Brentford 0-3 Arsenal LIVE: Fabio Vieira grabs superb third as he marks his full Gunners debut with his first goal for the club as Mikel Arteta’s men look set to storm back to top spot
They are a superstitious lot, football people. So the sight of a player called Vieira scoring for Arsenal in an imperious performance that returns them to the top of the table is going to have a lot read into it.
Yet why not? Here was another display that suggests Arsenal have the mettle to contend, and certainly the strength to finish in the top four and return to the Champions League, qualities that used to be taken for granted under Arsene Wenger. So at the very least Mikel Arteta has them edging towards former glories, even if few are seeing beyond Manchester City and Erling Haaland for the title.
For now, though, City have a little catching up to do. Arsenal are a point clear going into the international break and this was an impressive result. The cynical will claim it’s only Brentford, but Thomas Frank’s team started the day in the top half of the league and with Ivan Toney called into the England squad, the first Brentford man to be so recognised since Les Smith in 1939.
So Arsenal establishing a commanding 2-0 lead by half-time was impressive. Fabio Vieira, on his first Premier League start, then put the outcome beyond doubt just three minutes into the second-half. Bukayo Saka slipped the ball inside to him and the young Portuguese midfielder – recruited from Porto this summer – hit a shot that defeated David Raya and went in off the inside of a post. The visiting fans dusted off a favourite old song about a chap called Vieira, who came to Arsenal from foreign lands, Portugal perfectly fitting where Senegal used to be. Just as well he didn’t arrive from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The margin could have been greater. Gabriel Jesus went on a fine run only for his shot to be saved by Raya after 57 minutes, while a lovely passing move involving Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli and Jesus, ended with Saka forcing an excellent stop from Raya on 66 minutes. At the other end, very little. Toney received the shortest of free-kicks, flicked it up and then struck it on the volley, just over, but otherwise it was a game to forget, and a reminder of the step up that international football will be.
For Arsenal, though, it just kept getting better. As four minutes injury time was signalled, Mikel Arteta introduced Ethan Nwaneri for Vieira, at 15 years and 181 days the youngest player in Premier League history, taking the mantle claimed by Harvey Elliott – 16 years and 30 days – for Liverpool in 2019. He didn’t touch the ball in any meaningful way but that doesn’t matter. To be trusted with involvement at his age suggests unique potential. There are many reasons to feel positive about Arsenal right now. The omens are good.
This was touted as a difficult game for Arsenal. Beaten and second best here on the opening game of the 2021-22 season, they were now without captain Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko, a revelation at full-back since his move from Manchester City. Not to worry. Arsenal are made of sterner stuff these days. The reverse at Manchester United two weeks ago was a disappointment but Arsenal were far better than the 3-1 scoreline suggested. And this was the perfect bounce back.
A goal up after 17 minutes, lead doubled after 27, it could have been even worse for Brentford, had Gabriel Martinelli not slipped at a vital moment after two minutes when Granit Xhaka – captain on the day – put the ball on a plate for him.
Arsenal were on top from that moment, defending well against Gareth Southgate’s latest call-up, Ivan Toney, and the rest of the front-line. ‘Nice kickabout with the boy,’ Toney tweeted after Brentford’s last victory over Arsenal here, a jibe he may have lived to regret despite the positive turn in personal circumstances. It will have been remembered by some in the Arsenal ranks and those that were unaware or had forgotten will most certainly have been reminded.
Certainly, Arsenal set about Brentford with purpose. They were a physical match and technically superior and their danger in the air is possibly their most under-rated quality. In the 17th minute, a lovely corner from Bukayo Saka on the right was met by William Saliba with a glancing header. It was a tight angle, but beautifully directed. The ball struck the far post and was palmed out by David Raya, but not before it had crossed the line by some distance. Referee David Coote was duly alerted by his magic watch and the goal was given.
Then, ten minutes later, Arsenal took very firm control. Xhaka and Kieran Tierney exchanged passes on the left before Xhaka struck a fine cross met by Gabriel Jesus in a foolish amount of space. Like Zinchenko, he has blossomed since leaving Manchester City and his header gave Raya no chance.
Re-live Sportsmail’s live blog for the Premier League clash between Brentford and Arsenal with Adam Shergold below