Arsenal secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Brentford in the Premier League on Sunday, September 18.
Brentford won two, drew three and lost one of their opening six games. Surprisingly, they entered this contest having scored one goal more than their visitors, who had 14. Thomas Frank's men secured a statement 3-0 win on the opening day of last season. He fielded a strong lineup in a bid to replicate that result.
Arsenal, on the other hand, won five and lost one of their opening six games. They entered this game knowing a win would take them above Manchester City and Tottenham, who are tied with 17 points. Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko missed out due to injuries. Mikel Arteta fielded a strong lineup in a bid to climb back to the top of the table.
Arsenal played their typical passing game, with players moving and interchanging positions with ease. The hosts met them with great physicality, putting in tough challenges to impose themselves on the game. However, the visitors were the first team on the scoreboard.
Bukayo Saka put the ball into a dangerous area near the front post from a corner. William Saliba met it and sent the ball looping over goalkeeper David Raya. It bounced off the left upright and appeared to have crossed the line. Goal-line technology sent a buzz to the referee's watch, who confirmed the goal much to the joy of Arsenal's traveling fans.
The Gunners doubled their lead just nine minutes later with another header. Granit Xhaka played a chipped pass over Brentford's defense. Gabriel Jesus was alert to it and met it with a thumping header that fizzed past Raya. The Brazilian broke into an impromptu dance in what was a show of support for his national teammate Vinicius Junior, who sadly faced racism this past week.
Brentford were barely allowed a sniff of goal as Arsenal dominated possession. The teams went into the break with the visitors leading 2-0.
Arsenal began the second half with high intensity play and added a third goal within five minutes of the restart. Bukayo Saka carried the ball down the right flank. It is important to note that Ben White's decoy overlapping run took two Brentford players out of the equation. Saka passed the ball to Vieira in central midfield, who smashed it into the goal from nearly 25 yards out.
Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka often looked too eager as they gave away unnecessary set-pieces around the 18-yard box. Brentford looked to exploit these set-piece situations with Ivan Toney and Pontus Jansson's towering presence. However, Arsenal did well to defend the ball into the box and thwart the hosts' attempts.
Thomas Frank made several changes as he looked to add energy to his team. However, Arsenal were composed and remained in control of the situation. Mikel Arteta handed a debut to 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri, who made history by becoming the youngest player to play in the Premier League.
The Gunners held onto their 3-0 lead and saw the game off with relative ease. With that said, let's take a look at the five hits and flops from the game.
#5. Hit - Granit Xhaka
Xhaka looked focused and played with intensity and determination as he put in an inspiring performance to lead Arsenal. He was the stand-in captain in Odegaard's absence. He provided a lovely assist for Jesus to nod in the Gunners' second goal of the game.
His willingness to be vocal and organize a team of young players in key moments was crucial. Xhaka completed 50 passes with 89% accuracy, including three key passes and two long balls. He also won three of his five duels.
#4. Flop - Ivan Toney
Toney has been Brentford's weapon in attack for the last few seasons. He has scored five goals and provided two assists in the Premier League so far this season. However, he looked off-color in the match as the Gunners' defense did well to deal with him.
Toney played the entire game and attempted two shots, both of which were off target. Despite having 37 touches of the ball, very few of those were in Arsenal's 18-yard box. He won nine of his 15 duels but was unable to convert those into chances.
#3. Hit - Fabio Vieira
Vieira made his full debut for Arsenal as Martin Odegaard missed out due to a knock he suffered in the last game. Despite making a slow start, the newcomer soon looked at home in the Gunners' midfield.
He scored his first goal for the club just after half-time with a lovely shot from distance. Vieira received the ball from Saka on the right flank and dragged it onto his stronger left foot before unleashing a strike that was helped into the net by the right post.
#2. Flop - Gabriel Martinelli
Despite a decent start to the season so far, Martinelli has shown signs of inconsistency in some games. Unfortunately for him, today was one of those games.
He missed a glorious chance in the early exchanges of the game to give his side the lead. It wasn't the first time he has missed an early chance. Such opportunities are crucial as on any other day, the Gunners could be left regretting their missed chances against top teams.
#1. Hit - Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka has been given a slightly different role this season compared to what he did last year for Arsenal. His ability to maintain width and pass the ball from wide areas helped his side create several chances.
Saka has also become the Gunners' primary corner-kick taker this season. He provided an assist for William Saliba's opening goal with an accurate delivery into the near post area. He added his second assist with a layoff to Vieira, who scored with a long-range shot.