Arsenal thoroughly outplayed Brentford en route to a 2-1 win at the Emirates today. The visitor’s “oh by the way” goal in added time flatters. The Gunners comfortably swatted away the Bees, who had no sting in their play on the afternoon. Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka got the goals for Arsenal, who drew level with West Ham on points and one off Manchester United, with three and two games in hand over their top four competitors, respectively.
There’s honestly not much to be said about the match. Arsenal were quite good. Brentford were not up for it. The Gunners had 80% of the possession in the first half and fired a record 16 shot attempts in the half. They put 6 of 8 attempts in the second half on target. The defense shut down Brentford’s attack all match — Aaron Ramsdale was hardly troubled.
A few thoughts on the Arsenal players’ performances:
- Cedric was quite good on the day. He put in some quality crosses, didn’t get beat, nor did he make any massive mistakes. It was exactly the type of performance you want from your backup right back. Takehiro Tomiyasu should be set to return against Wolves next week; he was on the bench today.
- Ben White and Gabriel each made one pretty bad decision that led to a half-chance, but other than that, they were solid. Ben White got forward and involved in the attack more today than usual because Brentford were sitting back so deep. Gabriel physically and emphatically won three or four duels.
- Thomas Partey was great. He had one or two loose passes where his teammates bailed him out, beyond that, he controlled the game. And I thought he was finally going to get his goal. David Raya made a nice save on a curling effort labeled for the far post.
- Granit Xhaka played a different role today. He was less a double pivot and played more advanced, even making runs into the box. I’d say his average position was the left-center half-space between Partey and Ødegaard. There was bit of weirdness in the second half when he wouldn’t take the armband from Eddie Nketiah, who had received it from a subbed-off Alexandre Lacazette. No idea what that was about.
- Martin Ødegaard was really, really good in the first half probably the best player on the pitch, less so in the second. His creativity and vision were on full display. He and Bukayo Saka have developed a nice (and dangerous) partnership on the right side.
- Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka both scored lovely goals from close to the same spot on the pitch. ESR’s was a brilliant individual run off a great pick-out from Alexandre Lacazette. Saka’s was on the break after Thomas Partey showed good patience carrying the ball until Saka got open.
- Alexandre Lacazette was maddening today. His pass to Emile Smith Rowe was fantastic. He worked hard (as he always does) and was involved in the play. But he misplaced several simple passes that could have put teammates in. He also shot when he should have passed and passed when he should have shot a time or two each.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but man, when are Arsenal going to get some of those “I’ve seen them given” penalty calls? It didn’t end up mattering today, but on another day, it might (and it has, and it will). The Gunners had three or four legitimate penalty shouts not given: two handballs and both Lacazette and Nicolas Pépé possibly fouled in the area. Whatever. It’s the reality we have to live with, and there is nothing we can do about it.
The bottom line is that Arsenal won. They have 15 Premier League matches remaining this season. They control their own destiny for finishing in a Champions League place. This is going to be fun.