Mikel Arteta and Arsenal are having to face the jury in the Premier League after just their first match in the new season. At the time of writing this article, none of the other 18 Premier League teams apart from Brentford and Arsenal have even kicked a ball.
Nevertheless, yesterday the Gunner’s deficiencies and areas of improvement were highlighted for the umpteenth time by newly-promoted Brentford in the English top-flight.
The West Londoners ran riot against their North London rivals as a team that has gained promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs defeated a team that has won the very same competition 3 times.
As Arsenal and Mikel Arteta try to find the right answers in the wake of the defeat to Brentford, FootTheBall analyses the situation in North London to try to decipher whether it is finally time to press the panic button at the Emirates.
GUNNERS IN DISTRESS AFTER LOSS TO BRENTFORD ON OPENING NIGHT
There was always an air of uncertainty about this Arsenal squad ever since they finished 8th in the Premier League last season, below every other side of the self-proclaimed ‘Big Six’ of the top-flight.
🗣 “It’s a very disappointing night. We needed to start in a very different way." #BREARS
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 13, 2021
And there has long been a feeling that Arteta is running out of answers for Arsenal ever since the FA Cup triumph last year that was followed by a Community Shield win.
To add fuel to an already burning fire, the Gunners have, of late, performed dismally in the Premier League and Brentford’s win on the first matchday will only exacerbate problems for Arteta and his charges.
The opening night is a perfect night
🐝 2-0 🔴#BrentfordFC #BREARS pic.twitter.com/eJXDEt7sCZ
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) August 13, 2021
Coming into the game, the Spaniard was without the services of veterans such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette through illness while Thomas Partey will be unavailable until next month.
But this is not to say that the youthful players for Arsenal on the pitch last night have to shoulder any blame for the loss against Brentford.
FIRST-TEAM REGULARS LACKING INFLUENCE ON THE PITCH FOR ARSENAL
Albert Sambi Lokonga was perhaps the best player for the Gunners throughout the 90 minutes of the match courtesy of his prodigious space-scanning and delivery of well thought-out passes to create attacking moves.
In stark contrast, Granit Xhaka (a veteran of the Premier League for Arsenal) offered little cover to the centre-back duo of Pablo Mari and Ben White.
The former Brighton centre-back had a debut to forget in the British capital as there was clearly a need for a defensive partner who could be the guiding light for the Englishman, instead of Mari who had been slotted in to complete the line-up on the opening night.
Likewise a little ahead on the pitch, Nicolas Pepe could learn a thing or two about initiative from the new kid on the block Emile Smith Rowe.
And it was obvious that Brentford found a way to get through as time ticked by in West London and the newly-promoted club found the chink in Arsenal’s armour that had been exposed all night.
MIKEL ARTETA PERPLEXED BY ARSENAL’S WOES IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
The question remains what will Arteta be able to do over the next 37 games in the Premier League to help Arsenal challenge for at the very least European places in the table, rather than give the other mid-table and bottom-half clubs a walkover.
The Spaniard has admitted that the transfer window this summer has been the most difficult for years as the Gunners are still out and about for a creative midfielder and have set sights on Leicester City’s James Maddison and Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, with long-term target Odegaard looking more realistic now.
“It has been really busy and you’ve just named a few names but that tells you as well how much we’ve had to do from the position that we started the window,” the former Arsenal player was quoted saying before the game with Brentford.
But the most glaring question for Arsenal is – will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Partey’s return signal a renaissance for the Gunners?
If events unfolding currently in North London are anything to go by, then the answer to the above question would be an unequivocal ‘No’ from a cross-section of football fans, managers and journalists.
WILL ARSENAL EMERGE FROM ITS ASHES OR WILT UNDER PRESSURE?
As of now, there have been calls from some sections of Gunners’ fans for the ousting of Mikel Arteta from the managerial role on social media.
Such instances will only increase if Arsenal’s performances on the pitch do not improve almost instantaneously from the next match (home game vs Chelsea).
To be fair to Arteta, he did say Arsenal would surprise everyone this season – and they have: we’ve got worse.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) August 13, 2021
In stark contrast to Arsenal, Chelsea look like a well-oiled machine under Thomas Tuchel and with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku from Milan, they are now being counted among the title challengers to Manchester City.
Counting Arsenal among title challengers is a far cry as things stand right now, but improvement in games with supposedly weaker opposition will be the key to rise in the Premier League for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, both literally and metaphorically.