Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Arsenal: Late Heroics

The trophy hunt is still alive, despite the best efforts of a game Brighton side - and the worst efforts of our reserve left-back.

There was plenty of rotation from the manager today; Laurent Koscielny, Andre Santos, Carl Jenkinson and Tomas Rosicky all getting rare starts. That gave us, for once, an especially strong bench to call upon should the need arise.

The main team news for Brighton, for the untrained eye, was the presence of former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak on the bench. The poor guy can't get a game no matter where he goes, Danish stopper Casper Ankergren preferred to him on this occasion.

The first quarter hour was quiet, holding true to recent form for Arsenal. Brighton defended well, and set out their stall to attack at pace when the opportunity arose. The Seagulls had the first scoring chance of the match, as Ashley Barnes took advantage of a poorly-executed offside trap. He was in alone on Wojceich Szczesny, but the Polish stopper was off his line in a flash to cut down the angle. That was a superb save.

When you play this game often enough (don't laugh - no matter what level you play at, it's the same sport with the same rhythms and patterns), you start to notice the common themes in matches like this. A great save on one end will often spark that team to go up the other end and score. Such was the case today.

The Gunners broke at pace down the right wing, Brighton struggling to keep up. The ball was played centrally to Lukas Podolski, who had cut in from the left. The German fed Olivier Giroud with a hockey-style drop pass, and the Frenchman took advantage of the space to curl a beauty over Ankergren and into the top corner.

The visitors were comfortable for a decent stretch after the goal, but the usual arrogance set in after a while. Brighton had a goal chalked back for offside, Santos' giveaway leading to the chance. Szczesny did well to beat away the cross, and thankfully it came to Leonardo Ulloa in an offisde position.

It hasn't been Arsenal's strong point to learn from mistakes this season though, and two minutes later the Seagulls were level. Szczesny is going to get slaughtered for this by many people, all of whom are idiots. The marking scheme on a corner kick has to have someone guarding the front of the goalkeeper, Per Mertesacker failing to do so this time. Barnes ghosted through the center and nodded home an unmarked header from a few yards out.

I am forever amazed at the amount of people paid to commentate on this game who lack the most basic understanding of it.

An injury to Gordon Greer soon after meant that the mighty Gary Dicker had to come on as a sub for Brighton. I know, I know, I'm 34 years old going on 9. It's still funny, though.

Much like the West Ham match, Arsenal went into the dressing room locked at 1-1 after playing a largely decent half of football. This time, though, the opposing goal was stupid and preventable. Still, the men in red were not discouraged and only a decent stop from Ankergren prevented us from taking the lead. Soon after, Podolski hit the crossbar on a free kick. You can't say the team was lacking in intent.

The goal was always coming, and with Giroud in this kind of form it's not surprising that it came from him. It didn't look all that threatening at the time, but Abou Diaby's scooped pass over the top caught Brighton's defense out. Giroud did fantastically well to even knock it down, but he still had all to do at that point. The angle was tight, Ankergren rushed out (though he didn't make himself as big as he could have), and there was only a split-second window for Giroud to act. He found it though, threading the ball past the advancing keeper and inside the near post.

There may be prettier or more emphatic goals, but there are few that are harder to convert than that one was. That was sheer brilliance from Giroud to score there.

He could have had his hat trick shortly thereafter, but Ankergren was sharp to deny him. How important that could have been, especially since the home side were level a minute later. Again, the Arsenal defense was shoddy in allowing a preventable goal. Brighton attacked down their right, with Santos woefully out of position, a full 10 or 12 yards away from his mark. The cross came in, and Mertesacker was easily beaten to the ball by Ulloa, who nodded home from close range.

I keep using the Sunday league analogy, but I would give my 7-a-side team hell if we conceded one like that.

At least Arsene knew that changes needed to be made. First, the rusty Rosicky and the anonymous Oxlade-Chamberlain were withdrawn for Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. A few more defensive mistakes later (thankfully not punished by Brighton), Santos was mercifully removed for Kieran Gibbs. It took a bit for Wilshere to find his way into the game, but soon enough the Man Who Should Be Captain gave Arsenal the drive to win the game.

Also, it should be mentioned that shortly after Gibbs came on, I turned to our own Brett Chase and told him that we'd win the game. Like I keep saying, you play this game long enough (at any level), and patterns will sometimes jump out at you. I've been in games like this before, on the winning and losing sides. I knew this was going to be 3-2, and I wasn't disappointed.

Giroud had another decent chance for his hat trick, but the ball took a bad bounce off the ground and went over the bar. It was always coming though, and Walcott came through in the 86th minute. The fantastic Giroud was in the thick of it though, causing all sorts of bother on a corner kick. Ankergren got a decent enough punch to it, but it only went as far as Walcott on the edge of the area. He hit a first-time shot that the Danish keeper could only awkwardly punch into his own net.

One day, I will tire of being right. Today is not that day.

Arsenal comfortably saw out the dying stages of the match, and will join an interesting field in the last 16 of the competition. Both Manchester sides loom in the distance, as will Chelsea in all likelihood (though I should say that Brentford are my lower-league team - I've even been to Griffin Park to see a 2-1 win over Chester City back in 1998. I'll be hoping for an upset from the Bees).

Either way, we're alive...and that's all we can ask for. I mean, we could be in Norwich City's shoes, right?

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Santos 2 (Gibbs 7), Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 5, Jenkinson 6, Diaby 7, Ramsey 7, Podolski 7, Rosicky 7 (Wilshere 7), Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Walcott 8), Giroud 8

Man of the Match: This one is a no-brainer. Two goals and fantastic hold-up play from Olivier Giroud makes this one of the easier awards in recent memory.