Arsenal’s hopes of securing Champions League football next season were dealt a serious blow when goals from Leandro Trossard and Enock Mwepu propelled Brighton to a 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
With two very attacking line-ups on the pitch, it was a surprisingly placid opening to the game, with only one outburst from Gabriel Martinelli bringing the Emirates crowd to their feet.
Indeed, it was the away team who were in control in the first quarter of an hour, with Yves Bissouma letting a rogue effort fly from 30 metres.
Arsenal took until the 23rd minute to create their first chance of the afternoon. Gabriel entered the far post after a Bukayo Saka corner, but could only direct his header into the side of the net.
Brighton were then rewarded for their early effort when they stunned the Arsenal crowd with a deft move just before the half-hour mark. Enock Mwepu was sent down the right and when he cut the ball for Leandro Trossard, the Belgian placed his effort in the top corner.
Emile Smith Rowe was denied an equalizer by a clever block from Lewis Dunk, before Arsenal thought they had secured the equalizer at the stroke of halftime through Martinelli. However, after a lengthy VAR review, the Brazilian was found to be in an offside position.
Arteta opted for an adjustment to his system in the interval, placing Saka and Martinelli in full-back roles. However, it was Brighton who first threatened after the restart when Ben White was forced to intercept a dangerous cross from Marc Cucurella.
Dunk then lured Aaron Ramsdale to a comfortable save when a corner kick carried the Brighton central defender inside the penalty area.
The Gaviotas then doubled their lead through the magnificent Mwepu in the 67th minute. Moises Caicedo returned the ball from the baseline to the midfielder who fired his first shot into the bottom corner past Ramsdale.
Robert Sánchez was called into action as the Gunners pressed for a goal when Cedric Soares sent a floating cross into the penalty area. Three Arsenal players looked ready to go home, but the Brighton goalkeeper hurried out of his line to collect the shipment.
The Gunners received a lifeline in the dying embers of the game when Martin Odegaard’s shot from distance was deflected into the top corner by Danny Welbeck.
Sánchez then denied Eddie Nketiah with a fine stoppage time save as the Seagulls held on to condemn a frustrated Arsenal to their second defeat in a week.
This is how both teams qualified.
Aaron Ramsdale (GK) – 5/10 – There was little he could do to prevent any of Brighton’s endings.
Cedric Soares (RB) – 5/10 – He did very little wrong in a defensive sense, but offered very little down the road for the Gunners.
Ben White (CB) – 5/10 – Struggled to make his way in Brighton with his distribution, although he was well placed to make a couple of last-minute interventions.
Gabriel (CB) – 5/10 – He proved a major threat from corners, closing in on himself in the first half before a VAR intervention denied Martinelli an assist.
Xhaka Granite (LB) – 2/10 – He was nowhere to be seen as Brighton broke forehand to open the scoring, struggling to adjust to their makeshift role in the first half.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (CM) – 4/10 – Big shoes to fill in the absence of Thomas Partey and he struggled against the physically dominant Brighton midfield.
Emile Smith Rowe (CM) – 4/10 – He showed flashes in the first half, but hooked up with Eddie Nketiah on the hour mark.
Martin Odegaard (AM) – 3/10 – He struggled to influence the game in a way this term has so often done, lacking the cunning that has characterized his performances.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – 4/10 – He struggled to weave his magic on the right side. Yellow card for simulation in the second half that summed up his frustrations.
Alejandro Lacazette (ST) – 2/10 – Completely anonymous. Where once his presence benefited Arsenal, he is now becoming a hindrance.
Gabriel Martinelli (EI) – 6/10 – He had the ball in the net from a corner – where he was a threat all afternoon – but it was ruled out by VAR.
Eddie Nketiah (ST) – 6/10 – He was brought in to add sharpness to Arsenal’s attack and was denied by a superb save from Sánchez in added time.
Nicolas Pepe (RW) – N/A
Robert Sánchez (Goalkeeper) – 7/10 – Very dominant when it comes to claiming crosses, providing security to Brighton’s back line. Huge save to deny Nketiah in stoppage time.
Joel Veltman (CB) – 6/10 – Cleverly assisted on the right by Pascal Gross, but compromised in his duels and helped order the dangerous Martinelli.
Lewis Dunk (CB) – 8/10 – He played a crucial role in the run-up to Brighton’s first goal by releasing Mwepu down the right and was unafraid to put his body on the line.
Marc Cucurella (CB) – 6/10 – Very confident display on the left flank in defence, helping Brighton attack down that flank with determination.
Gross Pascal (RWB) – 6/10 – He helped keep Brighton aggressive off the ball and wasn’t afraid to commit a cynical foul or two.
Enock Mwepu (CM) – 10/10 – One of the standout performances of the Premier League season, leaning on Trossard in the first half before firing himself into the bottom corner to double Brighton’s lead.
Yves Bissouma (CM) – 8/10 – Potter opted for his athleticism in midfield and was certainly vindicated with an action-packed display.
Moises Caicedo (CM) – 8/10 – He made his long-awaited Brighton debut and looked very confident in midfield, helping tie the Seagulls together going forward and providing an assist.
Leandro Trossard (CL) – 7/10 – Good ending to open the scoring for Brighton, their first goal since Boxing Day.
Danny Welbeck (ST) – 5/10 – He pressed exceptionally well from the edge of the box in a game in which he saw little of the ball in danger zones.
Alexis MacAllister (ST) – 5/10 – Like Welbeck, he did a lot of selfless work off the ball while being comfortable in tight areas as Brighton took the lead.
Adam Lallana (CM) – N/A
Tariq Lamptey (RWB) – N/A
Adam Webster (CB) – N/A