Arsenal: Familiar Frailties Return on Opening Day


Arsenal are already playing catch-up in the Premier League this season, having been beaten 2-0 by newly-promoted Brentford on the opening day.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has called for calmness in the aftermath of the defeat as he seeks to avoid a widespread overreaction. However, onlookers have been quick to assert that the manner of Arsenal’s performance hints that the club are in for a long, arduous season.

Arsenal: Where Next For Gunners After Opening Day Disaster?

Abject Defending Among Chief Concerns

Premier League newcomers Brentford deserve huge credit for the way in which they took the game to their illustrious opponents, showing no fear despite the occasion being new to just about everyone in their side.

On the flip side, Arsenal themselves deserve huge criticism for their reaction to Brentford’s approach. Gunners supporters were left bemused, but by no means surprised, by the nature of the goals they conceded. To be frank, they have seen it all before.

For the first, Calum Chambers had the time and space to do better than hook a left-footed clearance up into the Hounslow sky and back down at the feet of a Brentford side pushing for the opener. The 26-year-old could also have done more to close down Sergi Canos, who drove a fine effort through his legs and in past Bernd Leno at his near post.

The second goal, which finished the game off as a contest, was an even worse one to concede. Arsenal committed the cardinal mistake of allowing a routine long-throw from substitute Mads Bech Sorensen to bounce in the box. New signing Ben White was particularly culpable as Christian Norgaard attacked the header and found an empty net. Goalkeeper Leno was also weak in his response to a crowded penalty area.

Personnel Issues Already a Having an Impact

Even prior to his role in the second goal on the night, new £50 million defensive addition Ben White endured a torried league debut for his new side.

The former Brighton man was run ragged by Ivan Toney from the first whistle, and must pick himself up in time to face Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku next as Arsenal’s tricky start to the season ramps up.

At 5.97 feet in height, White is among the smallest Premier League defenders. Playing in a back three alongside much taller team-mates suited the 23-year-old last season, as it allowed him to step out of the defence and bring his ball-playing attributes to the fore.

White was unable to do so in Arsenal’s back four last night, and opposing teams may look to target him as the season goes on unless Arteta changes his system. The Spaniard already has a great deal to think about.

Additionally, White’s central defensive partner, Pablo Mari, looked fragile throughout. His performance will not have been lost on Arteta, who also had to make do with Chambers, a centre-half by trade, playing at right-back.

Attacking Issues a Challenge to Solve for Arsenal

It was not just the defensive aspect of Arsenal’s performance yesterday that raised eyebrows. Going forward, questions must be asked of how the Gunners can drag themselves up the table from now on.

Time and again, Arsenal worked the ball to the edge of the box – with Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney impressing – only to fail to find the right pass or add the quality needed to get on the scoresheet.

Arteta was not been helped in this regard by illness forcing both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to sit this one out. However, do the pair still have it in them to make all the difference in the final third once they return to the fold?

Mikel Arteta will certainly hope so – his team’s season might just depend on it.

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