Brentford 2 Arsenal 0 – Gunners meet expectations in shameful loss
But I told you all, didn’t I? This is the reality that us Arsenal fans have to get used to. Forget the grandiose idea that we should be challenging for the top-four. We are a midtable team at best, and all Brentford did was to put us in our place.
You can point to the absences of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes as reasons for the loss. But that is still no justifiable excuse for the team’s meek and blunt display against Thomas Frank’s men.
WATCH: Arteta happy with Arsenal performance despite defeat
I’ve seen falling leaves with more fighting spirit than what Bernd Leno showed in the lead-up to Brentford’s second goal. And I’m certain there are at least 36,000 species of snails that are faster and more agile than Pablo Mari.
That Calum Chambers continues to be our first-choice right-back, when most other teams have already transitioned to athletic wing-backs bombing up and down flanks, shows you just how out-of-touch with reality Mikel Arteta and the executive team at Arsenal are. What, are they training in Westview, New Jersey or something?
Maybe my objectivity is still clouded from anger at having sacrificed precious sleep at 3am just to watch Arsenal go through Groundhog Day again. I would believe you if you told me that I was actually watching a replay of an Arsenal match from last season.
Then again, this is life as an Arsenal fan these days – just filled with pain, anguish, sorrow, and most of all, regret that we chose to take the red pill instead of the blue one back in the fateful summer of 2018.
Line-ups: The big news is, of course, the sudden unavailability of Aubameyang and Lacazette due to illness. No matter, it’s not as if those two players were pulling up trees in pre-season anyway. It also gives Arteta a chance to try out young striker Folarin Balogun in attack. Could he be the unexpected spark for Arsenal? Gabriel Martinelli, fresh from his gold medal exploits with Brazil at the Tokyo Olympics, is also drafted into the team on the left flank. Emile Smith Rowe expectedly starts in the number 10 role, while Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ben White make their debuts. It’s a young team, but there are experienced heads as well in the form of Granit Xhaka, Mari, Leno and Pepe. I have to admit, I can’t help but feel optimistic ahead of the match, despite my gloomy outlook for the team this season.
WATCH: Martinelli returns to Arsenal training
12th minute: Mbuemo burns Mari for pace, hits the post
After a shaky start to the game, Arsenal settle down a little, and begin bossing possession without really creating anything of note. But that illusion of comfort is suddenly shattered like an Olympic swimming record in the face of Caeleb Dressel, when a simple long ball over the top is flicked on by Ivan Toney into the path of Bryan Mbuemo, who easily races past Mari before smacking the ball onto the outside of the post. It’s a warning shot for Arteta’s men, but will they heed it?
22nd minute: GOAL! Canos snaps his fingers and scores
No, they will not. After a scramble in the defensive third, Chambers tries to clear the ball from outside the touchline, but he only succeeds in sending it straight back to a Brentford player outside the box. The ball finds its way to Sergi Canos, who has all the time in the world to cut inside and drill a shot into the bottom corner for the first goal of the new season. It’s a good, firm strike, but where in the world was the defence? It’s almost as if Canos snapped his fingers, and half of them disappeared…
30th minute: Mbuemo goes close again
I expected Arsenal to respond to going behind. And I was proved right – only that their response was to go into their shell and play even more conservatively than before. In contrast, the sprightly Brentford are pressing us high and hard. And they go close to doubling their lead through Mbuemo, who wiggles his hips like Shakira to bewitch White and Mari into a stupor, then drives through on goal, but his shot goes wide of the post.
Half time: Well, that was dire from an Arsenal perspective. No invention, no creativity, and a bundle of nerves at the back that even prime Paolo Maldini would find hard to help. If the North London side are to get out of this game with anything at all, they had better step up a gear or two in the second half.
51st minute: Smith Rowe finally tests Raya
That’s more like it. Smith Rowe, who really has been the only bright spark for Arsenal so far, turns in the middle of the pitch and drives forward. A whole swarm of Bees go after him like he was made of honey, but Smith Rowe still manages to get his shot away. Unfortunately, it’s straight at Raya, who easily palms it away.
59th minute: Saka comes on for Balogun
Ah, the star boy is back. Can he make the difference for Arsenal?
60th – 72nd minute: Back and forth, but neither team is really dominant
Saka’s introduction does give Arsenal a bit more zip in attack, but he’s just one man, and the malaise within this team goes deeper than Hades itself. Brentford are not letting up. They buzz around trying to win possession back high up the pitch – disconcertingly for Arsenal, it’s something that they manage to do with a bit too much regularity.
73rd minute: GOAL! Brentford channel their inner Stoke
For one brief moment, I thought that Arsenal were playing Stoke City again. A team in red and white stripes taking a monstrous long throw, physically dominating our defence, and scoring from a header. It took a while before I remembered that Stoke were in the Championship, and that we were actually up against Brentford. You can’t blame me, though – Brentford’s MO for the second goal was eerily similar to that of Stoke’s favourite tactic. This time, Christian Norgaard capitalises on weak defending to head home from close range. And while questions will rightly be asked of the referee and VAR why they allowed the goal to stand despite Leno being physically restrained by a Brentford player, the fact that there was minimal protest from the Arsenal players shows that perhaps they don’t even care. It’s a clear sign as any that this team has given up.
87th minute: Pepe goes close, but Raya stands firm to deny him
Just last season, Arsenal were keen on signing Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, but were unwilling to match their asking price. The Spaniard showed just why that was a mistake on Arsenal’s part (just one of many, to be fair), as he made a stunning save to deny Nicolas Pepe from scoring. The move that led to Pepe’s chance was by far the best passage of play from Arsenal throughout the 90 minutes, but Raya’s stunning save was equal to it. That ultimately proves to be the final goalscoring chance of the game, as Brentford marked their entry into the Premier League in style – by completely bullying the Arsenal off the pitch.
As for Arteta…well, what more can I say? I’d recommend that he go back to the drawing board, but what’s the point, when all he’ll draw are risqué pictures of Kia Joorabchian and Edu in compromising positions. With Chelsea and Manchester City up next for Arsenal, we’re looking at a 0-point haul from our first three games, meaning we will likely head into the next international break bottom of the table.
Now, does anyone happen to have the contact of Antonio Conte?