The noise told the story, a relentless roar of chanting voices and clapped hands, with feet hitting the cement to bounce, and then bounce some more.
After 74 years, Brentford were back in England’s top flight, and after 22 minutes, they were ahead against Arsenal – their last opponents in the top division – courtesy of a fine Sergi Canos goal. After 73 minutes, the result was safe: Christian Norgaard increasing their cushion and firing all sorts of questions at Mikel Arteta’s side.
It was not the debut £50m recruit Ben White envisioned, but he was not the story. Brentford, back. Brentford, victors. You could feel the elation, almost taste it.
Departing Griffin Park after 116 years was a hugely difficult and gutting process for the club, but the 17,250-capacity Community Stadium – a mile away from the historic ground – thundered and set the tone on Friday night.
It seemed like it had always been Brentford’s home and they looked like they’ve always belonged on this stage.
Thomas Frank’s men were typically high-tempo, with rapid pressing and tenacity off the ball. His assertion that Brentford would “attack the league” was accurate, their encourage emboldened by Arsenal’s flatness.
The visitors were without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette through illness and their lightness in attack showed.
Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney were dynamic, with Folarin Balogun – starting his first league game – and Gabriel Martinelli buzzing but Arsenal weren’t causing Brentford any discomfort.
It was the opposite for Pablo Mari and Bernd Leno. Brentford were shaping up as the likelier to open the scoring and it materialised that way.
Arsenal failed to clear a corner with Ivan Toney being a nuisance and Bryan Mbeumo denied, with the ball falling to Canos from Ethan Pinnock’s header. The Spanish attacker steadied himself, wrong-footed Calum Chambers, nutmegged the defender, and smashed in past Leno at his near post.
The scenes from the home support to that goal and the one to follow should be bottled and sold: pure, long-awaited, deserved bliss.
Mbeumo dragged another chance wide shortly after, before Arsenal had a legitimate penalty shout waved away. Tierney found Balogun in the box, but he was impeded by Rico Henry.
With referees and the VARs not being as draconian this season, play was waved on.
Arsenal improved after the interval, with Smith Rowe the luminary and the superb Bukayo Saka was sent on to swing the match on the hour mark.
But their familiar issues – being bullied, a lack of anticipation and leadership, no conviction in duels – would mark the defining moment of the second half. Brentford launched in a long, long throw with no Arsenal marker getting a touch at the near post.
Pinnock caused problems, the ball was allowed to be flicked and bounced with no pressure from Arteta’s charges and Norgaard nodded in.
A goal that could be described as “so Arsenal”. They had another scare and near shambles when Canos whipped in from the left, Leno flapped with Norgaard just failing to connect.
To summarise: a new season, a refreshing addition in Brentford and the same, old Arsenal – just followed by Amazon cameras this time around.
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