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(From left) Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli, Rob Holding, William Saliba and Mohamed Elneny celebrate after the match against Brighton which they won 4-2. Image Credit: REUTERS

Brighton: Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah grabbed early goals in each half for Arsenal as they won 4-2 away to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday in the final Premier League game of 2022 to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table.

Arsenal top the standings on 43 points with second-placed Manchester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton earlier in the day, on 36 and Newcastle United, who drew 0-0 with Leeds, two points further back in third.

“We knew the result of the Manchester City game, but the boost is we have to come here and win, and to do that we have to perform at the highest level in this league,” Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta said. “Tonight we had to have a big performance to win against a really good Brighton side. We had to dig in as well. We have a lot of things to improve, especially in defending moments. We still have room to improve.”

Early goal

Saka scored just over a minute into the game as Gabriel Martinelli’s shot was deflected into his path, and he cushioned the ball with his first touch before deftly guiding it home with his second.

Leandro Trossard had a couple of decent chances for the home side before Martin Odegaard added Arsenal’s second in the 39th minute, pouncing on a loose clearance and driving a shot that bounced up and into the net.

The league leaders looked to have wrapped up the victory just after the break as keeper Robert Sanchez spilled another Martinelli shot into the path of striker Nketiah, and he bundled the ball home from close range.

However, a Kaoru Mitoma goal in the 65th minute threw Brighton a lifeline and though Gabriel Martinelli netted a fourth for Arsenal from a stunning Odegaard pass, Evan Ferguson made it 4-2 to set up a grandstand finish.

Mitoma thought he had made it 4-3 in the 89th minute but the goal was chalked off after a VAR review found that he had come from an offside position, as the Gunners held on to close out the year with a win.

Good team

“We don’t care about the other teams, three points was everything today and we did it. Maybe we need to control the game a bit better, we let them in a couple of times, but they are a good team,” Arsenal captain Odegaard said.

Fellow goal-scorer Saka said his side were delighted to be seven points clear going into the New Year.

“Of course, at the start of the season if you asked us if we wanted this, we would bite your hand off. We are really happy,” he said.

“It is a great opportunity we have, a great place we have put ourselves in.”