After another unbearably lengthy wait, Arsenal are finally taking the pitch, eager to make up for the opening match loss to Premier League debutantes Brentford and take another step toward the Gunners’ ultimate goal of finishing in the top four and securing Champions League soccer next season.
While matches against direct rivals feel undoubtedly “bigger” from a bragging rights standpoint, the match against Brentford is big due to the simple fact that, if the Gunners want to continue to be viewed as a legit top four contender, they need to approach these matches against mid-to-low table opponents as nothing less than three points for the taking. With no auxiliary cup matches to stretch thin the roster, Arteta and co are all in on the Premier League.
As if the Gunners needed any further motivation to beat the Bees after the season-opening loss, last weekend’s results across the league have given the Arsenal the inside track for the ever-important CL qualifying fourth spot. Spurs, United, and West Ham failed to win while Arsenal stayed idle, and now the Gunners have matches in hand and a healthy roster. Brentford, on the other hand, are in the midst of a five match winless streak, having lost four of their last five, a sharp downturn after their strong start to the season.
The Bees are dealing with a few injuries, specifically to striker Ivan Toney, who is a late assessment after being out for some time. New signing Christian Eriksen is still regaining match fitness and does not seem likely to feature today.
Arsenal are, fortunately, healthy across the board. The only question mark remains the availability of Takehiro Tomiyasu, who has been dealing with a calf issue for the past two months. He has rejoined training but it wouldn’t be surprising if Arteta starts Cedric and saves Tomi for the Wolves match on deck. Gabriel Martinelli’s red card at Wolves sees him miss today, and while Emile Smith Rowe seems a lock to regain the left wing position, Arteta’s praise of Nicolas Pepe this week may indicate that the Ivorian could get a rare league start.
Weather could potentially play a factor, as England was just hit by Storm Eunice, which brought with it high-speed winds, wreaking havoc across the UK and Northern Europe.
TEAM NEWS!— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 19, 2022
Xhaka and Partey in midfield
Saka x Smith Rowe#ARSBRE
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) February 19, 2022
@joshdasilva_ makes his first start of the season
Teams presented by @BlueJeansNet #BrentfordFC #ARSBRE pic.twitter.com/dtyvdykTeT
Coming down to brass tacks, the goal is simple: win and stay healthy. Arsenal’s streamlined schedule sets up a clear path to the top four, but they’ve got to win to ensure their control over their destiny. What better day to start than today?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Brentford
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Saturday, February 19th 7 am PT | 10 am ET | 3 pm BT
US TV: Streaming only on Peacock.
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