New start. But history repeats itself.
Problems in defence, plenty of pretty passing but no cutting edge up front.
Opposite of Brentford – solid in defence and threatening in attack with an unorthodox forward line of height and speed with Toney and Mbeumo.
A lot of pundits thought Brentford would win this one. Their chance of history being made in their first Premiership game. Can’t say the warning signs weren’t there – they knocked out four Premiership clubs in the Carabao Cup
Arsenal were struck by ‘illness’ to forwards Aubameyang and Lacazette along with injuries to Nketiah and key midfielder Partey meaning a young team with an average of 22 facing a vociferous atmosphere. A lot of players don’t know whether they are coming or going and there were new partnerships of White and Mari in central defence, Sambi and Xhaka in midfield and Balugun, Pepe and Martinelli up front.
It is a team in flux and will be until the end of August when it will be clearer who is going and who is coming in. That should temper some of the negativity which is bound to arise.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect was the new £50m defender, Ben White was out muscled by Toney leading to suggestions his lack of height represents a vulnerability in the Arsenal defence. Better in a back three?
Brentford got the rub of the green. The first goal could have been out of play with no conclusive evidence either way, and last season Balogun could have had a penalty for Henry’s high challenge.
Light amidst the gloom: Arsenal’s best player at Brentford
All is not doom and gloom. Positives include the characterful performance and creativity of Smith Rowe and Tierney. Sambi looked good in his first Premiership game with composure and accurate passing. With a bit of luck Arsenal could have got something. They had 22 chances but only four on target.
Arsenal started slickly with Smith Rowe creating chances. But goals and incidents change games and atmospheres. Arsenal didn’t clear a corner properly. Chambers cleared a second ball but was slow to reach Canos who found the bottom corner with a quick near-post shot.
Arsenal’s slick approach play disintegrated with flicks and tricks not coming off – leading to jeers from the near capacity crowd. The worst offender was the senior forward Pepe who sent a shot wide, then lost out on a dribble to Brentford crowd cheers.
Tierney set up Balogun for a good chance. He dragged it back, but Henry got a touch and caught him high clearing the danger. Penalty? Not this season with the tightened rules.
Brentford could have gone two ahead when Mbeumo beat White (on the ground) and dragged it wide of Leno’s left post.
Arsenal breathed more fire at the start of the second. Smith Rowe intercepted in midfield and drove forward leading to a low Tierney cross shot. Then the Croydon man turned smartly and drove through the Brentford defence but shot too near Raya.
Sambi had a low shot on target. Martinelli was close with a looping header from a corner. Unlucky. Xhaka had a good chance on a half-volley but sent it over.
But Arsenal’s achilles neck came back to haunt them – from a long throw bringing back memories of Delap at Stoke. Mads Bech Sørensen’s throw in caused panic in the Arsenal defence. Leno was being held by Jansson, Mari deflected it, and with White flat-footed and Nørgaard headed it home, rising above Tierney. An irony as Arsenal hired Brentford’s set-piece coach last season and who subsequently moved on.
Arsenal tried to find a goal with Nelson on for Martinelli. The best move was when Smith Rowe and Tierney combined brilliantly to find Pepe, who shot low and hard – but saved by Raya.
Mikel Arteta said: “We are very disappointed. We conceded a goal in an isolated action. They used the long ball and fought for second balls. The biggest worry was the (lack of) threat in front of goal.
“We weren’t good enough to beat them. We need to be much more ruthless. Somebody was on the keeper – but no free kick.
“We’ll review the game and speak to everyone with cool heads.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank said: “What an atmosphere. I’m speechless. The first time in top flight for just a ‘bus stop in Hounslow’.
“Players played with intensity – with a brave high press. On set pieces we thought we were better. We thought we could win the ball high and create chances.
“Toney and White know each other. We didn’t go direct one on one all the time. We tried longer balls and tried to pick up second balls. Bryan (Mbeumo) did a good job to stretch them.”
Norgaard said: “We are physically strong team. Credit to our set piece coach Bernardo.”
Brentford 2 Arsenal 0
Brentford: 1Raya, 20Ajer (Substituted for Bech Sørensen at 71’minutes), 18Jansson, 5Pinnock, 7Canós, 15Onyeka (Substituted for Bidstrup at 80’minutes), 6Nørgaard, 27Janelt, 3Henry, 19Mbeumo (Substituted for Forssat 86’minutes), 17Toney
Arsenal: 1Leno, 21Chambers (Substituted for Tavares at 81’minutes), 4White, 22Marí, 3Tierney, 23Sambi Lokonga, 34Xhaka, 19Pépé, 10Smith Rowe, 35Martinelli (Substituted for Nelson at 71’minutes),26Balogun (Substituted forSaka at 59’minutes)