Result: Brentford 0-3 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 18 September 2022
Venue: Community Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Vieira, Martinelli, Saka, Jesus
Subs: Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding, Sousa, Lokonga, Smith, Nwaneri, Marquinhos, Nketiah
Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Brentford at the Community Stadium.
Mikel Arteta’s players produced a fine performance from start to finish taking a two-goal advantage into the break courtesy of headers by William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus before Fabio Vieira announced himself in English football with a superb strike four minutes after the break.
The news of Thomas Partey’s return to full fitness was tempered by the absence of Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko who both picked up injuries in training this week. Our captain was replaced by Fabio Vieira, making his first Premier League start, while Kieran Tierney stepped up at left-back. Ben White got the nod ahead of Takehiro Tomiyasu who took up a place on a subs bench with an average age under 22. The inclusion of 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri got tongues wagging while 17-year-old Lino Sousa also went along for the ride.
Arsenal settled quickly and dominated possession in the opening 10 minutes knocking the ball around with a confidence that suggested we were up for the challenge ahead. In truth, we should have taken the lead inside 90 seconds only for Martinelli to slip inside the box after the Brentford defence had been expertly sliced open.
The Gunners continued to plug away and deservedly broke the deadlock on 17 minutes. After winning a corner, Saka whipped a beautiful inswinging cross to Saliba at the near post and the Frenchman beautifully flicked the ball over the line via the back post. There was a brief moment while the goalline technology confirmed the goal before the travelling fans found their voice. (GOAL 1-0)
This was a first half all about control and grinding down our opponents. The Arsenal defence rarely looked flustered when Brentford sent balls down the flanks and when we won the ball back, we simply worked neat triangles up and down and side to side. Not only did the tactic seem to tire the home players it also dampened the usually buoyant Brentford atmosphere.
A well-worked move on 28 minutes saw us double the lead. Vieira played the ball to Xhaka who exchanged passes with Tierney before delivering a teasing ball to the six-yard box for Jesus to plant a header in the top corner. It was a peach of an assist from the Swiss who was rightfully lauded by his teammates as the Brazilian danced a celebratory jig. (GOAL 2-0)
Saka had a chance to further extend the lead but fired over and Xhaka and Tierney tried their luck from long range as we continued to keep the home side at arm’s length. The latter pair were both on the receiving end of touchline high fives and back slaps from Arteta who was pleased with his side’s defensive efforts. That was exemplified by Jesus and Martinelli both winning the ball back in deep, dangerous areas.
A late Mbeumo header that glanced wide was about the best the Bees could muster.
Brentford tried to get their fans going with a few of their favourite tunes on the tannoy system as the teams took to the pitch but the Gunners, thanks to a moment of brilliance by new boy Fabio Vieira, quickly pissed on their parade.
Given the ball 25 yards from goal by Saka, the Portuguese midfielder looked up and whipped a beautiful effort in off the post that left keeper Raya with no chance. It was a special strike from a player who arrived with a reputation for goals and has already suggested he can deliver the goods. (GOAL 3-0)
Toney tried an audacious flick-up-and-volley from an indirect free-kick as the home side looked to bounce back before Jesus was denied by a great stop by Raya’s feet. Not long past the hour mark, the Spaniard produced another great save at full stretch to keep out Saka’s curler. Arteta didn’t want his players to ease up.
Having already observed a minute’s silence before kick off and a verse of the national anthem, supporters came together again in the 70th minute with a round of applause to pay tribute to the late Queen’s 70 years on the throne. While that was happening Ramsdale foiled an effort by substitute Damsgaard.
The Gunners, after switching out Partey and Martinelli for Lokonga and Nketiah, were a little ragged in the closing stages. When Brentford were denied a penalty by the offside flag, Ramsdale decided to take the sting out of things by going down with an issue that may or may not have needed treatment. The home fans sensed gamesmanship and suddenly woke up from their slumber with a few boos.
Just to rub Brentford’s faces in it, Arsenal made history in the dying moments when Mikel Arteta gave 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri his debut to become the club’s and the Premier League’s youngest ever player. “He’s got school in the morning,” chanted the Gooners who soon enough were celebrating another three points.
We’re heading into a two-week Interlull now. Next up, it’s the north London derby.