Another loss. Another big injury. Things are going from bad to worse for Arsenal in the early days of the Premier League’s resumption.
A 2-1 defeat at Brighton on Saturday came only three days after a 3-0 beating by Manchester City, with the demoralizing results robbing Arsenal of the momentum it had before the suspension of the league three months ago because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Qualification for the Champions League looks a long shot now — Arsenal is in 10th place, six points off Manchester United in fifth — and manager Mikel Arteta also has a growing injury list to deal with in this congested period of matches.
Bernd Leno, one of Arsenal’s best players this season, joined that list after landing awkwardly on his right knee after being given a nudge by Brighton striker Neal Maupay in an aerial challenge. Leno’s howls of pain were audible in the empty Amex Stadium and the goalkeeper remonstrated angrily with Maupay while being carried off on a stretcher.
Sure enough, it was the French striker who scored the winning goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Arsenal’s players took out their frustrations on Maupay as he celebrated a huge win for Brighton after the final whistle, with fellow Frenchman Matteo Guendouzi grabbing him by the throat in an action that sent Maupay to the ground.
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“Some of their players need to learn what is humility, especially one of them,” Maupay said, without mentioning Guendouzi by name. “He was talking all game, he was saying bad things.
“I don’t want to say because I could be in trouble. I just said that this is what happens when you talk too much on the pitch.”
Maupay said, though, he had apologized to Leno and Arteta.
Arsenal’s most likely route into European competition next season might now be through winning the FA Cup, which resumes at the quarterfinal stage next weekend.
Yet Arteta is thinking much longer term after inheriting in December a team that has lost its place among English football’s elite in recent years.
“This is the challenge we all have at the football club, to rebuild to something that is worth the club we are representing,” Arteta said.
Leno has a suspected twisted knee, potentially ruling him out of the rest of this pandemic-extended campaign. Arteta lost midfielder Granit Xhaka and defender Pablo Mari to injury against City, with Mari unlikely to return before next season.