Newly promoted Brentford kick-off the new Premier League campaign as they host Arsenal to mark their return to top-flight football since 1947.
Brentford play hosts to Arsenal to get the new Premier League season underway. The Bees had to wait for 74 long years for this moment as they take their first step towards cementing their place among their peers in the division. Their fate was sealed in a momentous day in the Championship playoff finals at Wembley against Swansea, in front of their own allowed supporters.
Manager Thomas Frank will be optimistic ahead of their opening night clash with Arsenal after facing a few Premier League sides during pre-season. A win against Watford and Valencia were high points during the period, while the 1-0 loss to West Ham should be only a blip. The Bees were otherwise dominant over other teams from lower leagues during the pre-season.
It should be noted that Brentford ended the previous Championship season on a nine-game unbeaten home run. When the whistle blows for kick-off, the Bees will become the 50th different team to play in the Premier League, although none of the nine London sides before them ever managed to win an opening day fixture.
Their opponents, Arsenal, kick-start their campaign after finishing the last two seasons in 8th place. This season’s big difference will be the absence of European football of any kind, which should allow Mikel Arteta to focus solely on the Premier League. The Gunners hope to break back into Champions League places at the end of the season.
Arsenal endured a mixed bag pre-season, starting with a loss to Hibernian. They returned from Scotland winless after mustering a draw to Rangers. Their much-publicised trip to the United States got called off owing to positive coronavirus cases within their staff, and Arsenal played their next set of games at London Colney.
After winning behind-closed-door games, they endured a tough phase in the Mind Series, co-hosted by Tottenham and Chelsea. Despite putting in decent performances against both neighbours, Arsenal took back-to-back defeats to finish their pre-season on a low.
Team News & Tactics
Manager Frank looks likely to retain his three-man defence in the opening game. However, Brentford’s workings in the transfer market allow a bonafide defender instead of playing someone line Christian Norgaard out of position.
Kristoffer Ajer’s arrival to the club will allow Norgaard to play in his preferred midfield role. The manager will have to take a strong call over who Norgaard’s midfield partner would be, as new signing Frank Oneya will be eying a full debut, especially after scoring against Valencia. We reckon Frank will deploy Vitaly Janet in the centre, with Mads Roerslev and Sergi Canos supporting as wing-backs on either side.
In the three-man central defence, Ajer will have Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson on either side of him, with one-time Arsenal target David Raya behind them and between the posts.
In terms of absentees, former Arsenal prospect Josh Da Silva will be absent through his long-term injury, alongside Mathias Jansen, who has missed all of their pre-season games. After an injury scare, star striker Ivan Toney was also a doubt, but the manager confirmed he would start against the Gunners.
The striker will be partnered with Bryan Mbeumo upfront, while Tariqe Fosu-Henry will occupy the creative role.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Raya; Jansson, Ajer, Pinnock; Roerslev, Janelt, Norgaard, Canos; Fosu-Henry; Mbeumo, Toney
Mikel Arteta made some important signings this summer and could potentially start two of those new faces. However, some players also suffered problems late in the pre-season, which will see them miss the opening match. Otherwise, Arsenal come into the game with a decent sized squad.
Thomas Partey, who looked sharp in pre-season, turned his ankle against Chelsea and will likely miss 3-4 weeks of action. It effectively rules the Ghanaian out of fixtures until the international break. Rob Holding also suffered a knock before the Spurs game and is deemed doubtful alongside striker Eddie Nketiah. Defender Gabriel, who experienced knee problems that saw him pull out of the Olympics is back, but not fit.
New centre-half signing Ben White will play in a back-four alongside Pablo Mari. Arsenal comes into this game with four right-backs, although Arteta will choose between Hector Bellerin and Calum Chambers. Still, we reckon it’s the latter who would start ahead of the Spaniard while Kieran Tierney will play left-back.
Replacing Partey is difficult for Arteta, although he should select Mohamed Elneny or new signing Albert Sambi Lokonga in place of the Ghanaian. The Belgian is likely to get the nod to partner up with Granit Xhaka. If Arteta decides on a conservative approach, Elneny will get the green light.
Emile Smith Rowe is a sure starter in attack, although it seems like Arteta might take a late call on his position. Ideally, he’d have played on the left side, but with Bukayo Saka likely to start from the bench, the manager might prefer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left wing and put Smith Rowe in a no.10 role.
Pepe will be Arsenal’s main attacker on the right side, with Alexandre Lacazette set to start in the striker role barring late changes.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney; Sambi, Xhaka; Pepe, Smith-Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette
- Brentford will become the 50th different team to play in the Premier League.
- Brentford will taste first-division football after 74 years, having played their last top-flight game in 1947, incidentally against Arsenal.
- Arsenal have won their last five games in the Premier League.
- Arsenal are also unbeaten in their last seven Premier League away games.
- Arsenal have won just one of their six visits to Brentford in all competitions (D1 L4).
Player to Watch
Many others could have been the focus during this game, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needs a top draw performance like no one here. Being criticised for losing form and off-field problems last season, he needs to refocus and get back to his best for Arsenal.
Having had a bad season in front of goal, Aubameyang also failed to score a single goal during pre-season, which has caused worry. He needs to find his shooting boots back, without which the chances of Arsenal finishing in the top-six, let alone the top-four becomes impossible. Will, he fire away against Brentford remains the big question.
Brentford 1-2 Arsenal
No doubt Brentford are a good side, although they might find the taste of Premier League football bitter from the onset when they meet Arsenal. Despite all the Gunners’ criticism, they were the third-best side in the division since Boxing Day, which is no joke.
Mikel Arteta has retained most of the team from last season, and they have shown their readiness in pre-season. Brentford will be a tough challenge, which Arsenal will likely overcome, especially with forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who have looked sharp overall in the run-up. Expect Arsenal to keep their unbeaten away run going, this time with a win.