Its a frantic festive period! Arsenal manager, Unai Emery and Nigeria international, Alex Iwobi would be looking to navigate a path through, first at the Amex Stadium on Boxing Day.
While others celebrate Christmas, Iwobi – who netted the third goal versus Burnley in Arsenal’s last match – and Super Eagles defender, Leon Balogun will be slugging it out on the pitch in South East England on Wednesday. Thereafter, they face table-toppers Liverpool on Saturday.
But Emery vows: “We are going to play [with] full [commitment]… the same three points are in Brighton that are in Liverpool.”
For influential midfielder, Lucas Torreira, the prospect of a one-game ban will not affect him. Emery is weighing up whether to start the Uruguay international against Brighton as he is already on four yellow cards half-season.
“I don’t know if Torreira can even play cautiously, but I don’t want him to think about the possibility of a suspension against Liverpool for one yellow card,” Emery tells Arsenal.com.
“I don’t want him to think about that.”
To ensure the 22-year-old is available for the trip to Anfield, Emery could make the tactical decision to bench the midfielder on the south coast. However, considering Arsenal’s ever-lengthening injury list – the Gunners appear to have eight players out of contention for the Brighton game – it seems an unlikely course of action.
For the record, Matteo Guendouzi is also one game away from a league suspension having also picked up four yellow cards in the Premier League.
The Frenchman already missed Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool in November after picking up a red card in the Carabao Cup. He would be hoping to feature against Jurgen Klopp’s men this time around.
Time to focus on points – Hughton
Meanwhile, Emery’s opposite number, Chris Hughton highlight the importance of turning promising performances into results, as his Brighton side look to end a run of three consecutive defeats when Arsenal visit.
Hughton pinpoint his team’s hat-trick of narrow victories in October and believes that although the performance levels were less attractive, the nine-point collection was imperative to Albion’s current league standing.
He says: “Our level of performance has improved recently, but perhaps the period of the season where our level wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be, we managed to pick up three 1-0 victories.
“In this division, for a club like us, at the level we are, to win three games on the spin is huge. That went a long way for where we are at the moment and the gap that we’ve got.
“We can talk about levels of performance, but ultimately it’s about picking up points. What we could have done better in the last few games is picked up some more points.
“Southampton are on the back of two wins and if they have a good Christmas, their position will be so different to what it was before.
“We know there’s still a lot of work to do, and this Christmas schedule is going to be a big period for us.”
The Seagulls will be hoping to record a second victory over Arsenal in 2018 when Emery’s side travel south, but Hughton insists the occasion will only be enjoyed with a positive result.
“It’s a great game for us and this club has fought for many years to get to this stage. We enjoyed our first season in the Premier League, but the dynamic changes a little bit for the second season.
“These are always the types of games that home supporters look forward to. We’re fortunate to have a home game, and fortunately for Arsenal supporters, the travelling distance isn’t too far for them.
“It’s a good game for us but one that we’ll only enjoy if we put on a level of performance that allows us to get something.”
Balogun has featured seven times for Brighton this season, scoring once, while Iwobi has appeared in 15 Premier League games for his London club, scoring two and assisting two.
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