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Saka steals the show as Arsenal brush off relegation talk with Brighton win


It took Alexandre Lacazette just 21 seconds to make his mark but this victory was all about Bukayo Saka.

Yet again, Saka was Arsenal’s best player, man of the match and creator of a priceless away win which pushes them away from an unthinkable relegation scrap.

Saka, 19, has grown up during this turbulent season into an incredible talent and shown maturity beyond his years while more experienced players have crumbled amid Arsenal’s troubles.

But when Mikel Arteta needs some inspiration then he knows he can turn to Saka to dig out big contributions like he did against Chelsea on Saturday and again at Brighton to set up Lacazette’s 66th minute winner.



The 19-year-old had too much trickery for Brighton’s defence to handle

This time it was an incredible run, a brilliant dribble and remarkable strength to hold off Brighton defender Dan Burn before delivering a wonderful pull back which was on a plate for super sub Lacazette.

Incredibly, Lacazette had been on the pitch for just 21 seconds – the quickest goal from a substitute after coming on this season – but Saka had already done the hard work for him.

Lacazette had time to take a touch, control it and then rifle past Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez for the quickest goal for a substitute since Bernardo Silva in 17 seconds for Manchester City also against Brighton in 2018.

It was a relief for Arsenal and a second victory in four days for Arteta as suddenly the picture looks so much brighter and once again it proved that the youngsters have given their season a new lease of life.



Saka picked up another assist as his cross found Lacazette

Saka was excellent, Gabriel Martinelli full of willing and Emile Smith-Rowe impressed again for Arsenal having blitzed Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday.

There was a start for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after his injury lay-off, ironically replacing Lacazette in the starting line-up, but he is still struggling for confidence.

And it would be wrong to suggest Arsenal’s problems are behind them because they struggled in a first half woefully short on quality and chances.

But Brighton have got their own issues as, for all of Graham Potter’s impressive progress and watchable performances, they struggle for goals.



Brighton started well but Arsenal had the game’s clear-cut chances



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Potter does not make it any easier when he made six changes from the starting line-up which drew at West Ham… and did not include a single recognised centre forward.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Alexis Mac Allister took it in turns to play as a false nine but neither did a particularly good impression of a real striker.

Jahanbakhsh produced the best moment of the first half when his low 37th minute shot was well saved by Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno. That was the only shot on target in a woeful opening 45 minutes.

But finally there were signs of life from Arsenal in the second half. Typically, it was Saka who got things going as he escaped down the left, drilled in a low cross for Aubameyang but Sanchez made a fabulous save.



Aubameyang went close for the Gunners early in the second half

Is Bukayo Saka England’s most exciting prospect? Have your say here.

Suddenly Arsenal were in the game as an attacking force. Gabriel Martinelli fired just over after good work by Smith-Rowe while Aubameyang steered wide following a good break.

It felt like the goal was coming but still needed the introduction of Lacazette to provide the finishing touch for Saka’s approach play.

Saka is still only a teenager but 2021 could be a very big year and if he carries on like this then England will have to start playing him in attack rather than as a full back as well. He has got the world at his lightning quick feet.

Brighton (4-5-1): Sanchez 7, Veltman 6, Webster 7, Dunk 7, Burn 6, Bernardo 6, Bissouma 8, Propper 7 (March, 67, 7), Gross 6, Jahanbakhsh 6 (Trossard, 75), Mac Allister 5 (Maupay, 67, 6)

Arsenal (4-3-3): Leno 7; Bellerin 7, Holding 7, Mari 7, Tierney 7; Elneny 6, Xhaka 6, Smith Rowe 7 (Maitland-Niles, 88); Martinelli 7 (Lacazette, 65), Saka 8 (Ceballos, 81), Aubameyang 6.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the match: Saka

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