Thirteen months on from the scene of one of Mikel Arteta’s lowest points, Arsenal climbed back to the summit.
And in doing so with such a powerful, dominant and impressive display, they might just be raising expectation levels for this season. Next up it is a top-of-the-table clash with Tottenham on Saturday week and it has been a long time since both North London rivals have been mixing it with the title contenders.
The last time Arsenal played at Brentford, they lost on the opening day of last season which brought a jibe from Ivan Toney who called it a “nice kick about with the boys.” Towards the end of this demolition job, the Arsenal fans were chanting: “Ivan Toney – a stroll in the park.” And they weren’t wrong.
Brentford’s stadium is normally so loud, so intimidating, that they make it hard for plenty of teams. They smashed Manchester United 4-0 last month.
This time, Arsenal barely gave Thomas Frank’s men a kick as Gabriel Jesus was relentless up front, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka controlled midfield and William Saliba was majestic in defence.
It was so comfortable that Arteta even brought on Ethan Nwaneri who, at 15 years and 181 days, became the youngest player in Premier League history and beats Cesc Fabregas as the youngest to play for Arsenal in all competitions. The away end chanted: “He’s got school in the morning.”
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This was a big win for Arsenal – and not just in terms of score line. The squad was depleted by injuries – including captain Martin Odegaard – and their last game was a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United. They had also seen Manchester City knock them off the top.
So this felt like a response from Arteta’s side and they rose to the occasion. This season has always been about finishing in the top four but when a team wins six of their first seven games, then it has to mark them down as genuine challengers.
That is what Arsenal appear to be now even if City are surely still in pole position as the team to beat but Gunners boss Arteta knocking his mentor Pep Guardiola off top spot must still bring its own sense of satisfaction.
It is two new arrivals that are making the difference.
The £45m Arsenal paid City for Jesus looks sensational business as he works so hard and scores goals. Equally, Saliba joined in 2019, had three seasons out on loan but now really looks the part. Poor Toney never got a kick.
This was arguably Brentford’s worst showing since they were promoted to the Premier League and yet Arsenal were also brilliant and scored after just 17 minutes to take full control.
Bukayo Saka’s near post corner found Saliba and his header flashed across goal, hit the far post and easily went in even if referee David Coote needed goal line technology to flash up on his watch to let it stand.
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Eleven minutes later, Arsenal were 2-0 up and it was job done. Xhaka’s inch perfect cross found Jesus who powered a header past keeper David Raya’s despairing dive and into the top corner.
Jesus celebrated with a dance to send a message of support for Brazil team mate Vinicius Junior who has been embroiled in a shameful race row in Spain and then dropped to his knees when Xhaka ran over and pretended to polish his Arsenal team mate’s boot.
Arsenal made it 3-0 soon after the restart. A lovely patient build-up, Saka’s pass set up Fabio Vieira who unleashed a brilliant 20 yard shot which flew in off the post.
The away end started singing “Vieira” as they have adopted the song they used for Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira and this performance and win brought back so many memories of the glory days.