Striker Alexandre Lacazette scored 29 seconds after coming on as a second-half substitute to give Arsenal a narrow win at Brighton.
The Frenchman swept in Bukayo Saka’s ball for his third goal in three games to earn the Gunners their first back-to-back league wins since the start of the season.
However, their display lacked the fizz that saw them defeat Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday. They were particularly sluggish in the first half when they only managed one effort on goal.
The tempo and urgency was turned up a couple of notches after the break, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli going close before Lacazette struck.
Brighton boss Graham Potter left forwards Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck on the bench – two of six changes made to the starting XI. His side once again looked comfortable and composed on the ball but it was the same old story in attack.
The closest the home side came to scoring was when Alireza Jahanbakhsh forced a sharp save from Bernd Leno at his near post.
Arsenal climb up to 13th and now have 20 points, while Brighton remain two points above the drop zone in 17th.
🎙 Interviewer: You're one of the more experienced players in that attacking lineup. What do these young players bring to you?
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 29, 2020
Second-half revival benefits Arsenal
Did Kieran Tierney give Arsenal’s half-time team-talk?
The Scotland full-back was adamant that the emphatic victory over the Blues was partly due to the side starting on the front foot, so it came as a slight surprise that the Gunners retreated into their shells during the first half against Brighton.
Aubameyang replaced Lacazette in the starting XI, but he was left chasing scraps as his team-mates failed to provide him with adequate service. Thankfully for the club’s fans, it was a match of two halves – their team looked rejuvenated after the break.
Aubameyang went close soon after the restart when he attempted to turn home Saka’s cross but was thwarted by the knee of Robert Sanchez. His side then broke through.
Saka, exceptional on the flanks, this time set up Lacazette, who barely had time to get his studs dirty as he fired his shot past the Seagulls keeper.
The display was in stark contrast with that shown against Chelsea, but the result is the same and will give Arsenal and their fans heart as they head into 2021.
Brighton fall short again
Seagulls supporters might question why their manager chose to leave two of his potent forwards out of the line-up.
Had Maupay, their leading scorer this season, and Welbeck been involved in the first half, then would Brighton have made more of their first-half dominance?
Jahanbakhsh was competent in leading the attack, but only had two efforts on goal. He was wild with one strike from Bernardo’s cross and saw another snap-shot saved by Arsenal’s German stopper Leno.
Potter brought on Maupay, along with wingers Leandro Trossard and Solly March, but by this stage Arsenal were 1-0 up and had seized the initiative – which they were not going to relinquish.
Arsenal defence shine again – stats
Brighton have won just one of their past 14 Premier League games, drawing seven and losing six.
Arsenal have won back-to-back league games this season for the first time since their opening two games back in September.
Brighton end 2020 with just one Premier League home win (17 games), the lowest total of victories on home soil in a calendar year in the history of the competition (excluding promoted and relegated teams, who did not complete a calendar year in the top flight).
Arsenal kept their fourth away clean sheet of the season in the Premier League, a figure only Aston Villa can better in 2020-21 (five).
Lacazette has scored in each of his past three games for Arsenal in all competitions, after netting just once in his previous 12.
He scored 29 seconds after entering the field, the quickest goal by an Arsenal substitute in the Premier League since that data was first recorded at the start of the 2006-07 season.
Since the start of last season, Bukayo Saka has registered 15 assists in all competitions for Arsenal, more than any other player for the club.
Brighton host Wolves on Saturday (17:30 GMT) and Arsenal are at struggling West Brom on the same day (20:00 GMT).