Arsenal outclass Brentford to reclaim Premier League top spot – 5 talking points
BRENTFORD 0-3 ARSENAL: William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus scored first-half headers and Fabio Vieira struck from range as the Gunners went top of the Premier League
Arsenal restored themselves to the Premier League summit with a comfortable victory over Brentford on Sunday afternoon to make it an impressive six wins from seven games.
William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus put the Gunners in control in the first half with well-taken headers and Fabio Viera, on his full league debut, produced a brilliant strike from outside the area to all but secure three points shortly after the interval.
Mikel Arteta’s side were dominant in all areas of the pitch, with Granit Xhaka majestic in midfield and Gabriel imperious at the back to thwart the Bees and their in-form frontman, Ivan Toney.
The result saw Arsenal bounce back from their 3-1 by Manchester United in emphatic fashion to make it six wins from their opening seven games, leapfrogging Manchester City. to the table’s top spot in the process. Brentford, meanwhile, sit ninth after a steady start to the season.
Here are five talking points from a classy Arsenal performance at the Gtech Community Stadium.
1. Two headers, two goals
Arsenal dominated proceedings in the first half and really should have taken the lead just two minutes into the match as Gabriel Martinelli scuffed his effort after Granit Xhaka found him in the box following an incisive team move.
The visitors’ breakthrough came quarter of an hour later, when Bukayo Saka whipped his corner kick to the near post and William Saliba rose imperiously to nod backwards into the far side of the net. Then, just before the half-hour mark, Gabriel Jesus continued his brilliant start to the season with a brilliant header of his own.
The Brazilian got on the end of a curling first-time clip from Granit Xhaka and strained his neck muscles to send the ball nestling into the far corner, leaving David Raya helpless. The Gunners had nearly two-thirds of possession and were deserving of their lead, but that’s not to say Brentford didn’t have chances of their own.
Rico Henry was a particular menace for Arsenal’s right side and Bryan Mbeumo was typically threatening as he drifted between the Gunners’ midfield and defence. That being said, the hosts struggled to find a killer pass to open up their London rivals’ well-organised back four.
2. Isolated Ivan
A big part of the reason Brentford struggled to carve out clear-cut chances came down to the sublime performance of Arsenal defender Gabriel.
Playing through an injury to the back of his right knee, which was clearly causing him discomfort in the warm-up and match itself, the Brazilian came out on top in his duel with Ivan Toney, who had the wind taken out of his sails following the euphoria of his England call-up earlier this week.
In a clash of two imposing frames which had the potential to decide the outcome of the fixture, Gabriel ensured he won the early battles against the Bees striker, who came into the match full of confidence having already scored five goals this season.
It was no surprise to see Toney buck up his ideas by looking to play off William Saliba’s shoulder instead while Bryan Mbeumo targeted Gabriel, aiming to draw him out of position with his unpredictable movement. However, Arsenal proved why they have one of the best defences in the league with an organised display to blunt the Bees’ sting.
3. Arteta’s adjustments
Arsenal were handed a late blow in their preparations for the trip to Brentford as Martin Odegaard, who trained on Saturday, was ruled out with a calf injury.
In his captain’s absence, Mikel Arteta handed a first Premier League start to Fabio Vieira, the £34million midfield arrival from Porto. This also resulted in a slight tactical tweak, with Arsenal lining up in a shape more akin to a 4-3-3 than the 4-2-3-1 they often use while in possession.
Vieira was afforded a free role to drift out to the right and even join the attacking line at times, while Gabriel Martinelli increasingly drifted in from the left to occupy the vacant No. 10 berth as the match went on.
Crucially, Arteta’s tactical tweaks did not come at the cost of any control, and this was arguably the Gunners’ most convincing performance of a brilliant start to the season. The visitors could have scored more on the day, with Bukayo Saka denied by a brilliant David Raya save shortly after the hour mark.
At the other end, the best chance Brentford mustered was a tame Bryan Mbeumo header which was easily collected by Aaron Ramsdale.
4. Fabulous Fabio
Any hope Brentford had of staging a second-half comeback lasted just four minutes after the interval, when Fabio Vieira collected the ball in a pocket of space from Bukayo Saka and rifled into the bottom corner to put Arsenal 3-0 up.
It was the perfect way for the attacking midfielder to mark his full Premier League debut after what had been a fairly quiet outing up to that point. Vieira showed some glimpses of his technical ability after a shaky start in midfield but ultimately rewarded Mikel Arteta for handing him a floating role in midfield without too many defensive responsibilities – every playmaker’s dream.
5. Extraordinary Ethan
Ahead of kick-off, there was plenty of excitement about the sight of Ethan Nwaneri on the team sheet as the young playmaker was named on the Arsenal bench by Mikel Arteta.
With Martin Odegaard ruled out, there was room in the matchday squad for the teenager, born in 2007, who became the youngest player in Premier League history in West London, breaking the record held by Liverpool winger Harvey Elliott from his time at Fulham Fulham.
Nwaneri, aged 15 years and 180 days, has caught the eye in attacking midfield for Arsenal’s academy sides this season, scoring once and grabbing two assists in the Under-18 Premier League and registering an assist in his sole Premier League 2 appearance.
With Arsenal fully in control of the match, Arteta opted to send Nwaneri on for a remarkable senior debut. The teenager replaced goalscorer Fabio Vieira in added time, helping his side see out the final seconds of their comfortable victory.