Arsenal finally bagged their first win of the season this afternoon, albeit in a behind-closed-doors meeting with Thomas Frank’s Brentford.
Cedric at the double
On the back of a dismal opening to the new campaign, and with a host of his key performers away on international duty with their countries, Mikel Arteta evidently thought it a good idea to secure those who remain in North London a competitive run out on Thursday.
In turn, the Gunners welcomed capital rivals Brentford to London Colney, for a friendly showdown.
Arsenal no doubt headed into proceedings with flashbacks of their harrowing Premier League opening day defeat at the hands of the Bees still fresh in the memory, with a slice of revenge therefore on the menu.
And, when all was said and done this afternoon, secure a long overdue positive result is precisely what the hosts managed.
A dominant display, during which Arteta’s men looked comfortable throughout, eventually culminated in a 4-0 final scoreline.
The returning Gabriel Magalhaes opened the scoring early in the 2nd-half, before Alexandre Lacazette made it two courtesy of a rare free-kick strike a short time later.
But the surprise star of the day proved Cedric Soares, who went on to notch a fine late brace, adding some gloss to the scoreline in the process.
The best snaps against Brentford 📸
Check out the full gallery 👇
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 2, 2021
AMN in midfield, Gabriel-White promise
So, what should the Arsenal faithful be aware of on the back of their side’s behind-closed-doors outing?
Well, perhaps most noteworthy was a change of system on the part of Mikel Arteta. The Gunners have of course opted for a back-4 to this point in the campaign, a setup which has proven far from fruitful thus far.
Versus Brentford, though, Arteta opted to revert to a 3-man central defensive unit, featuring all of Pablo Mari, summer addition Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes, fresh off the back of a spell on the sidelines.
The North Londoners’ clean sheet, even in a friendly outing, will no doubt be viewed as a platform to build upon, particularly with White and Gabriel expected to make up the partnership at the heart of Arsenal’s backline over the season ahead.
Aaron Ramsdale, meanwhile, was too in from the off, and looked relatively untroubled en route to his first shut-out in the club’s colours.
Elsewhere, further up the pitch, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was handed another chance to impress in the middle of the park.
The subject of versatile English international Maitland-Niles’ future of course took centre stage in the final days of the transfer window, as the 24-year-old made clear his desire to move on.
Ultimately, however, Mikel Arteta managed to convince AMN to stay put for the season ahead, based on an apparent guarantee when it comes to game-time.
This afternoon, as proved the case on occasion during pre-season, the Gunners youth product was utilised in a midfield berth, the same role which Maitland-Niles took on whilst with West Bromwich Albion last season.
With Arteta’s squad far from brimming with options in the middle of the park, could ‘Mainsley’ therefore be in line for a more central role over the coming months?
Sticking with the subject of Arsenal’s midfield ranks, another concerning development was forthcoming in the form of Mohamed Elneny’s early exit from proceedings.
Whilst it remains unclear whether he picked up a fitness problem, the Egyptian lasted just over half an hour, before being hauled from the field of play.
This comes with Thomas Partey already sidelined through injury, and Granit Xhaka suspended for the Gunners’ next three fixtures.
On a more encouraging note, though, 17-year-old talent Charlie Patino, introduced in Elneny’s place, again impressed onlookers at London Colney.
Others to have secured a run out on Thursday included Calum Chambers, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Rob Holding and youngster Omari Hutchinson.
Charlie Patino was excellent for Arsenal today and made a real impact in midfield.
As reported in June, the 17-year-old is gradually being integrated into the first team.
Top talent💫 pic.twitter.com/HQZMfmD0r2
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) September 2, 2021
Amid such a difficult opening to the campaign, all associated with Arsenal must take the positives when they do arrive.
And today’s 90 minutes, despite coming in a friendly, certainly provided cause for optimism.
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