BRIGHTON AND HOVE, United Kingdom, Mar 4- A miserable week for Arsene Wenger ended with a third straight loss as Arsenal slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Brighton on Sunday.
The future of the Arsenal manager has been under scrutiny after 3-0 defeats to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final last Sunday and in the Premier League on Thursday night, and first-half goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray prompted more discontent among the away supporters at the Amex Stadium.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 42nd-minute goal gave Wenger some hope after a woeful first-half performance, but his players were unable to find an equaliser and avoid a fourth straight away defeat in the Premier League.
The loss leaves Arsenal in sixth place and 13 points behind Tottenham in fourth, while Brighton climb into the top half of the table.
Arsenal were ragged and sloppy throughout the first half and fell behind in the seventh minute when Pascal Gross’ corner was headed back across the six-yard box by Shane Duffy and – with Petr Cech out of position – Dunk responded quickest to stab home.
A deserved Brighton second duly arrived on 26 minutes when Laurent Koscielny conceded possession and the ball was worked to Gross on the right. His cross was met by Murray in the six-yard box and the ball squeezed beneath the body of Cech to prompt some ‘Wenger out’ chants in the away end.
But somehow Arsenal halved the deficit with a scruffy goal two minutes before the break. After Duffy had failed to clear, Alex Iwobi pulled the ball back to Granit Xhaka and his pass was smartly deflected beyond Mathew Ryan by the outside of Aubameyang’s right foot.
Arsene Wenger made three changes from Thursday’s defeat to Man City with Aaron Ramsey rested and Hector Bellerin and Danny Welbeck benched. Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers and Alex Iwobi all started. Brighton were unchanged.
Incredibly, Arsenal were almost level on the stroke of half-time when Duffy thudded a header onto his own post and they also had the first major chance of the second period when Mesut Ozil’s drive forced a save from Ryan.
Saed Kolasinac, who was booked in the first half, avoided further punishment for a match-ending barge on Ezequiel Schelotto and, moments later, Jose Izquierdo shot just wide after driving at the Arsenal defence.
The offside flag denied Brighton a third when Murray finished off a slick move late on, but his first-half header ultimately earned them a third straight home victory, while another insipid Arsenal display will prompt even more discussion over Wenger’s position.
Brighton travel to Everton next Saturday, while, Arsenal take on AC Milan in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday night, before entertaining Watford at the Emirates on Sunday.
-By Sky Sports