MATCH PREVIEW: Arsenal Out for Revenge Against Brentford
After an abysmal January which saw Arsenal crash out of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, and the conclusion of a rather disappointing January transfer window, the Gunners returned to winning ways last weekend with a 1-0 win away at Wolves. Controversial officiating struck Arsenal yet again after Gabriel Martinelli was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in 6 seconds (that has to be a record, right?).
Despite being down a man, the backline held strong and Rob Holding put in a man of the match performance in his substitute appearance to secure the all-important three points. The icing on the cake was surely the rampant celebrations that ensued after the final whistle from both the away end and the squad on the pitch that sent the Wolves players into a strange frenzy. Personally, I love to celebrate an Arsenal win and if you don’t like the other team celebrating then don’t lose to them (looking at you Ruben Neves).
Arsenal now have 16 fixtures left in the premier league and are sitting in a great position to secure Champions League football for the first time in five years and host Brentford at the weekend. After the defeat in the reverse fixture on the opening night of the season, the Gunners are surely going to be out for revenge albeit with a much-improved squad than the one that opened the season.
About the Visitors
Brentford had a good start to the top flight, picking up wings against Arsenal and West Ham, as well as drawing against Liverpool.
Unfortunately for them, their form has dipped quite a bit, and they see themselves without a win in 6 games in the league.
Shaping up initially in a 532, that keeps it shape defensively, they look to create a somewhat 424 in attack, committing the two central defenders to move up and overload in wide areas.
Brentford owe a lot of their ability to move forward, to their brilliant attacking duo, Toney and Mbuemo, being able to hold up play and drive the team up the pitch. They look to use the wide areas to either quickly find an attacker in space, or making crosses towards the far post, for a forward running central defender to either lay off of head goalward. Lately, however, they’ve looked starved for offensive ideas, struggling to retain the ball in attacking areas and create chances on anything else than transitional play or banking on Mbuemo to do something on his own.
A lot of the goals Brentford has conceded have been on the back of players being dispossessed in transition around midfield areas and having a slow back line being exposed. If they can manage to get into defensive formation, though, they look very strong and disciplined. A 5-3-2 defensive formation is hard to break down, as play is mainly funneled into wide areas, without any real ability to move it back central.
Their strikers look to discourage passes into central areas, while the midfielders behind look to push up and deny the space to turn and pass further forward. As such, the only real passing option is to pass it wide. As the opposition moves the ball out wide the wing backs push forward, the central midfielders look to cover deep central areas and the centre forwards look to anticipate the pass backwards, trapping wide players and trying to force turnovers. That being said, if the initial trap doesn’t work, Brentford central midfielders tend to drop very deep, denying themselves an easy ways to escape pressure.
Arsenal’s best options for beating Brentford, would be to engage them in their build up play, trying to get our fast attackers into running duels against Brentford’s central defenders. Alternatively, if Arsenal finds themselves having to break down Brentford, it’s important to use the central pockets available, and avoid play to be solely in wide areas.
At the other end, Arsenal’s best option for avoiding a goal, is to try to isolate Brentford’s attackers from the rest of the team. While Mbuemo and Toney, if he’s available, are a menace in attack, they don’t hold much of a threat on their own, as long as they don’t get behind the defense. If Arsenal are able to stretch the pitch vertically, and force Brentford into long balls forward, they can nullify a lot of Brentford’s strengths.
Arsenal should, at all cost, avoid committing fouls in defensive areas. Brentford does have a very good set piece specialist, and Brentford are dangerous in set piece situations.
Luckily for us Arsenal wouldn’t have anyone stupid enough to make unnecessary fouls… right?
Arsenal Key Run-In
Arsenal have a great opportunity over the next 6 premier league fixtures to consolidate their place in the top 4. As we have seen all season, there is nothing ever given in the league, and just as our top 4 rivals have dropped points recently, so too could Arsenal. With only the league to worry about, and a relatively easy upcoming fixture list, Arsenal must capitalize on the less than convincing form of West Ham, Manchester United, and Spurs.
Wins against Brentford, Wolves, and Watford would do wonders not only for the confidence of fans, but for the squad that is full of players who have never experienced Champions League football before. With a match roughly every 7 days for the remainder of the season, the mental fitness is arguably going to be more important to manage than physical fitness.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“We knew the difficulties that we were going to have on the opening game in the league, which is always difficult but with the amount of players out that we had, with the team that we played on the day and with a newly-promoted team who had done exceptionally well, I wasn’t shocked because I knew it was going to be very difficult,” he said.
“That has been proven because Brentford have made life really, really difficult for any team that has been playing there regardless of the level of that team. We haven’t been the only ones that has suffered against them, that’s for sure.
“It’s part of football, part of the job to lose football matches, it’s part of this, unfortunately. There’s a lot of things that you learn in terms of the preparation, the team that you selected, analysing what happened and how it happened, not analysing it in a different context, exactly what happened with the players that you had on the day and don’t lose focus on the direction because it’s really easy to start to shift one side and the other and keep what you’re doing in your beliefs and keep going and be very stubborn on that”
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League only)
0W 1L 0D
Goals Scored (Season Average)
Arsenal (Home): 1.64
Brentford (Away): 1.00
Goals Conceded (Season Average)
Arsenal (Home): 0.73
Brentford (Away): 1.92
xG per Match (via fbref.com)
Arsenal (Home): 1.64
Brentford (Away): 0.95
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: Marc Perry, Timothy Wood
Fourth official: Simon Hooper
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- This is Arsenal’s first home game against Brentford since a 3-1 win in the EFL Cup in September 2018.
- Brentford are hoping to become the first promoted side to complete a Premier League double over Arsenal since Blackburn Rovers in 1992-93.
- Their only victory in six competitive trips to Arsenal was by 2-0 in the top flight at Highbury in April 1938.
- Since the end of August, only Manchester City and Liverpool have won more Premier League games than the 12 by Arsenal.
- The Gunners earned their first competitive win of 2022 at the sixth attempt away at Wolves last weekend.
- They have received four red cards and scored just two goals in those six fixtures.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their past 28 Premier League home matches kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday.
- They have also gone 32 home league games without defeat against promoted sides since a 1-0 loss to Newcastle in November 2010.
- Arsenal kept a clean sheet in five of their six most recent Premier League home fixtures.
Editor Note: Special thanks to Rasmus Pabst (@gamingpabst) who helped with the scouting of Brentford for this piece