Mikel Arteta sent clear message as Arsenal’s fringe players fail to deliver in Brighton defeat

Arsenal were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle  (AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle (AFP via Getty Images)

This Carabao Cup tie against Brighton was meant to be a moment for Arsenal’s fringe players to shine, but instead it was a reminder to Mikel Arteta about how clear his first team is right now.

Few Arsenal players came out of this third-round clash against Brighton with much credit as the Gunners slumped to a 3-1 defeat.

Arteta made 10 changes for the match, with centre-back William Saliba the only player to keep his place from Sunday’s 1-0 win at Chelsea in the Premier League.

This performance here was in stark contrast to that one at Stamford Bridge, where Arsenal looked like a team that are currently top of the Premier League.

Saliba looked a class above against Brighton, playing with calmness on the ball at the back and showing just why he has been named in the France squad for this month’s World Cup in Qatar.

There were some other bright sparks for Arsenal too, even amid the gloom of this third-round defeat. Eddie Nketiah impressed upfront, taking his goal really well, and Reiss Nelson was sharp out wide.

Beyond that, though, this was a disappointing night for Arsenal and a frustrating one for those players on the fringes looking to break into Arteta’s first team.

Arsenal do now have the benefit of an eased fixture schedule. They certainly don’t have to worry about playing in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, which is due to take place just two days after the World Cup final.

But Arteta clearly wanted to win this game as shown by the fact he opted against fielding a team of academy hopefuls.

The challenge was put to the likes of Albert Sambi Lokonga and Fabio Vieira to step up, but they failed to deliver. The pair are worth around £50million between them, however they could not get control of the midfield in this game.

Arsenal’s first-choice midfield has been excellent this season, with the trio of Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard and Thomas Partey looking so slick. Mohamed Elneny, Lokonga and Vieira highlighted the gap to that.

After taking the lead through Nketiah, you expected Arsenal to kick on - but instead Brighton hit back before the break. It was a nightmare moment for debutant Karl Hein in goal, who slipped and then as he scrambled to get up he brought down Danny Welbeck. The former Arsenal man made no mistake from the spot and suddenly the Seagulls had lift-off.

Arsenal started the second-half brightly, going close through Nelson and Lokonga, while Nketiah hit the post too. But ultimately the Gunners didn’t make the most of those chances.

Instead, Brighton caught them twice on the break as first Karou Mitoma and then Tariq Lamptey got in down the right.

A memorable night for Brighton, who will fancy a cup run now, but one to forgot for Arsenal as they prepare for a trip to Wolves on Saturday.