Brighton aim to improve their record against Arsenal
Seagulls sense weakness in Gunners
26 January ~ "With all due respect to [insert name of less prestigious club]" is usually shorthand for "we don't think you're very good really". But – with all due respect to Swansea – that's not the reason most Brighton fans wanted Arsenal to win their FA Cup third round replay, with the prize being a fourth round trip to the Amex. Swansea look very good right now and not at all up for any sort of giant killing – sorry, Bradford. But as the latter have proved this season, while Arsenal are never going to be pushovers, they may be vulnerable.
It looks an intriguing contest and will fill Brighton's new stadium. With FA Cup rules on ticketing meaning Arsenal fans will be there in abundance, the atmosphere will surely be potent. The Seagulls' record against the Gunners is poor. On August 18, 1979, they were the opponents in Brighton's first-ever game in the top division and beat us 4-0 at home. In the end Albion and Arsenal met five times that season, including in both cups, and although one ended 0-0, Brighton lost the rest. Of 13 previous meetings Brighton have only won twice and didn't even score in the first nine.
The last meeting was also in the FA Cup fourth round, in January 1988, while Brighton were heading for promotion to the second tier. This was the last truly big crowd – just under 30,000 – at the Goldstone Ground: the match was not all-ticket and I remember my father and I packed in like sardines, just about seeing Garry Nelson (in his famous-in-Brighton 32-goal season) equalise Arsenal's opening goal. But there was to be no replay as the Gunners won 2-1.
This was in Arsenal's George Graham era, only a season before their legendary title-winning night at Anfield – a match which I must admit has given me a residual affection for them ever since. Of all of the "big" clubs I find them by far the least objectionable, though obviously I want to see a Brighton win. We have been hard to beat this season but are not winning enough; 12 league draws so far is too many.
Although the main objective is promotion to the Premier League, Gus Poyet's side have found the Cup an interesting sideline over the last few seasons. If Brighton do beat the Gunners they'll be in the fifth round for the third time in a row, having previously not made it since 1986. Sentiment, perhaps, but I just hope for a good game – and that Arsenal don't play like they did after half time against West Ham on Wednesday night. Drew Whitworth
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