One of the less-appreciated elements to Mikel Arteta’s approach has been his refusal to say anything remotely controversial about opponents, at least during the week ahead of facing one. By contrast, Roberto de Zerbi, perhaps sensing the pressure growing around Brighton’s wobble, including a devastating 1-5 loss to Everton on Monday, may have put his foot in it and offered Arteta some motivational material. While his intent was probably more about addressing his own players, Arteta will almost certainly ensure that a few of our lads get the message as well.
De Zerbi said, “I think on Sunday [vs Arsenal] we will show our quality and be back to playing our style. You will see the true Brighton.” Admittedly, that’s pretty mild as far as trash talk goes, but he does have a point. He’s had them playing some very good football despite that loss, the loss away to Nottingham Forest, and the lost to Tottenham. They did after all just beat Man U just before the Everton debacle and still have a better-than-even chance at finishing above Tottenham courtesty of having two games in hand (and playing better football, on the whole).
For as much as we might like to see Brighton overtake Tottenham, we’re in no position to be throwing away points or doing any favours. There’s a Prem title floating agonisingly, tantalisingly out of reach, and we can’t afford to drop any points if we’re to have any chance of wresting that title away from the Manolith (Man City + monolith. Worth trademarking? Meh…). While it might be easy to contrast Brighton’s loss to Everton with our win at Newcastle and conclude that we’ll waltz away with all three points, we have to consider the opposite: the Seagulls may show up full of piss & vinegar while our lads show up overconfident and complacent.
We’re still hoping that Man City drop points as they fight to win the Champions League, but nothing they do will matter if we also drop points. We already need them to drop five as it is. Let’s hope de Zerbi’s little pep talk reaches the wrong ears and gets the wrong squad geared up…