The Gunners saw their top-four hopes dashed after being held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton at the Emirates on Sunday
Of all the places for Arsenal’s top-four chances to finally come to an end, no-one would have guessed it would have been at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s north London stadium has been a fortress for much of the season, a calming oasis amid the pain of the consistently abject form away from home.
But at the most crucial stage of the season, that fortress has been breached – twice. And now Unai Emery’s side know it’s Europa League or bust in terms of their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next term.
Just as they were against Crystal Palace last time out at Emirates, Arsenal were awful on Sunday against Brighton.
They may have avoided being beaten this time, but the 1-1 draw felt like a defeat – with it now being all but impossible for Emery’s side to haul back fourth-placed Spurs, whatever happens at Burnley next weekend.
Things had started so well, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking his Premier League goal tally for the season to 20 with an early penalty.
But from that moment on it was Brighton who were the better side and they got the equaliser they deserved just after the hour mark when Glenn Murray struck from the spot following a ridiculous foul from Granit Xhaka on Solly March.
Given what was at stake and following Tottenham’s defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday, it was a pitiful performance from Arsenal and one that once again highlighted how much they rely on their two star strikers.
Aubameyang now has 26 goals in all competitions this season, with 20 coming in the Premier League. Lacazette, meanwhile, has 18 in all competitions and 14 in the league.
Arsenal’s third highest scorer in the league is Henrikh Mkhitaryan with six, then it’s Mesut Ozil with five, then Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhka with four. That is simply not good enough.
There is a lot of work to be done in the transfer market this summer, but for all the talk about the poor defence, there is no area that needs strengthening more than the attack – especially the wide areas.
Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud have all moved on since the summer of 2018, that’s a huge amount of goals that haven’t really been replaced. If Aubameyang and Lacazette aren’t scoring, there is no real threat from elsewhere.
The lack of width has been apparent all season – and no more so than on Sunday when the Gunners toiled against Brighton.
Aubameyang’s 26-goal haul shouldn’t be underestimated when you consider the service he’s been getting during his first full campaign in north London.
The Gabon international is a striker who feeds off balls from out wide, that’s where so many of his goals came from while at Dortmund. How he would love to have an Ousmane Dembele-type player alongside him now.
Obviously Dembele is out of reach for Arsenal, but he is the kind of player that Emery and head of football Raul Sanllehi must be targeting this summer.
Someone like Nicolas Pepe at Lille, who they have been tracking all season, would be perfect – but he now also looks out of reach given his ever-increasing price tag.
With finances tight once again at the Emirates, Arsenal will need to be clever in the market. It won’t be easy but it’s essential they get business done and ease the burden on both Aubameyang and Lacazette, especially with Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck moving on.
Securing Champions League football will help with that.
One route back to Europe’s elite competition and the millions that comes with it has now closed, but there is still some hope. Next stop Valencia and the Europa League semi-final second leg.
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