Will the Gunners be firing with another opening day trip to a promoted side?


To commence his first full season as the Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta defeated Liverpool on penalties to add the Community Shield to the FA Cup, and then got the Premier League campaign off to a flyer. Up against the newly-promoted Fulham, the Spaniard sent out an attack-minded 3-4-3 to win 3-0 at Craven Cottage.

With Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Gabriel getting on the scoresheet, it was a solid outing. Now, Arsenal will be kicking off the new Premier League campaign on 13 August with another trip to a newly promoted side, but Brentford pose quite a different problem to last year’s Fulham.

Statistically built for Premier League success

When clubs come up from the Championship, they tend to have to be incredibly impressive to make it work in the Premier League. While they didn’t win the second-tier, coming ten points short of Norwich City, Brentford do play very nice football, scored more than any other team, and won the play-offs emphatically.

What’s unique about Brentford’s ascendency to the top flight is the process behind the club. Under the ownership of Matthew Benham, the Bees have utilised analytics to identify transfer targets that traditional scouting often miss. Using this Moneyball-esque method, Brentford have remained competitive in the Championship, made huge profits from transfers, and have now jumped into the top flight.

Last season, Newcastle United castaway Ivan Toney netted 33 goals in 52 games, teeing up a further ten. Wingers Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canós were the main providers, landing 23 assists between them. With Thomas Frank as the manager, Brentford also ranked fifth for possession (52.2 per cent) and had the third-most shots per game at 13.4.

The Bees have shown steady improvements over the last half-decade, developing into a side that at least looks exciting enough to cause a bunch of upsets in the Premier League.

Arsenal expected to avoid stepping on the banana peel

Arsenal may have finished eighth last season, with goal-scoring being the biggest problem, but the Gunners are still a formidable force to meet, especially for a club’s first game back in the Premier League. While it was back in 2018, the Gunners do have some recent success against Brentford in a competitive game, winning 3-1 in the League Cup.

Coming into the first meet in the Premier League, betting on sites like Space Casino show odds of 20/23 for Arsenal to win the game, with the expected score looking to be 0-1, at 19/4. So, while the Gunners are favoured to start the season with a win, it’s not expected to be an overly convincing one – at least on the scoresheet.

Given the lack of goals last season and the types of players prioritised in the transfer window, a tidy effort that focuses on keeping a clean sheet would make sense. While Brentford did reinforce a decent defence, bringing in the towering Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic, their attacking play is the highlight. So, stopping the likes of stopping Toney from getting a sight on goal should be the priority if Arteta wants to avoid an upset.

The Bees have come to the Premier League with a strong side, a unique ethos, and an exciting style of play. Arsenal’s opening match this season looks to be more challenging than last season, so a defence-first approach wouldn’t be the worst way to go about the trip to the Community Stadium.

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