Brentford vs Arsenal result: Five things we learned as Premier League new boys shock the Gunners

Brentford 2-0 Arsenal: Goals from Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard earn Thomas Frank’s side a dream start to life in the Premier League

Jamie Braidwood
Friday 13 August 2021 22:07
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<p>Brentford and Ivan Toney celebrate their second goal against Arsenal </p>

Brentford and Ivan Toney celebrate their second goal against Arsenal

Newly promoted Brentford opened their Premier League account with a 2-0 win over a lacklustre Arsenal in front of an electric home support in west London.

The Bees had waited 74 years to return to the top flight of English football but took the lead midway through the first half when Sergi Canos smashed a shot inside the near post from the left edge of the area, beating Arsenal’s Bernd Leno due to both the power and surprise of the strike.

Arsenal were lacking quality in several aspects of their play and Brentford had chances to increase their lead, notably when Bryan Mbeumo turned Ben White inside the box but dragged his shot wide of goal.

The Gunners improved after the break but struggled to create any clear chances and were punished when a Brentford long throw into the box caused havoc and Christian Norgaard headed in from close range.

Here are five things we learned

Dream start for Brentford

In winning their first match in the Premier League, Brentford showed just why so many are excited about their return to the top flight. Thomas Frank’s side were fully deserving of their victory on an emotional and memorable evening for those at the Brentford Community Stadium - but you have to wonder if this performance, result and occasion would have been possible without the return of full crowds in English football.

For the first time since March 2020, fans were allowed back into a Premier League match without there being limits on the stadium’s capacity. That, coupled with Brentford’s first match in the Premier League (and first competitive fixture at their new 17,000 capacity stadium in front of supporters) led to an electric atmosphere before kick-off, which fed into their fast start here.

In truth, the opening 10 minutes of Friday’s match were not too pleasing on the eye. It was a style of football we haven’t seen in a while - ragged, hurried, rushed, and fuelled by the emotions and energy of a packed stadium and noisy home support, the conditions impossible to recreate behind closed doors. But Brentford fed off the atmosphere and produced a dominant performance against a side whose resources vastly outweigh their own.

Last season, unsurprisingly, saw a record number of away wins in the Premier League - but tonight was the night where the spirit of home advantage returned for good.

Same old problems for Arsenal and Arteta

The Premier League season is not even a day old, but the pressure is already on Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Now into his second full season in charge, the Spaniard has shown enough glimpses of promise in his Arsenal rebuild to ensure that he remains in charge of the project. But, especially after a summer of spending to rival those at the top of last season’s table, the time has come for results - and that certainly was not meant to start with an opening day defeat to newly promoted Brentford.

Thomas Frank’s side were comfortably the better team in the first half and it took the drive and purpose of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka to swing the momentum after the break, rather than through a grander plan or practiced pattern of play.

Arsenal already face a tough start to their Premier League campaign

Even then, Arteta’s team struggled to create a clear chance and Brentford looked comfortable as they dropped deep and defended the edge of their penalty area. Worst of all, Arsenal’s soft centre was once again exposed with Brentford’s second goal coming from a long throw into the box and Ivan Toney outmuscling Pablo Mari and Callum Chambers to win the first header.

It was an all-too familiar sight, and things certainly do not get any easier from here. A home opener against London rivals Chelsea next Sunday is followed by a trip to Premier League champions Manchester City. There will need to be a big response.

Arsenal’s lack of quality a concern

It was, admittedly, not an ideal scenario for the first game of the Premier League season: two of your star players and last campaign’s top scorers out due to illness, and just hours before kick-off. But with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette side-lined and Bukayo Saka on the bench following his late return from the Euros, the end result was an attacking line-up that did not exactly set pulses racing.

Nicolas Pepe was the senior figure in Arsenal’s front three that included Premier League debutant Folarin Balogun and Gabriel Martinelli, who had only just returned from the Olympics with Brazil. Emile Smith Rowe was Arsenal’s most dangerous outlet whenever they could work the ball into his feet in central areas, but that did not happen enough.

Nicolas Pepe was kept quiet by Brentford’s Rico Henry

Saka’s impact after half time was not a surprise but it only went to show how ineffective Pepe had been in the opening 45 minutes. It was remarkable that the winger remained on the pitch throughout the defeat, Martinelli and Balogun were withdrawn after ineffective performances but it could have been any of them.

The forward department is an area of the pitch that has not been strengthened this window. Martin Odegaard has been rumoured with a return following his loan spell from Real Madrid last season - but whoever it is, some extra reinforcements looked needed.

Ben White struggles on Arsenal debut

It was a difficult night for Arsenal’s Ben White, the club’s new centre back and recent £50 million signing from Brighton. Although he was not culpable for either Brentford’s goals there were a couple of moments in his Premier League debut for the Gunners that did not inspire a lot of confidence.

The England international was beaten too easily by Mbeumo for his second chance of the game, with the Brentford forward stepping past White when inside the penalty area before dragging a shot across goal. There was also a shanked clearance at the halfway line and while White was clearly given the authority to play passes from deep, few found their targets.

The 23-year-old will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth and has the backing of his manager, as well as many in the game, to be a good fit in this Arsenal team, even if tonight was not his night.

Brentford show they can mix it up in the Premier League

Friday night’s Premier League opener was also an opportunity for those who were perhaps unfamiliar with Brentford to get a better look at the Championship play-off winners, and there were plenty of signs that Thomas Frank’s side will be a welcome addition to the division.

There will have been no surprises for those who have followed their stunning progress through the Championship, with the side displaying the balance of possession-based football and high press that has served them so well in recent seasons.

The high press certainly caught Arsenal by surprise, however, with both Pablo Mari and Granit Xhaka caught out during the first half. Brentford refused to let Arsenal pass it out from the back, and it unsettled them during an opening period that the hosts dominated.

They were able to mix it up, as well, especially with long balls to Ivan Toney, their star name. Toney was the target for Ethan Pinnock’s long throw which led to Brentford’s second, showing that last season’s Championship top scorer can also do the physical work for a side that are not afraid to break with convention as long as it leads to effective results.

Mbeumo and Rico Henry were also impressive performers for a side who have made a dream start to life in the Premier League.

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