Emile Smith-Rowe and Kieran Tierney are excellent footballers; committed, skillful and at the heart of everything that is good about Arsenal.
We all knew that before so much as a ball was kicked against Brentford on Friday night and so it came as no surprise when both of them performed exactly as we all knew they would – superbly.
We also knew that Arsenal as a team create little, are ponderous in possession and are prone to lapses in concentration at the back which so often gift glorious opportunities to our opposition. So it came as no surprise when they did exactly that against Brentford on Friday night.
This game taught us nothing we didn’t already know.
With a full summer on the training pitch and a number of fiesty friendly fixtures to grease the wheels, I think we all hoped we might see something a little different from Mikel Arteta this season but, quite simply, we didn’t and I suspect we won’t. This is who we are under this manager.
It is, of course, a little early to be doom-mongering but the facts speak for themselves. Something had to change over the summer in order to get us moving forward again as a club and it just hasn’t. We are the same incredibly predictable side now that we were 12 months ago.
It’s entirely fair to point out that losing both Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette just days before a season-opener – having already lost Thomas Partey – is nightmarish and doubtless threw the manager’s plans into disarray but, if we’re being honest, would their inclusion have changed the outcome of this match?
Brentford, bouyed by the TV cameras, their new stadium, and the return of fans after 18 months away, were always going to be in the box seat for this one but the way they exploited our weaknesses in the first half was embarrassing. Arteta has been in charge for almost two years and still his side are unable to play out from the back. So panicked and incapable are they that they were scared into submission by a team that made it into the Premier League by the skin of its teeth.
For all their heart and courage on the night, Brentford are not a good side and will almost certainly be going straight back down from whence they came. Even with their host’s technical shortcomings, Arsenal weren’t able to score so much as a consolation and allowed themselves to be hassled, harried, and cajouled into defeat.
With Chelsea and Manchester City to come in our next two matches, I expect we’ll be firmly in the drop zone come the end of the month and it’s possible we won’t even have a goal to our name. By then, the pressure will be piled heavily onto Arteta and he may struggle to find a way out with fans back in the stadium.
Victory against Brentford would have gone some way to providing a little breathing space for the manager and the team to fudge their way through the next two matches but now they have no such luxury. The pressure to come up with a result – any sort of result – will be immense.
We have a week or so to gather ourselves before Chelsea’s visit to the Emirates but it’s difficult to see what the manager can do to change things. He is wedded to his style of play and stuck with most of the same players who were available last season.
They underwhelmed then and they underwhelmed tonight. This match taught us nothing we didn’t already know.