The 30th season of Premier League football began with a bang as Brentford marked their return to the top-flight with a comprehensive victory over Arsenal.
Brentford secured qualification by winning the EFL Championship playoff and this saw them return to the summit of English football for the first time since 1947.
Arsenal were rocked by the news that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were unavailable for selection, which led to Folarin Balogun making his first league start for the club.
Mikel Arteta started with an extremely youthful squad for the short trip to West London but the visitors were still fancied to get the job done away from home.
Brentford, however, missed the memo and they started the game on the front foot, with Bryan Mbeumo smashing the right post in only the 12th minute.
It was a sign of things to come and the home side got a deserved lead in the 22nd minute through Sergi Canos.
The Arsenal backline struggled to clear their lines and Canos was on hand to fire home from an acute angle and send the fans in the stands to dreamland.
Brentford continued to ask questions following an insipid first-half display from Arsenal and it was the home side that ended the half in the ascendancy.
The visitors discovered some of their rhythm in the second half and put Brentford on the backfoot. However, they struggled to make their dominance count and could only muster half chances.
Brentford put themselves closer to victory 13 minutes from time when Christian Norgaard headed home into an empty net after Mads Sorensen’s long throw caused confusion in the Arsenal box.
The victory was no less than Thomas Frank’s men deserved and the loss highlighted just how far Arsenal have fallen off their previous levels.
This was the first time that the north London side have started a campaign with a defeat to a newly-promoted side since suffering a loss to Bristol City in 1977.
The usual problems that have plagued the team in the last few seasons were glaringly obvious from the get-go. With games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham coming in the next few weeks, things could get much worse for the Gunners before they get better.
We shall be taking a look at Arsenal’s player ratings in what was an insipid performance.
Arsenal player ratings against Brentford
Bernd Leno – 5/10
The Arsenal goalkeeper made a number of decent saves but should have been more dominant in the air in the buildup to Brentford’s second goal.
Kieran Tierney – 6/10
Tierney was one of a handful of Arsenal players to emerge from this game with any credit. He regularly went forward to force the issue and fashioned some chances for his teammates.
Pablo Mari – 5.5/10
The Brazilian did not show enough command in the Arsenal defense and this led to Leno being put under pressure on a number of occasions.
Ben White – 5/10
Ben White made his long-awaited Arsenal debut but this was not a performance the 23-year-old will be proud of. He was constantly beaten by the pace of the Brentford attackers and struggled to perform at the levels expected.
Callum Chambers – 5/10
Callum Chambers did not effectively clear the ball in the build-up to Brentford’s opening goal and this set the tone for a poor game to follow. He did not offer too much in attack and was defensively suspect before being replaced by Nuno Tavares in the 81st minute.
Granit Xhaka – 5.5/10
Granit Xhaka was tidy in possession and showed his creativity on a few occasions. He, however, did not fully stamp his authority in midfield.
Albert Lokonga – 5.5/10
Albert Lokonga made his Arsenal debut and performed relatively well. The 21-year-old should have done better with a few half chances he got.
Gabriel Martinelli – 5/10
The Brazilian had just one shot in the time he spent on the field and was merely a spectator for most of the game. It came as no surprise to see him taken off in the 71st minute despite Arsenal needing a goal.
Emile Smith Rowe – 6.5/10
Arsenal dominated the early stages of the second half and a lot of that was down to the industry of Emile Smith Rowe. The 21-year-old’s tenacity and drive helped the visitors charge forward but he was let down by poor decision-making in the final third.
Nicolas Pepe – 5.5/10
Nicolas Pepe had a mixed display on the right of Arsenal’s attack. He showed his quality on occasion, but was not consistent enough across the 90 minutes to make a mark.
Folarin Balogun – 5/10
Big things are expected of Folarin Balogun at Arsenal but his first league start at the club did not go to plan. The 20-year-old failed to hit the target with any of his three shots and was the first replacement even though the Gunners were in search of an equalizer.
Bukayo Saka – 5.5/10
Bukayo Saka was given a rapturous ovation by the Brentford fans upon his introduction in the 59th minute. The England international helped add some verve to the attack but there was only so much he could do on his own.
Reiss Nelson – 5/10
Reiss Nelson came on with 20 minutes to go and managed to register one shot off target in addition to creating a chance in the game.
Nuno Tavares – 5/10
Nuno Tavares came on for Chambers in the 81st minute and had a shot off target as well as making one clearance.
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