The Gunners took the lead on 17 minutes as Bukayo Saka‘s corner was headed into the far corner off the post by defender William Saliba. Then the lead was doubled 11 minutes later as Granit Xhaka floated a cross into the box and Gabriel Jesus emphatically headed home the second.
Shortly after the break, Fabio Vieira, on his full Premier League debut, made it 3-0 with a dipping shot from 25 yards. Mikkel Damsgaard’s low shot was kept out by Aaron Ramsdale, but Brentford offered little else as Arsenal returned to the top of the table by a single point ahead of Man City and Tottenham.
1. Arsenal have a ‘stroll in the park’
It was the tweet that manager Mikel Arteta used as motivation from this fixture last season when the teams met most recently in February.
“Nice kickabout with the boys,” striker Ivan Toney tweeted after Brentford’s 2-0 win in August 2021, and the recent Amazon documentary showed Arteta using a screenshot of that comment in his prematch team talk seven months later, helping inspire a 2-1 victory at home.
Sunday’s 3-0 win at Gtech Community Stadium will arguably have given the Gunners more satisfaction, however, given they were utterly dominant from the outset, never looking in danger after William Saliba headed them into a 17th-minute lead.
All three goals were excellent in their construction and execution, Gabriel Jesus heading in Granit Xhaka’s cross 11 minutes later, before Fabio Vieira killed any prospect of a Brentford comeback with a dipping drive four minutes into the second half.
Toney, who was this week celebrating his maiden international call-up and becoming the first Brentford player to make an England squad since Les Smith in 1939, barely had a kick all afternoon. As the Arsenal fans sang late on: “Ivan Toney, a stroll in the park.”
2. Vieira steps up on full debut
This looked a tricky full Premier League debut on paper for Vieira. With Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe ruled out through injury, Arteta turned to his £34 million summer signing from FC Porto to play as a right-sided No. 8 in Arsenal’s 4-3-3 system.
Brentford’s fierce pressing and physicality seemed to be a tough challenge for Vieira, who is not the biggest in stature, and centre-back Ben Mee sought to given the Portugal U21 international an early taste of what was in store with a robust challenge that sent him crashing to the turf.
However, the 22-year-old grew into the contest, linking play well and helping Arsenal maintain a level of near-total control throughout. The highlight was a fine 25-yard strike which clipped Brentford goalkeeper David Raya’s left post on its way in to cap a promising individual display. Vieira is the first player to score on his Arsenal debut from outside the penalty area in the Premier League era.
3. Arsenal stay top into October
One of the question marks about this Arsenal side is their ability to recover from adversity. Losing at Manchester United last time out was their first defeat of the season, but this was an emphatic response, exhibiting a level of control which showed that chastening experience at Old Trafford is already a distant memory.
With Chelsea, Liverpool and United all not playing this weekend, Arsenal had a chance to create even more distance between themselves and their traditional top-four rivals. It is very early days — and those sides obviously have a game in hand — but it will do plenty for the confidence of a group often accused of fragility to see themselves eight points ahead of Chelsea and nine clear of Liverpool.
They were even comfortable enough to bring on Ethan Nwaneri — who at 15 years, 181 days old becomes Arsenal’s and the Premier League’s youngest-ever player. In fact, he was unable to change with the rest of his teammates because he is still a minor.
The international break means Arsenal will be top going into next month, but the first day back pitches Arsenal against third-placed north London rivals Tottenham. They can attack that huge task from a position of strength.
Brentford: Raya 7, Hickey 6, Ajer 6, Jansson 6, Mee 6, Henry 6, Dasilva 6, Janelt 5, Jensen 5, Mbeumo 5, Toney 5.
Subs: Onyeka 6, Damsgaard 6, Baptiste 6, Wissa 6.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 7, White 7, Saliba 8, Gabriel 7, Tierney 7, Partey 8, Xhaka 8, Saka 8, Vieira 8, Martinelli 7, Jesus 8.
Subs: Lokonga 6, Nketiah 6, White 6, Marquinhos 6, Nwaneri 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Granit Xhaka. Used the ball intelligently — exemplified by setting up Jesus for Arsenal’s second — and revelled in the greater attacking freedom afforded him in a slightly modified midfield role.
WORST: Mathias Jansen. Unable to help give Brentford a foothold in the game as Xhaka and Thomas Partey ran the show for the visitors in midfield
Highlights and notable moments
Nwaneri would go on to set a record on his debut.
After Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. was criticised for a dancing celebration last week, Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus showed solidarity with his Brazil teammate when he scored the second goal.
The Gunners were in complete control and Fabio Vieira’s stunning strike shortly after the break made it 3-0.
After the match: What the players/managers said
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, on playing Nwaneri: “It was a pure gut feeling. I met the boy (and) really liked what I saw. Per Mertesacker and the academy staff are giving me really good information, Edu as well. I met him, he’s trained a couple of times with us. Yesterday he had to come because we have injuries, especially the injury of Martin (Odegaard), and then I had that feeling from yesterday that if the opportunity could come that I was going to do it and I just done it. It’s another step, another experience. In your career all the steps are not going to be forward. After that maybe he needs three backwards to go another forward, but I think he deserved it. It sends a really strong message about who we are as a club as well.”
Xhaka told Sky Sports: “We have a different mentality this season. we kept going and are training like we play and have class with the players that can make a difference. You have the class in the front and they make the difference. More than happy we are in a good way but a long way to go.”
Jesus told Sky Sports: “From the start we showed what we want to do in the game, create chances and score. That is what I believe we did. He found me for the goal and I am so happy to play with him, he is an intelligent and quality player. The celebration was for my guy Vinicius Jr., it needs to stop and it was for him.”
Brentford boss Thomas Frank: “We lost 3-0, to the No. 1 in the Premier League. I said before they are a top side. I think we performed quite well, not 10/10 but if you want to win or get something out of the team flying, you cannot concede the first from a set piece and then the second one… We lost the game, I hate losing. They are top of the table so you cannot argue with that, they have done brilliant. Looking at the quality, they must be title contenders.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Via Squawka: Arsenal’s previous 10 Premier League goals had come via the left foot, with Saliba’s header breaking the streak.
– Via Opta: Saka has been directly involved in 37 Premier League goals for Arsenal (18 goals, 19 assists), now the second-most of any player while aged 21 or younger for the club in the competition, overtaking Nicolas Anelka (35) and only behind Cesc Fabregas (63.)
– Mikkel Damsgaard had Brentford’s second shot on goal in the 72nd minute, with the first coming in the 5th minute.
– Brentford made all four substitutions by the 76th minute, with Arsenal not doing one until the 78th.
This was Arsenal’s 6th shutout win by a 3+ goal difference since 2020-21. That ties the team’s total such wins in the 7 seasons prior.
– It was the first time recording four wins in a five-game road span (all competitions) in one season since April-May 2021.
– Nwaneri, born on March 21, 2007 (a year after the Emirates stadium was built), became both Arsenal’s and the Premier League’s youngest-ever player at 15 years, five months and 23 days.
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