The Premier League is back. Arsenal are without European action this year, which offers some reprieve as they look to climb back up the table this season and challenge for another FA Cup. The summer transfer market has seen the Gunners bring in center back Ben White from Brighton, midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht, and a backup for Kieran Tierney in Nuno Tavares from Benfica. Meanwhile, the preseason has not gone as planned — a canceled trip to Florida and a pair of one-goal losses to London rivals. Thankfully, it’s now time to move on to the start of the season.
It won’t be Arsenal’s preferred XI if everyone was healthy, with summer injuries to Thomas Partey and Gabriel, but there is plenty of attacking talent for Arteta to utilize as they make their first trip to Brentford since 1947. The Gunners last played Brentford in a 3-1 League Cup win back in 2018 at the Emirates, which saw a brace from Danny Welbeck and a late goal by Alexandre Lacazette. But that win was the only match between the two clubs since each were in the old League Division One in the 1930s/40s. In fact, you only have to go back 12 matches in this series to the period when Arsenal was known as Woolwich Arsenal.
As the club makes the 12-mile journey across London, fans will be expecting a fast start to the season knowing that both Chelsea and Manchester City are looming up next. How will Mikel Arteta lineup up for matchday one?
- Alex Rúnarsson
- Rob Holding
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Mohamed Elneny
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Folarin Balogun
- Calum Chambers
- Left Out: Nuno Tavares, Sead Kolašinac, Joe Willock, Willian, & Reiss Nelson
- Out: Thomas Partey (ankle), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), & Gabriel (knee).
- This is the starting XI that went out against Tottenham in the last preseason friendly, except for Saka coming in for Aubameyang. That might be a stretch to call for Arsenal’s captain to start the match on the bench against a newly-promoted side, but Bukayo needs to be in the XI and Pepe was such a threat at the end of last season.
- This is nearly the first-choice Arsenal backline — for now. Bellerin looked set to leave a few weeks ago, but as the summer window ticks by, that exit seems less likely each day. Ben White likely gets the nod over Rob Holding to start the season, while Pablo Mari comes in while Gabriel recovers from his injury during the run-up to the Olympics. If we reach September, and Gabriel has recovered, Arsenal will be in great shape with a Tierney-Gabriel-White-Bellerin backline with just the Premier League to focus on this season.
- In the midfield, Xhaka and Sambi are locks heading into week one. That is not a statement Arsenal fans would have expected a month ago, when it looked like Xhaka was headed to Roma. With Partey out and Sambi impressing during the preseason, he gets the starting spot on opening day over Elneny.
- Saka and Pepe running at the defense on either wing, with Smith Rowe pulling the strings as the 10 and Lacazette up top, is just about the best-attacking quartet Arsenal can put together in week one. All three of the players behind Lacazette can interchange throughout the match, and with Aubameyang and Martinelli as attacking options in the second half, that sounds ideal as Arteta looks to apply more pressure on Brentford’s backline late on. Based on how the rest of the bench goes, it would be nice to have Willock as an option for that attacking midfield spot, but if a deal is close with Newcastle it’s doubtful Arsenal will risk him.
- Premier League benches will continue to have nine substitutes, so Arteta will have plenty of options to change Arsenal’s formation and personnel throughout the match. Besides Nuno Tavares, all of the ‘left out’ names are players expected to play elsewhere this season. In an ideal world, that is Kolasinac and Willian sold, Nelson loaned out (hopefully in the Premier League * ahem * Crystal Palace) and Willock either sold to Newcastle or loaned there for another season. But you can see Nuno, Willock, or Willian making the bench in place of Balogun.
How to watch
Friday (8/13) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Brentford - 1
This isn’t expected to be Arsenal’s final roster come the start of September, but it’s a squad that should be able to put away the newly-promoted Brentford, even on the road and in front of fans. I expect it to be a tense opening 20-30 minutes for the Gunners, and even concede at some point, but with most of the squad fit and tested this preseason, Arsenal opens the campaign with three points.