Both midfield men are crucial to how their sides play, and Saturday’s possible confrontation ought to excite supporters and neutrals alike
Six games into the new Premier League season and it appears Brighton & Hove Albion’s luck is changing.
Admittedly, it may be ill-advised to make such claims when we’re not even significantly into 2021/22, yet, the Seagulls have had certain situations go their way in the early weeks of the campaign.
This is somewhat typified by late goals against Brentford and Crystal Palace: Leandro Trossard got a late 90th-minute winner against the Bees while Neal Maupay levelled proceedings in the 95th minute against Crystal Palace on Monday, Brighton’s joint-second latest-ever Premier League goal, to nick a 1-1 draw at the death.
Last season, Graham Potter’s side probably don’t score those goals and would have come away with one point from a possible six. This year, however, despite not wholly meriting the results at Brentford and Palace, they’ve picked up four from six.
Having said that, one of the more convincing performances and results of this Brighton side so far this term came against Watford, a match utterly dominated by the intelligent Yves Bissouma.
The dynamic Mali star embodied his team’s coherent approach on the day, while Watford’s modus operandi under Xisco Munoz was exposed.
Goal analysed the teams’ displays at the Amex, particularly looking into the Bissouma-vs-Peter Etebo battle in the middle of the park, with the former utterly dominant while the Nigeria international struggled in an unfamiliar role and disjointed system.
Bissouma missed out at Selhurst Park and the West African faces a race against time to face Arsenal this weekend.
“Bissouma is making decent progress, this game [Crystal Palace] came a little bit soon for him,” Potter said, as per Sussex Live. “We are hopeful he can be available against Arsenal but we will have to see at the back end of the week.”
Having already dominated one midfield battle against Etebo in August, a potential tussle with Thomas Partey excites and is one of the interesting sub-plots as Mikel Arteta’s men seek three successive wins against the Seagulls for the first time in the PL.
The second of those victories came on the final day of last season and, despite getting a glimpse of these impressive African midfielders clashing at the Emirates Stadium in May, there’s comparatively a lot more riding on Saturday’s meeting at the Amex.
For Brighton, there’s a desire to continue their impressive start to the season and hope to revive an impressive record against Arsenal. The Albion suffered losses in both fixtures last season, ending a run of five games without defeat against the Gunners and they’ll pose a great threat to the North Londoners’ perceived improvement.
Arteta’s men have picked up victories against Norwich City, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur, the latter particularly impressive and arguably the club’s most imposing showing under the Spaniard’s management since December 2019.
Partey’s part in this run has been marked, even though he missed out for an hour against the struggling Canaries. His two-fold role in the defeat of Sean Dyche’s men at Turf Moor saw him act as an auxiliary centre-back in the expectation of an aerial bombardment and his positive inclination in possession aided the team’s forward thrust from midfield.
His showing in the North London Derby may have been overshadowed by the match-winners on the day but the range and accuracy of his passing was bettered by only Granit Xhaka while his pressing of Harry Kane and subsequent recovery of possession helped to begin the move that led to Arsenal’s third goal.
Reassuringly, the Ghana star completed 90 minutes for the first time this season having been hitherto eased back in.
While the schadenfreude that accompanied the Gunners’ underwhelming start to the season was over the top, it is equally too soon to get over-excited after recording as many wins as defeats after six games.
Norwich, unfortunately, look destined to go down again, Burnley—reputation as the league’s hardmen aside—can’t buy results at the moment, remaining winless in 21/22 and on a run of 11 defeats in their last 15 PL games since the start of April and Tottenham are seemingly in free-fall after a rather misleading unblemished start.
Frankly, it would be insincere to water down Sunday’s derby showing, but rehashing that performance against a team as integrated as Brighton will get more Gooners believing after the typical gloom-ridden reactions following the opening three games.
We’re still only seven gameweeks in, so Saturday’s result won’t be euphoric for the winner or disastrous for the loser, still, their respective showings will shed more light on the level of Brighton and, particularly, Arsenal.
Indeed, you sense we’ll be talking about Bissouma or Partey regardless of the result in East Sussex.