Ignore the headline here, Brentford were the better team over 90 minutes and Arsenal, for all their huffing and puffing, could have had 180 minutes and still not scored.
Let’s look at the positives first, Smith Rowe started on the front foot and showed glimpses of purpose and brilliance. Tierney was relentless and fearless on the left even if the majority of his crosses came to nothing. Then again, there was no one willing to cut and dash into the box to make the connection.
Sambi showed quality on occasion and will only get better as the season goes on, but once again, Arsenal were muscled out of the fixture. Brentford did what every other successful team has done against Arsenal, they chased, pushed and forced Arteta’s side into a string of errors including being incredibly casual at the back.
Mari had a poor game, but Chambers probably took the rubber chicken award for looking less like a right-back than anyone who ever lived. I’ve never really understood how he’s clung onto an Arsenal shirt for so long and why the club can’t see his limitations.
Elsewhere, Xhaka held the fort without being able to influence anything in the middle. There were a few decent passes, a few wayward shots in the captain’s armband, but the Swiss midfielder isn’t the creative force Arsenal need. Fans clamouring for Martinelli and Balogun to start got their wish after it was revealed that Lacazette and Aubameyang were unavailable due to illness, but neither caught fire.
Let’s remember, their chances have been limited and Brentford planned to stifle and cut down the available space which worked well across the pitch against Arsenal. The youngsters will bank on this experience and put it to good use with teams that employ what I deem as a Stoke approach.
Brentford aren’t exactly the same as the rough and tumble outfit that used to batter Arsenal in the Premier League, they can actually play. However, they employ some ‘shithousery’ where needed and it wasn’t uncommon to see Arsenal players sandwiched or subjected to the odd questionable shove/tackle.
This isn’t sour grapes, it’s a fact illustrated perfectly by the second goal where Leno was restrained on his line and when the ball dropped, it was almost an open goal for Norgaard (73). No VAR, no questions in the commentary box but once again, Arsenal were short of bite and incidentally, had a more forceful goalkeeper been present such as Neville Southall, the player in question would always have been second best.
So, if the second goal was a blinkered official oversight, the first was a ridiculous and all too familiar failure in the Arsenal defence. Failure to clear the lines from an innocuous situation cost the Gunners dearly, with a fabulous strike by Canos (23), but it’s something Arteta and the fans should be used to by now.
Quite why Chambers is preferred to anyone is a mystery and every time the ball dropped on the right, the Englishman looked like a drunk crossing a busy road. Indecisive and ponderous are probably the best and most polite way to sum up his performance and Arsenal’s technical director Edu needs to push hard for an alternative right-back starting yesterday.
🗣 “It’s a very disappointing night. We needed to start in a very different way." #BREARS
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 13, 2021
There was also an unfathomable preoccupation on the flanks with hardly anything of note coming through the middle. If you needed a reason to buy a naturally creative midfielder, this was it, with the three sections of the team unable to get any sort of flow or cohesion.
Smith Rowe gave a display that easily justified the decision to give him the number 10 shirt and his directness and appetite were a thing of beauty. His take and turn was delightful and had me roaring from the sofa’s edge. When I finally get to a game, I will leave the stadium minus a voice.
So what happens now? Nothing, if Arteta is determined to rehash this team with the same non-performers and as a fan, I’d settle for eight now. Defeatist? Not really, unless Arsenal bring in the reinforcements, it’s going to be difficult to envisage anything else than a continuation of last season.
Hats off to the Bees, no need for additional motivation for the Premier League rookies, but it will be interesting to see how they cope against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and City as a hard season in the top flight unfolds. On this evidence, they are going to have an excellent campaign and part of me was excited by the thought of another unfancied team causing problems for the cash-rich elite.
It’s what makes football a brilliant sport but what a pity, Arsenal and Arteta can’t muster the same team mentality. Forget the individual and group performances, there’s a few missing ingredients – collective passion and purpose. Sadly, you can’t buy that and that is perhaps one of Arsenal’s biggest problems apart from playing insipid football.
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I’m not passing judgement on Arteta directly, he’s not responsible for where Arsenal are. Wenger couldn’t stop the rot, Europa League king Unai Emery couldn’t plug the gaps, so why do we think Arteta can achieve miracles without ripping this side to pieces over three seasons, perhaps more.
Arsenal aren’t entitled to success, they need to work for it and at present, they are way short domestically. Before you start jumping up and down demanding Arteta’s departure, just think about what happened with Pep, Jurgen Klopp and a certain Alex Ferguson in the early part of their English club careers.
Sometimes, it takes one particular event, act or result to act as a catalyst to move forward. I’m still waiting and I’m afraid, I might have to remain calm and patient.
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