Brentford v Arsenal: Premier League – live | Premier League


Key events

Arteta, wearing a v-neck school jumper with tie underneath, Rangers-style, tells us that Zinchenko and Odegaard are injured, and that Nwanieri is playing because ‘“We are pretty short”. Sometimes, the hilarious gags write themselves.

Frank, meanwhile, confirms that he wants his team to be brave and aggressive, and that they want to turn the Community Stadium in “a fortress”. He knows Arsenal are good, and laughs that even before his England call-up, Ivan Toney was not lacking confidence.

Back to Ethan Nwaneri, I didn’t realise that he’s 15. 15! Oof madone! What happened to two-litre bottles of Strongbow in parks and on buses?

Paulie
Photograph: HBO/Allstar

Arsenal, meanwhile, will be looking, I imagine, to get down the outsides of Brentford’s outside centre-backs, with the full-backs high and wide to keep the width. I’m sure they’ll miss Odegaard, whose ability to pick little passes into feet is so important for them, but Jesus’ ability to occupy an entire defence will give Vieira a decent target.

The more I think about it, the more this game will be decided by how well – or not – Gabriel and Saliba handle Toney and Mbuemo. The 5-3-2 makes a lot of sense in that context, because while Arsenal are improving, I’m still not sold on their back four, and I daresay Brentford will also want to have a look at Ben White, out of position at right-back.

Er, Google have Pontus Janssen playing on the right of midfield in a 4-3-3. I’ll take the L if that turns out to be so, but I can’t completely see it.

Is Aaron Hickey’s nickname “Bites yer neck”? Sorry.

This is a London derby, so here’s a London anecdote: I was in a Soho hostelry last evening, and was approached by two Welsh women, wondering if I was local. They’d expected such establishments to be populated solely by tourists, so were excited to meet someone from the area; the film rights have already been optioned.

If Nwaneri makes his debut before September 14th 2023 then he will break Fabregas’ record as Arsenal’s youngest ever player.

— Jeorge Bird (@jeorgebird) September 18, 2022

As for Arsenal, there’s good news and bad news. We knew that Oleksandr Zinchenko would miss out – Kieran Tierney is a decent alternative – but Martin Odegaard is also absent, and he’s a big loss. However, Thomas Partey begins his latest comeback, replacing Sambi Lokonga, and I’m really looking forward to getting a look at Fabio Vieira, who looked good when he came on at Old Trafford and looks to have plenty of potential.

There’s a fair bit to go on here. Brentford, who were so impressive in gubbing Leeds last time out, switch from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2, bringing in Kristoffer Ajer and Josh Dasilva for Shandon Baptiste and Keane Lewis-Potter, the Premier League’s first player to have three surnames. Their ability to switch formations in this way – they also played 5-3-2 against Manchester United – is a tribute both to Thomas Frank’s coaching and the intelligence of their players, and the contest between their front two and Arsenal’s centre-backs might well hold the key to this game.

Teams!

Brentford (a progressive 5-3-2): Raya; Hickey, Jansson, Ajer, Mee, Henry; Janelt, Jensen, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Toney. Subs: Canos, Wissa, Zanka, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Strakosha, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Roerslev.

Arsenal (a non-negotiable 4-3-3): Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Vieira; Saka, Martinelli, Jesus. Subs: Turner, Nketiah, Holding, Tomiyasu, Lokonga, Marquinhos, Smith, Nwaneri, Lino Sousa.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)

Preamble

Recency bias is a tedious thing, but please bear with me when I say that: in the 40 years I’ve been watching football and “this league” in particular, the standard of entertainment has never been as high as it is this season. I’m not sure there’s any time in the past that I could look at fixture such as ours this afternoon and be absolutely certain that we’re going to see a quality game of soccer, but looking at our fixture this afternoon, I’m absolutely certain that we’re going to see a quality game of soccer.

Brentford are a terrific team, bristling, canny and intense, and also won this fixture at the start of last term – in what, to Gary Neville at least, seemed like a watershed moment for both sides. In the event, he was right about them but wrong about Arsenal, who were missing all manner of player that night, but their physicality and directness will still ask interesting questions of Mikel Arteta’s men. In particular, I’m looking forward to seeing how Gabriel and William Saliba handle Ivan Toney, but all over the pitch, they’ve the players to make this a proper contest.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are growing, having somehow turned the disappointment of the run-in into pre-season momentum. I say somehow because it wasn’t a given or anything like it, but central to the change was signing of Gabriel Jesus, a rare occasion on which it was just obvious that a club had acquired a player absolutely perfect for their needs in every single aspect. But it is not just him – Martin Odegaard has stepped up a level, Granit Xhaka is revelling in his new, advanced role, and Gabriel Martinelli is improving.

That, though brings pressure. This summer, Arsenal could console themselves that, though last season ended in disappointment, significant steps had been taken; next summer, there’ll need to be solid proof, not just a nice little feeling. Brentford, meanwhile, could content themselves with survival, but now need to take things on and establish themselves as a Premier-League staple, because they’ve got everything they need for that – and more. This is going to be good.

Kick-off: 12pm BST

🗣 “There’s nothing worse than thinking your team are a little bit soft. Brentford have looked at them and thought, ‘yeah, we’ll have you’, and that’s the worst feeling”

Gary Neville has described Arsenal as being “messed around” in their 2-0 defeat at Brentford 🔊🔛👇

— Sky Sports (@SkySports) August 14, 2021





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