood off of Barnes as he swung a right wing cross into the area and Ulloa snuck between Mertesacker and Koscielny to head home his first goal for the club. Arsenal`s centre halves were guilty of ball watching.

Wenger sent for the cavalry, as Wilshere and Walcott came on for Rosicky and for Chamberlain. The latter is having a worryingly average season. Wilshere sent Podolski racing clear on the left hand side, his pinpoint cross found Olivier Giroud, whose volley bounced onto the roof of the net. A similar move saw Gibbs dink a nice cross into the area, which Giroud scissor kicked goalwards, but the ball took a lucky bounce off of Wayne Bridge and looped wide. Eventually though, Arsenal`s pressure told. Brighton had been forced into two changes before the second half and the legs were beginning to tire.

Wilshere`s corner was punched unconvincingly to the edge of the box by Ankegren, Walcott did exactly what was required, he hit a first time volley and elected just to keep it low and on target. In a crowded area, it can always take the sort of deflection you want it to. That proved to be the case as the ball ricocheted into the net via a Brighton defender. The chorus of "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" was aired hopefully in the South Stand once more. Walcott then sprinted away from Bridge on the right and made a beeline for the area. He took on a shot from a tight angle when the cutback to Giroud was a more viable option.

The home side had a decent shout for a penalty in stoppage time when Koscielny appeared to tug Mackail-Smith in the area; but the referee waved away Brighton`s appeals and Arsenal progressed to the 5th Round. The victory was just about deserved, even if Brighton, unsurprisingly, made us work for it. The quality in reserve on the substitute`s bench was ultimately telling for Arsenal, even if it is a worry that individual errors continue to blight our defending. We headed into Brighton town centre to the wee small hours to toast a victory. Millwall, MK Dons or Luton away would do very nicely in the next round thank you. LD.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: 16.ANKEGREN, 25.CALDERON, 3.GREER(c) (18.Dicker `37), 2.EL-ABD, 28.BRIDGE, 32.BRIDCUTT, 7.HAMMOND, 21.LOPEZ, 30.BUCKLEY (26.Lua Lua H/T), 10.BARNES, 16.ULLOA (9.Mackail-Smith `68). Unused: 6.Painter, 15.Vicente, 19.Orlandi, 29.Kuszczak.

ARSENAL: 1.SZCZESNY, 25.JENKINSON, 4.MERTESACKER(c), 6.KOSCIELNY, 11.A.SANTOS (28.Gibbs `79), 16.RAMSEY, 2.DIABY, 7.ROSICKY (10.Wilshere `69), 15.CHAMBERLAIN, 9.PODOLSKI, 12.GIROUD. Unused: 3.Sagna, 19.S.Cazorla, 23.Arshavin, 24.Mannone.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 27 2013

Time: 3:53PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Very good result made even sweeter with the spuds kicked out. Also delighted at the opportunity the fixture gave you to hook up with family, LD (Lucky Dog?). It has become the practice for our fans to pick on the weak link in the side for some bashing; it was surprising that even in the team, this practice can take place. It wasn't just Szczesny. Poldi had a go at Santos at some point, when he chose to stay back after passing to him, instead of exploding down the flanks (maybe, as Gibbs would do) for a return pass or as decoy. Santos promptly aired his protest and Poldi was displeased that he had to pass the ball sideways to Ramsey, instead. When a man is down isn't the time to let him know about it, but that's human nature. However, Wenger has to sort this out for the team. Santos' problem, for me, is fitness and playing time. He may be too old for a loan move or I would have suggested it. It would seem it is going to be up to him or his agent to see where his future lies.
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27/01/2013 16:15:00

By the way, I wasn't all too impressed with the Ox, either and fully expected Santos and he to be subbed, Rosicky's being for obvious reasons. That kid has to sort his head out or he will find himself regressing. Szczesny too must show more awareness than he did yesterday, to be honest. I don't feel confident when he gets back passes from his teammates because he tends to need too much time to weigh his options for the kick-out. He looks increasingly, likely to be caught out by a quick attacker, soon.
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27/01/2013 16:20:00

I have never forgiven szczesny for hoofing the ball back to reina against Liverpool in the last minute a couple of years back letting Liverpool snatch a 96th minute equaliser (or what ever it was). That *****ed me off beyond belief that did! He has the potential to be a great keeper, he also has the potential to turn into the goalkeeping version of bendtner with his delusions of grandeur.
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27/01/2013 16:50:00

I doubt it's ox's attitude why he is being so poor. He looks motivated. NAija
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27/01/2013 16:52:00

Gunnerman. What about cc final -_-
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27/01/2013 16:53:00

Well, maybe more playing time, perhaps, Sajit? You can't even argue he hasn't had his chances. He is just not keen to track back, takes on defenders only to bungle the cross and gets caught ball watching far too many times for his own good.
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27/01/2013 17:01:00

The Ox is 19. We had much the same issues of inconsistency with Theo and others, even Cesc at that age. It takes time to learn his craft at this level but he has to play in order in order to do so.
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27/01/2013 17:18:00

Great report, LD and good to see a bit of perspective on Santos. I wondered why he looked so *****ed off and you've probably explained why. Disappointing behaviour from Podolski and Chesney - football is a TEAM game, so you stick together come what may. Anyhoo, we got through and the icing on the cake is that Sp*rs got ejected by Leeds. As long as we steer clear of any PL team and Leeds I don't mind who we get in the next round. BUT I would really love a home tie.
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27/01/2013 17:19:00

Deary me poor Andres, he was poor again yesterday and really isn't up to scratch. Shesney had a go at him, so what? All the top keepers of old have done such things, Lehmann was certainly no different and Schmeichal used to blame Gary Neville for every goal he conceded. Chamberlain's not setting the world alight but as has been pointed out he's but a boy, TBH i don't know what his best position is. We won't win a thing til we practice defending better. Giroud was fantastic.
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27/01/2013 18:12:00

Also if you watch the goal again, you can see Shesney screaming at Santos before the corner's taken - not sure why, maybe something to do with the short being taken?
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27/01/2013 18:22:00

Well, its Blackburn in the next round. Sorry, L.D. ;-)
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27/01/2013 18:34:00

If Santos was at fault, fair enough. LD said he wasn't. It smacks of bullying. A back-up player shorn of confidence helps no-one.
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27/01/2013 19:17:00

Szczesny was 1,000 times more culpable than Santos as was Podolski. There were much more worthy players Szczesny ought to have been calling out (himself notably). All for players telling one another what's what but tell the right players. Not worried about Ox in the long term, but he hasn't been inconsistent as one would expect from a talented teenager, he's been consistently poor to average all season. Just felt it was worth pointing out.
Little Dutch
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27/01/2013 20:05:00

It's all about the chemistry. Santos would be brilliant in a 3-5-2 but he and Poldolski don't suit either. Sometimes it isn't that a player is good or bad (though the truly great always adapt) as much as it is about being in the right team at the right time.
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27/01/2013 20:23:00

Sajit...the cc final had been put far away deep into my subconscious....well it had been.....thanks!
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27/01/2013 20:32:00

Shesny was massively at fault and has to take the blame along with our inability to defend set plays, I just mean that if a rollocking from the keeper puts you off your stride so much you play like that then you're in the wrong game.
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27/01/2013 21:40:00

It's wrong to target him (he has enough to deal with already, being targeted by the opposition tactics) because that is what the keeper did seeing as he wasn't anywhere near the flank to prevent the cross and neither was he close enough to stop the marauding Brighton player. I thought Szczesny felt Santos has left his wing leaving Podolski with the task of blocking, albeit failing, the cross for their first goal. It just isn't helping the player to be harangued by opponents, commentators, fans and then teammates. Even the police and courts have had a go, for Christ's sakes.
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27/01/2013 22:37:00

A few things to comment on from my POV. As a fresh new talent he played with freedom and flair but now there is an expectation he's fining it harder. Fine next year he will learn an improve. I don't think he will take as long to settle and be consistent as Theo did, purely because his position and style is more rounded. In interviews he has spoken about his finishing and he seems confused as to why he's been so poor. This to me would suggest that there is tension, probably from pressure & expectation, and when he relaxes more he will be much more like the old Ox. I did wonder if the whole 'OX TV' and his website promotion was distracting him but I think if it were he'd re-focus.
No 10
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28/01/2013 09:14:00

On Santos - If he was in the wrong then fine tell him. But LD is quite right that the shouting he got from Chez was completely out of order. I can understand Poldi more, as his frustration is born out of the fact that he and Gibbs have one of the best playing relationships in the PL. The really work well together and bring the best out of each other. Santos isn't that bad. He played well after a little run of games but once again, like Arshavin, he looks like he doesn't train well or look after himself properly when not playing. That is just unacceptable at Arsenal. The staff should be on that, much more than they seem to be. Our squad players should be sharp and ready to step in at any time.
No 10
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28/01/2013 09:23:00

The Ox is going through the normal young player / 2nd season syndrome (take your pick) but I'm not too concerned. Great finishing from Giroud, esp the 2nd goal. The defence as a whole, had a forgettable game, so pointing the finger at only Szczesny, or Per, or Santos.
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28/01/2013 09:32:00

Chez needs competition! I don't care if it from a young up and coming like Butland, an established old head like Stekelenburg or even a player in their prime like Begović or Mignolet he needs someone to push him in training. He needs to see someong that will take his place if he isn't improving. I've never been a massive fan of his and had we not suffered with GKs since Mad Jens I think more people would've been wary of his possition as No1 at the age of 20. His decision making is, and always has been, pretty erratic if not actually poor. And his shot stopping looks worse now than it used to.
No 10
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28/01/2013 09:36:00

Not too long ago we were talking about Szczesny being a potential world class keeper, but I believe his save percentage has dropped since. Of course this has as much to do with the quality of the defence in front of him, but I have generally thought him noticibly weak when it comes to picking up long range shots. However for the first Brighton goal he didn't really come out and make that cross his, something he's been stronger on in the past.
Wyn Mills
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28/01/2013 11:01:00

I think Szczesny has all the makings of a top class goalkeeper. His save percentage has actually gone up significantly this year and no keeper conceded less from outside the area last season. We bought Jens well into his thirties and Seaman’s reputation was enhanced greatly after Euro 96 when he was 33 (he didn’t dislodge Chris Woods as England’s number 1 till 1994). Schmeichel was 29 when he moved to United. 22, in goalkeeping terms, is probably equivalent to being about 17 for an outfield player. Szczesny is already a very good goalkeeper, with the years and amount of games he has ahead of him, he’s well on course to being one of the world’s best. I genuinely think even for a 22 year old, he doesn’t make any more errors than a great many goalkeepers in the PL who are far more experienced. That said, a good experienced backup would be just the ticket, as Spurs have with Friedel. But there aren’t many names that come to mind. Liverpool and Chelsea played their reserve keepers this weekend and, evidently, are having the same issues finding half decent back up.
Little Dutch
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28/01/2013 11:11:00

I think they're good points LD. If we were to sign Begovic or Mignolet they would be signing as No1 and would you drop Chez to play cup games? Would Stekelenburg be happy to play as No2? I don't know but I doubt it. Even Butland would be looking to sign somewhere that he is No1 and there will be many places he would be. I don't doubt that Chez can become a very good, or even great, keeper but at the moment I find him to be rather average and more than a little frustrating. I would really like to see another keeper brought in, be they old or young I don't mind.
No 10
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28/01/2013 13:56:00

I'm probably looking at last season's stats re save percentage (where he was amongst the worst) so It'll be interesting to see if it gets over the 70% mark this season. I do think he's an incredibly promising keeper at the start of his career but as has been noted more competition for No 1 would do no harm.
Wyn Mills
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28/01/2013 14:51:00

Szczesny has his failings, which keeper doesn't, but he's been superb overall. Lehmann is regularly touted as a great keeper but he had more than a fair share of howlers despite being a very experienced keeper. No keeper in the PL is all that convincing especially when scrutinised to the same extent over any length of time. The one asset Lehmann had which made him a better keeper than his ability alone probably justified was an unshakeable belief that he was the best in the world. Because he believed that sometimes he played as though he was. Szczesny seems to possess the same character trait. Whether he'll be able to hang onto such confidence in an Arsenal shirt will be the real test.
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28/01/2013 16:01:00 Good interview with Szczesny here.
Little Dutch
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29/01/2013 13:48:00

I watched the highlights last night and what is noticeable about the first goal is the Giroud pulls his header and then turns to Szez to say "WTF?". I would speculate that Szez called and misjudged the flight. On the Ox, last year he seemed to relish in taking the challenge to Theo for the place on the right. Theo was very hot and cold and the Ox played with excellent purpose and commitment. This season, I'm with LD, consistently below par, not enough conviction.
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30/01/2013 03:43:00


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