It’s good to be back. Now, it’s time to get back to winning, which Arsenal will try to accomplish as they head across London to face Brentford FC this Sunday.
Arsenal’s perfect 5-0 start came to an unceremonious end at Old Trafford before the league faced a hiatus following the passing of Queen Elizabeth. After the loss to Manchester United, the big question mark for the Gunners was going to be how they responded after their first loss of the season, a particularly frustrating one at that.
Stopping the bleeding was a tricky task for Mikel Arteta last season, which saw one loss turn into two and then into three several times, a worrying trend that ultimately saw the Gunners just barely miss out on a Champions League berth.
While Everton at home would have been an ideal fixture for the Gunners to bounce back, they now must try to rebound away to Brentford. This match, more than most, falls firmly under the label of “trap game,” especially since last season’s ugly opening day loss to the Bees is fresh in the mind of Arsenal fans. Sure, that loss can be somewhat rationalized away (COVID absences, away game, their first ever PL match, unfinished transfer business), but the fact remains that Brentford aren’t the pushover that people expected and are more than capable of being the aggressors - just ask Chelsea last season or Manchester United last month.
Sitting 8th in the PL table, Brentford are right around where most would expect, but that 8th place rank is a bit deceptive. Frank Thomas’ side has lost only once this campaign while managing two wins to three draws. Despite some inconsistent results, the Bees can be downright deadly when they are at home and do not go down without a fight.
What should concern the Gunners is that, not only have Brentford’s two wins been at home, but they have been absolute thrashings as well. The Bees put 4 past a disjointed United and eviscerated Leeds last week to the tune of 5-2. Surprisingly, they are the second highest scoring team this season with 15 goals scored, behind Manchester City (20) and level with Liverpool.
Ivan Toney, the team’s leading scorer and the league’s third top scorer, is a dangerous man when he is in form. His hat trick against Leeds was clinical and damn near effortless. But beyond him, Bryan Mbeumo, Josh Dasilva, and Yoane Wissa have 2 goals to each of their names this season. If Arsenal key in on Toney too much, they risk giving the other attackers too much time and space.
On the other end of the pitch, Arsenal will need to be focused to get past a disciplined Brentford defense. Behind them is keeper David Raya, who is a solid shot stopper and won’t give away anything for free. Gabriel Jesus and co will need to break out of their wasteful spell and get back to scoring goals quickly and often.
That is the other question mark for Arsenal - can the attackers get out of their own way and find their shooting boots? Arsenal outshot and created countless chances against United but only came away with one goal. Against Fulham and Aston Villa, close score lines flattered the losing side despite Arsenal’s many quality chances. The Gunners undid their chances with one too many touches or players looking for the pass instead of shooting.
If the hiatus did anything useful for Arsenal, it allowed Thomas Partey the chance to regain fitness and rejoin first team training. Between his and Mohammed Elneny’s injuries, Arsenal’s depth at the 6 gone from riches to rags in a matter of weeks (this is no knock on Sambi, but the difference in quality is...drastic). Whether or not he features this weekend is yet to be decided, but the less players sidelined by injuries, the better.
Arsenal need to win this match, and absolutely can - not just to keep that coveted top spot in the league, but also because the upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier. With an exceedingly packed fixture list and matches against Spurs and Liverpool coming up in October, no match is too small to overlook.
WHAT: Arsenal at Brentford
WHERE: Gtech Community Stadium, London, England
WHEN: Sunday, September 18th, 7:00am EST/4:00am PST/12:00pm BST
US TV: USA and Telemundo. Streaming on fuboTV.
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