Emery warns Arsenal to expect another physical test at Brighton

Unai Emery expects Brighton to pose a similar physical challenge to Burnley as the Arsenal head coach aims for a Boxing Day victory at the AMEX Stadium.

The Gunners secured a 3-1 win over Burnley on Saturday with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored twice, claiming he had never played in a game that was as feisty.

There were a number of flashpoints and Clarets boss Sean Dyche afterwards claimed that Arsenal players had dived during what proved to be a fairly hot-tempered afternoon.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery expects the match at Brighton to be another feisty affair, like last season's.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery expects the match at Brighton to be another feisty affair, like last season’s (Gareth Fuller/PA Images).

The win was enough to take Arsenal level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea and Emery expects Brighton to offer a similar challenge to his players.

“Brighton is the same, a very tough match physically, very organised and, like with Burnley, a very good coach who is working very well.

“It is a challenge and I respect those teams a lot because they also have good players. They decide to do a line-up with physical players with a lot of crosses for the strikers for heading in our box.

Shkodran Mustafi may be back from hamstring trouble for Arsenal's trip to Brighton.
Shkodran Mustafi may be back from hamstring trouble for Arsenal’s trip to Brighton (Jonathan Brady/PA Images).

“We need to defend very far in our box to defend better against that.”

The challenge for Arsenal, who lost to Chris Hughton’s Seagulls on the south-coast last season, is made more difficult due to a defensive injury crisis.

Emery could be without as many as five defenders for the trip to the AMEX as he continues to turn to the likes of Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner to fill in at centre-back.

Nacho Monreal is in contention to play at Brighton despite a recent hamstring complaint.
Nacho Monreal is in contention to play at Brighton despite a recent hamstring complaint. (Nick Potts/PA)

Rob Holding, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Hector Bellerin are out but Nacho Monreal could recover from a hamstring issue which forced him off in the win at Burnley.

Emery can turn to captain Laurent Koscielny, who has just returned from a seven-month injury lay-off, with Shkodran Mustafi set to return to training this week following a hamstring injury.

There was no such good news for winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with club confirming on Monday that the Armenia international is set for six weeks on the sidelines with a foot problem.

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