We’ve made it. The Premier League is back. Arsenal open things up away to a potentially tricky, newly-promoted Brentford side. Historically, clubs that have just come up have struggled in their opener. But in front of a home crowd that hasn’t seen a top flight match in more than 70 years and hasn’t been in the ground since before COVID shut down the football world, anything can happen. Not to mention that it’s Arsenal — take that in whatever way it strikes you.
Thomas Frank’s men play a high-tempo, high-pressing style. In past seasons, we’ve seen promoted sides struggle to maintain the tactics that brought them up against more talented Premier League teams. The defenders at the Championship level aren’t nearly as skilled on the ball as Premier League defenders, so the Bees might be vulnerable to a press-break turning into a numbers-up chance for their opponents.
Then again, the jury is still out on whether Arsenal play out of the back effectively. Mikel Arteta wants his side to play that way, but we’ve all got none-too-pleasant memories of Bernd Leno, Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin, and others giving the ball away in dangerous positions.
Ivan Toney is the Brentford man to keep an eye on. He was linked to a handful of Premier League sides last spring before the summer window, including briefly with Arsenal, but with Brentford’s promotion, they were able to hold onto their star attacker. Toney scored 33 goals and added 10 assists in 52 matches in all competitions last year.
Brentford have their full complement of players available for selection today.
Arsenal, on the other hand, had two late additions to the unavailable list — Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette — will both miss out due to illness. That means either Gabriel Martinelli or Folarin Balogun will have to step up. Or perhaps Nicolas Pepe will unexpectedly lead the line. Those two absences also mean that Bukayo Saka will probably make an earlier than anticipated return to the starting lineup today.
Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah, and Gabriel Magalhaes were already confirmed out. Partey sustained an ankle injury in the preseason match against Chelsea and is expected back in training at the end of August. Nketiah also has an ankle problem and won’t be back until September. Gabriel Magalhaes will also be out until early September while he recovers from knee pain and tendinitis that kept him out of the Olympics.
Arsenal - Leno, Chambers, White, Pablo Mari, Tierney, Xhaka, Sambi, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Balogun, Martinelli
Brentford - Rays, Ajmer, Jansson, Pinnock, Canos, Janelt, Norgaard, Onyeka, Henry, Mbeumo, Toney
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