Post Match Review
Three things learned from Brentford vs Arsenal
Arsenal beat Brentford 3-0 away from home to put to rest the ghosts of the opening game of last season. The Gunners go back to the top of the league, with 18 points from 7 games, The Bees remain in 9th with 9 points. A running theme of the last few seasons has been Arsenal’s propensity to drop points at places that are traditionally tough to play at. The north Londoner’s opening game at Crystal palace was a case in point, and they passed that with flying colours, cruising to a 2-0 win. However, a game that remains in the minds of all those that harbour a variety of opinions externally about Arsenal was the opening game of last season, against Brentford, where the Gunners succumbed to a 2-0 loss and Covid absentees not withstanding, could not deal with the physicality and power on offer on that occasion.
It is clear that this is a different side, one more prepared and familiar with the rigours of an average game of “Barclays”. The aim of this seven game run, which was pockmarked with quite a few banana skins was to convince observers (pundits and fans of other clubs) that Arsenal are a different proposition, and they are on their way to doing it. Let’s have a look at how a convincing win in West London contributed to that:
Granit Xhaka- The Renaissance
I know, I know Granit Xhaka’s redemption arc is getting a lot of coverage, but I feel like it is deserved. I’ve always maintained that the Swiss captain is one of Arsenal’s most important players and performs to the best of his abilities in every game. Most of the heat that Xhaka has is from being terribly exposed during Wenger’s latter years and Unai Emery’s odd treatment of him. The argument that “since Xhaka came to the club, Arsenal have not made the Champions league”, while true, ignores how easy it has been pre-Arteta to expose the North Londoners tactically. I’ve always maintained that once the quality of the team caught up, Xhaka would remain an important cog and potentially still a vital rotation option due to his experience and synergy with the Coach’s system. It would not be far-fetched to say Xhaka was the best player on the pitch yesterday. He had the joint most pressures with (13-tied with Gabriel Jesus) and only Martinelli and Saka had more shot creating actions(4).
Talk of Granit Xhaka’s impending demise is premature. He will show us who he is several times a season, but it is safe to say that it is far more beneficial for him to be involved in the setup, than to be out of it. If the Gunners do rotate their Vice-captain out of the team, let’s hope it is for something that is undoubtedly better than what we have witnessed in the first part of the campaign pre international break.
Bukayo Saka’s quiet effectiveness
Bukayo Saka has 4 assists and 1 goal to his name in 7 matches played this season. The Hale Ender is seen in certain quarters to be having a slow start to the season, however I feel it is just because he maybe is not hitting the heights of last season just yet. The level of Bukayo Saka, the interplay with Ben White and Fabio Vieira was still something to behold, and he was involved in a premier league debut goal for the Portuguese midfielder.
Saka is involved in the England squad, and will probably make the World cup selection. Arteta will be hoping that he stays fit and that Marquinhos can continue to demonstrate that he is able to deputise effectively, to give Arsenal’s number 7 a breather, when it is required.
Giving youth a chance takes on a new face
Ethan Nwaneri was 6 months old when Kanye West and 50 cent went head to head in a battle to see who could sell the most in the first week for “Graduation” and “Curtis” respectively. Feel old yet?
This was symbolic and Historic. Arsenal’s youngest ever player until now was Cesc Fabregas (16 years 5 months 24 days), but in bringing Nwaneri on in the 90th minute, The North Londoners shattered that record. The wider significance is that he also becomes the Premier league’s youngest ever player (15 years 5 months 24 days) beating a record held by Harvey Elliot (16 years 30 days).
This sends a message out that if you’re good enough, you are truly old enough and you will get chances as a young player at Arsenal, essentially what Arsenal’s always been about. Per Mertesacker and all those involved in the academy deserve credit for producing such great talent. What a day for Ethan and his family, a day i’m sure he and they will never forget.