Arsenal return to top spot as Fábio Vieira strike seals win at Brentford:
Arsenal return to the top of the Premier League! They’ve dispatched their hosts Brentford with a minimum of fuss. Two goals in the first half hour put the Gunners in a commanding position, before Vieira put a gloss on the win with a lovely long-range strike in the second half. Brentford weren’t bad. They just weren’t as good.
This result means Arsenal lead the Premier League by a point, leapfrogging City and Tottenham. They’ve scored in all seven of their league games so far this season and look potent at the moment. Brentford stay ninth, beaten but not embarrassed.
Arsenal’s excellent start to the season continues then. They host Tottenham and Liverpool next, with a Europa League game in between. Those games will be real tests of what they’re capable of this season. That’s all for now
What a difference a year makes:
Indeed, the display was built on a strong foundation Arteta has laid over the past 13 months since the chastening 2-0 defeat at this ground, which now feels a lifetime ago, as Arsenal’s early-season crisis was kickstarted under the Friday-night lights.
That was the first time we saw a top-flight stadium full of fans post-pandemic; the first time Bukayo Saka was applauded by home supporters following his penalty miss and endurance of racist abuse at Euro 2020; the first time Ben White pulled on an Arsenal shirt after his £50 million arrival; the first time Brentford ever played a Premier League game; the first appearance for then-public enemy No.1 Xhaka after a failed proposed transfer to Roma.
The Switzerland international has now recovered to such an extent that he had his name sung by the visiting fans during the second half and at fulltime. Serenading him — and with the captain’s armband on — would’ve been simply unfathomable last season. He has become the key man, constantly in the thick of the action and transitioning Arsenal from defence to attack, taking the plaudits via backslaps and high-fives from his manager on the sidelines during the afternoon.
Every aspect of his game was a level above — controlling Arsenal’s shape, recycling possession to calm the play after each goal, incisive passing into the final third, tenacious in the challenge. It was a complete performance from Xhaka.
He starred alongside the returning Thomas Partey, who join Saliba and Gabriel behind them in making a physically imposing base that can compete with any side in the division. Last term’s defeat to Brentford raised old cries over Arsenal being physically monstered and outworked by a tenacious side. Today, the powerful pair of Toney and Bryan Mbuemo were sniffed out and muscled off the ball at every sighting.
What we learned from Brentford vs Arsenal:
Xhaka, Partey give Gunners solid foundation: Much will be made about the movement and class of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Jesus and Vieira, and rightly so. But the solid foundation that Xhaka and Thomas Partey provide should not be overlooked. After returning from injury, Partey won the ball back time and time again and Xhaka just kept things ticking over nicely and was always an option for Martinelli and Tierney on the inside left channel. With Odegaard out, Arsenal’s deeper central midfielders needed to step up and they dictated the tempo of this game and gave the Gunners’ talented attackers the platform to wreck havoc.
Brentford energy levels unusually low: It was a real off day for the Bees as they suffered their heaviest home defeat since being promoted to the Premier League. Thomas Frank’s side just weren’t at it as usually they push high, force teams into mistakes and pounce on loose balls. There was none of that on Sunday in a subdued display with Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo isolated for large parts of this game. Brentford are usually.
This win underlines Arsenal’s progress: Their horrendous defeat at Brentford at the start of last season underlined all of the issues Arsenal had. Just over 12 months later, this convincing win underlined the progress they’ve made. A clear playing style with a young, hungry side who have been painstakingly recruited. Even with Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko out, Kieran Tierney and Vieira slotted in seamlessly as Arteta’s side dominated from start to finish. They are playing with confidence throughout the team and after a few years of building, this is what Arsenal wanted to become. The only issue is the fact that their squad looked pretty thin as a few injuries piled up with teenagers on the bench and Ethan Nwaneri, 15, became the youngest Premier League player in history when he came on late in the game. With the Europa League and League Cup coming up in the weeks after the international break, Arteta will be hoping his squad remains healthy to make the most of all of this positive momentum.