Arsenal’s quest to qualify for the Champions League received another setback with a 2-1 home loss to Brighton on Saturday, making it two defeats in a row for Mikel Arteta’s slumping team.
Five days after losing 3-0 at Crystal Palace, Arsenal looked fragile again as Leandro Trossard and Enock Mwepu scored either side of halftime at Emirates Stadium for a previously out-of-form Brighton before a late consolation by Martin Odegaard.
The absences of first-choice left back Kieran Tierney and influential holding midfielder Thomas Partey are proving significant for Arsenal in the late-season fight with Tottenham, in particular, for a top-four finish behind Manchester City, Liverpool and most likely Chelsea.
Arsenal started the game tied on points with fourth-place Tottenham, which plays at Aston Villa later Saturday.
Granit Xhaka, a center midfielder, filled in at left back with Tierney missing and was out of position for Brighton’s first goal. Xhaka was stranded upfield as a long ball was played in behind him, and Mwepu ran through before crossing for Trossard to apply a rising finish from 15 yards (meters) in the 29th minute.
Gabriel Martinelli had an equalizing goal at a corner in first-half stoppage time ruled out for offside after a four-minute review by VAR, and the home fans were further frustrated in the 66th when Moisés Caicedo pulled the ball back to the edge of the area for Mwepu to sweep in a low finish.
Odegaard pulled a goal back in the 89th minute with a long-range strike that looped into the top corner after taking a slight deflection but Arsenal didn’t have enough time to find an equalizer.
It was a third loss in the last four games for Arsenal, which must play Chelsea and Manchester United this month with its injury-affected team.
Brighton, which hadn’t won any of their previous seven league games, is languishing in midtable as it drifts toward the end of the season.