Brentford enjoyed a winning start to life in the Premier League as goals from Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard downed Arsenal 2-0 on the opening night of the new season.
The Bees finally secured top-flight status via the Championship play-offs at the end of last term and, just as boss Thomas Frank had promised, did not change their style to cope with the step up.
Canos’ opener came midway through a first half when the hosts pressed and passed impressively, much to the delight of a raucous home crowd making the most of the chance to watch their team again inside the Community Stadium.
In contrast, this was a nightmare for Mikel Arteta on Friday the 13th. The absences of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – both through illness – did not help, but new recruit Ben White was part of a defence that conceded a second via a long throw.
Arsenal had 66.5 per cent possession over the opening 15 minutes but their early dominance dissipated as the contest wore on, the visitors at times penned in by their relentless opponents.
Having already hit the outside of the post from a tight angle, Bryan Mbeumo failed to show the required composure after excellent footwork created another opportunity before the break, scuffing his shot wide of the target.
However, Brentford did get the goal their positive approach merited thanks to Canos, who cut in off his team’s left flank to fire through Calum Chambers’ legs and beat Bernd Leno at the near post.
The ever-lively Emile Smith-Rowe was denied by goalkeeper David Raya as Arsenal improved after the break, though any hopes of a comeback were dashed as a worryingly soft centre was exposed at a set-piece situation.
Mads Bech Sorensen’s throw-in delivery evaded several Gunners at the front post and bounced through to Norgaard, who showed the determination lacking from Arsenal’s defenders to nod in and seal a debut win.
What does it mean?: Gunners show worrying signs
Arsenal finished an otherwise disappointing 2020-21 season with a flourish, albeit not even five straight league wins during the run-in was enough to secure European football once again.
This, though, was a bad start when presented with a clean slate. They managed to get just four of their 22 attempts on target and while a younger squad will understandably have teething problems – midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga was another signing to start – some worrying issues from previous campaigns were laid bare again.
The wait is over!
Canos became the first Brentford player to score in the top tier since May 1947, when Len Townsend was on target against Sunderland exactly 27,110 days ago.
“We’re top of the league” sang their fans when 1-0 up, knowing they will have the chance to see their team sit at the summit for a few hours at least. While it may be short-lived, they gave a demonstration of what they will bring to the competition.
Tough beginning for Balogun
Folarin Balogun made a first Premier League start in the absence of more recognised strikers available to Arteta, who has still yet to see Arsenal come from behind at half-time to win since taking charge.
The 20-year-old endured a tough full debut, having three attempts, none of which were on target, and completing only 60 per cent of his passes before making way for Bukayo Saka just before the hour mark.
Key Opta Facts
– Brentford registered their first top-flight victory since April 1947 against Leeds United, while they became the first London team to win their first ever Premier League game; none of the previous nine had won (D5 L4).
– Brentford ended tonight top of the English top-flight for the first time since September 1st, 1946, a gap of 74 years and 346 days, the biggest ever gap for a club between ending the night top of the top-flight, breaking Notts County’s record (58y 251d between December 1924 and August 1983).
– Arsenal were beaten by a newly promoted side in their opening league match of the season for the first time since 1976-77 against Bristol City at Highbury (W5 D2 in between) They also suffered a two-goal defeat against a newly promoted opponent for only the fourth time in the Premier League, with the others coming in April 1994 (0-2 vs West Ham), May 1994 (0-2 vs Newcastle) and April 2019 (1-3 vs Wolves).
– Brentford’s starting XI had just three Premier League appearances between them before kick-off – Ivan Toney with two games for Newcastle in 2015-16 and Sergi Canos with one for Liverpool in 2016 – which was the fewest for a team prior to kick-off since Reading’s starting line-up had no appearances before they faced Middlesbrough in August 2006.
– Fifteen different players made their Premier League debuts in this match (12 for Brentford, 3 for Arsenal) – excluding 1992-93, this is the joint-most in any Premier League match, along with Crystal Palace against Norwich City in August 2004.
– Arsenal had 22 shots without scoring against Brentford, their most without finding the net in a Premier League match since December 2017 against West Ham (also 22).
Arsenal have another London derby for their home opener, as Chelsea make the short trip to Emirates Stadium next Sunday. Brentford do not have far to travel either a day earlier, Selhurst Park the destination for a clash with Crystal Palace.
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