Alexandre Lacazette scored just seconds after coming off the bench as Arsenal clinched back-to-back league wins for the first time since September with a 1-0 victory at Brighton.
The Frenchman had plenty of time to bury his strike into the bottom corner in the 66th minute after fantastic work on the right flank by Bukayo Saka.
Lacazette’s goal capped an improved second-half performance for Arsenal, who endured a dire first 45 minutes on the south coast but emerged after the interval with fresh intent.
Victory over Brighton lifts Arsenal to 13th in the table and further relieves the pressure on Mikel Arteta’s shoulders, while another poor home result leaves the Seagulls firmly in a relegation scrap.
Here are five talking points from the Amex.
1. Lacazette doesn’t take long
Just 21 seconds separated Alexandre Lacazette’s introduction to the game and the striker finding the back of the net.
That’s even more remarkable given the age Lacazette was handed in the Brighton box to pick his spot and rifle beyond Robert Sanchez.
The Seagulls’ defenders were caught flat-footed after the mazing run of Bukayo Saka, who grabbed his second assist in two games during another dazzling performance.
Lacazette’s goal was his third in as many games and it was surprising to see the 29-year-old – who is Arsenal’s top scorer this season with seven goals – benched for the trip to the south coast.
He appears to have a strong connection with the likes of Saka and is thriving with a natural No. 10 behind him in the form of Emile Smith Rowe.
2. Arsenal’s dire first-half
His side may have emerged victorious over Brighton, but Mikel Arteta will demand a thorough inquest into Arsenal’s dire first half.
The Gunners ended the first 45 minutes with one effort on goal: Granit Xhaka’s free kick which sailed harmlessly over the bar.
Arsenal’s attacking midfield options showed nice link-up play and movement, but their best work came nearer the halfway line than Robert Sanchez’s net.
And, of course, the elephant in the room was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Returning to the starting line-up for the first time since suffering a calf injury, the striker managed nine touches in the first 40 minutes of the match.
He moved gingerly and squandered a fantastic chance to open the scoring early in the second half.
3. More relief for Arteta
Mikel Arteta opened up on how Arsenal’s poor start to the season had left him with “sleepless nights” and a “big headache” as he previewed the trip to Brighton.
Victory over Chelsea on Boxing Day brought some relief, though the Gunners boss seemed set for more turmoil at the halfway mark versus Brighton.
His side were toothless in attack and giving up the best chances to their hosts. But whatever Arteta said at half-time did the trick.
Arsenal emerged from the interval a different team. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli went close, before Arteta’s decision to introduce Alexandre Lacazette was quickly rewarded.
The urgency the Gunners showed in the second half wards off any suggestions Arteta has lost the dressing room.
4. Seagulls’ bleak Amex form
Defeat to Arsenal means Brighton end 2020 with just one Premier League win on home soil in 17 outings.
That victory came against the Gunners during last summer’s blisteringly hot June, but the Seagulls were unable to repeat their comeback heroics on a cold December evening.
Brighton’s current run of seven games without a win leaves 17th in the league, three points ahead of Fulham, who have a games in hand.
There is no doubt they are in a relegation battle, and there was more bad news as Burnley beat Sheffield United to go 16th having played one game fewer.
Graham Potter will be nervously awaiting the result of Fulham’s clash with Tottenham on Wednesday evening.
5. Gunners’ Maupay relief
The release of the team sheets will have been met with some degree of relief by Arsenal personnel and fans, as Neal Maupay was only handed a spot on the bench.
Maupay was Arsenal’s nemesis last season, scoring decisive goals in both of the Seagulls’ Premier League clashes with the Gunners. The Frenchman was also involved in the incident which led to Bernd Leno’s injury and had a heated exchange with Matteo Guendouzi, which prompted Mikel Arteta to exile the midfielder from his squad back in June.
He was not the only notable absentee from Graham Potter’s XI, either, as the likes of Danny Welbeck and Leandro Trossard also had to settle for a place among the substitutes.
It was a conservative team selection, and it showed. Brighton may have outshot their visitors in the first half but numerous efforts from range failed to trouble Leno and their main threat came from their towering defenders during set pieces.
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