With a number of our Premier League rivals crashing out of the FA Cup unexpectedly this weekend, it was important we got off to a flying start at the Falmer Stadium.
Theo Walcott ensured we did just that, putting us ahead with less than three minutes on the clock.
Calum Chambers made a superb run down the right, skipping past a Brighton defender and picking out his compatriot with a low driven cross. The pacey forward cushioned the ball with his first touch, and smashed the ball past David Stockdale with his second. His first goal in over a year, but he took it like he had never been away.
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It was all Arsenal from that moment on, and we were constantly threatening the Seagulls’ goal with first Aaron Ramsey and then Olivier Giroud seeing efforts blocked.
Walcott was getting into fantastic positions, and making dangerous runs with and without the ball. His end product and decision making hadn’t quite returned yet though, and a few chances went begging.
It wasn’t long until we doubled our lead, with Brighton putting little pressure on the ball and not closing down as quickly as they should have.
Tomas Rosicky found himself in acres of space at the edge of the box, and was able to pick out Mesut Özil with a delicious pass. The recently returned German international looked calm and composed on the ball, and stroked it past Stockdale to make it two in 25 minutes.
Brighton were poor in the first half in truth, and you had to believe they would improve in the second period.
It was us who came out firing once again in the second half however, and we should have scored after some vintage Arsenal passing put Walcott through on goal. He took too many touches however, was crowded out by the defenders.
The home side immediately punished us for our lack of clinical finishing, racing up the other end and making it 2-1.
There looked to be an offside in the buildup, and there were then questions over a foul on Chambers. Rosicky made a bit of a mess of the clearance however, and both Mathieu Flamini and Laurent Koscielny should have done better against Chris O’Grady.
The Brighton man was allowed too much time on the ball, and drilled a shot past Wojciech Szczesny who could do absolutely nothing.
The goal buoyed Chris Hughton’s side, and gave them the confidence to start pressing more. They were starting to look a little more dangerous, but Man of the Match Tomas Rosicky ensured the game didn’t get away from us.
Brighton failed to clear their lines properly, allowing the Czech midfielder to run at their defence. He played a clever one-two with Giroud, who put it on a plate for the 34-year-old. Rosicky struck a beautiful volley past the keeper, restoring the two goal lead and making it 3-1.
Chupa Akpom and Alexis Sanchez came on for Walcott and Giroud at Arsene Wenger’s usual 70 minute mark, and we looked weaker for it. The French forward had been an excellent out ball when Brighton were applying pressure, and he had kept the opposition busy all afternoon.
Both Akpom and Sanchez looked good, but they were arguably not what we needed.
We had to endure a tense final 15 minutes, with Sam Baldock making it 3-2 late on. The defending was poor, and he was allowed to skip through and chip Szczesny far too easily.
Francis Coquelin was brought on to sure things up, and we looked far more solid with the 23-year-old on the pitch. Mathieu Flamini had been poor, and should be taking tips from his fellow Frenchman.
Sanchez came close with a couple of free kicks, striking the bar very unluckily. With just a few minutes remaining however, he perhaps should have been looking to retain possession.
We should have made it four right at the death, Rosicky picking out an unmarked Aaron Ramsey in the box with an unbelievable cross. The Welshman’s volley was struck down into the ground however, and bounced harmlessly out of play.
We held on for the win, and put ourselves in a great position to go all the way in the FA Cup once again. We certainly can’t get ahead of ourselves just yet, but with a number of the big guns already out we have an excellent chance of retaining this season.