Hits and Misses: Brentford (a)

On Sunday, Arsenal travelled to West London to take on hosts Brentford. With City and Spurs having both overtaken them in the league table, the pressure was on to get a vital three points. However, the Gunners rose to the occasion. They imposed themselves on the game early, dominating affairs and earning a comfortable lead. The result sees them reclaim pole position in the Premier League heading into the international break. Below are five Hits and two Misses from a great bounce-back win.


Granit Xhaka

Xhaka has truly gone from the most hated to the most rated. The Swiss midfielder, wearing the armband in Martin Odegaard’s absence, produced a tremendous performance at Brentford. It took him about 90 seconds to trouble the home team, being played in on goal by Gabriel Martinelli before opting to try and set Martinelli up for a chance. His big impact came later, however, in the form of a brilliant assist for Gabriel Jesus. Xhaka lofted a sumptuous pass as the Brazilian separated from his man, allowing Jesus to head home from point-blank range. He also figured defensively, making a gut-busting run in the 60th minute to prevent a Rico Henry cross from finding its target. We all already know this, but it bears repeating: Xhaka is the leader of this Arsenal side.

Ethan Nwaneri

When he showed up in first-team training photos, Arsenal fans were intrigued. When he made the matchday squad, the club faithful were impressed, albeit while also worried for the team’s increasing injury numbers. And when Arsenal brought Nwaneri on in stoppage time, making him the youngest player ever to feature in the Premier League or any other iteration of the English top flight, the world marveled at him. At 15 years and 181 days old, the Hale End starlet is in the history books. Based on the gaffer’s post-match interview, he is also in Mikel Arteta’s good graces. This won’t be the last time we hear the name Ethan Nwaneri.

Bukayo Saka

It is probably safe to say that Saka’s iffy start to the season is at an end. The academy product, who is old news now thanks to Nwaneri (don’t worry, that’s just a joke), bagged two assists today. The haul takes his tally to a goal and four assists in seven matches. Not bad for someone in poor form! Now second in the team for goal contributions, Saka should hopefully go from strength to strength from here. Arsenal will need him when Spurs come to the Emirates on October 1.

Kieran Tierney

Tierney seems to finally getting the hang of the inverted full back role. Filling in for the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko, the Scotsman looked far more comfortable in the middle of the pitch than in previous outings. Yes, he still bombed forward in his trademark fashion, but he balanced that with providing support to Thomas Partey in midfield. However, that did not detract from his defensive output. Tierney and Gabriel combined to keep their side of the back line quiet, contributing heavily to Arsenal’s clean sheet on the day. With his talent unusually in doubt, Tierney showed on Sunday that he has still got it.

William Saliba

What more is there to say about Saliba? The Frenchman added to his budding goal collection, brilliantly heading home Saka’s corner to open proceedings. From there, he continued the masterful defensive work we have come to expect from him. Ivan Toney entered the match on the back of a first England call-up, but Saliba made him anonymous on the day. In possession, the 21-year-old remained composed as ever, even under pressure. In the buildup to Fabio Vieira’s luscious goal, Saliba deftly turned away from Brentford’s press when others would have given the ball away in an immensely dangerous position. There is no other way to say it — Saliba is elite.


Gabriel Jesus’ yellow cards

Jesus himself had a great match, and this is by no means a knock on him. However, since he has joined Arsenal, the Brazilian has racked up yellow cards. Funny how that happens. Against Brentford, Arsenal’s no. 9 received a booking for his first foul of the match, a rather routine missed tackle. Now Jesus’ tally currently stands at four, meaning another yellow will see him suspended for a match. He will need to be careful in the North London Derby so that he is available to face Liverpool.

Jason Sudeikis’ denial of his Goonerhood

The Brentford match was not the first time the star of Ted Lasso has been spotted at an Arsenal match. In fact, it was at least the third time this calendar year. Yes, Brendan Hunt, who has typically accompanied Sudeikis, is an Arsenal fan. Sure, Sudeikis might just be tagging along to watch a good team. But that all seems like a convenient excuse at this point. It is time for Sudeikis to admit that he is a fan of by far the greatest team that the world has ever seen. It’s okay, Jason. This is a safe space.

Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and once got left with the check for a VIP section at the Havana Club in Atlanta by an NBA player. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.