Arsenal and Mikel Arteta’s preparation work for our season recommencing kicked on again, as another behind-closed-doors friendly took place at The Emirates.
Brentford were the opponents who visited our stadium, and the Bees ran out surprise victors to the tune of a 3-2 win.
The result will be of little consequence to Arteta, but the fitness, the ramping up of competitive sharpness will be all that is on the Spaniard’s agenda. Training is great, but when it comes to gaining that five percent that all top flight players require to operate at the top level?
The only thing that can obtain that is matches.
Arsenal players trained before the game in shirts that displayed support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, in a show of alignment that many big organisations across the world are also mirroring.
The lineup for the game against the promotion-hopefuls from the Championship saw Bernd Leno in goal and a back four of Bellerin, Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Kieran Tierney – quite possibly as close to our strongest back five as can be named – David Luiz for Mustafi possibly the only change that could make us stronger.
In midfield, we also named a four-strong unit. Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos formed a pivot in the centre, with Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe on the flanks.
In attack? Eddie Nketiah got another start, this time it was alongside our top marksman, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The first half saw a few chances for our side, with Auba, Eddie and Saka all either testing the keeper or in Saka’s case, going narrowly off target.
But we had to wait five minutes before half time to break the deadlock. Willock finished off a low ball across the box and the midfielder finished coolly.
Pepe still had time to smack the post with an effort, but half time came and went.
Changes were made for the second half. Pablo Mari was swapped out for David Luiz, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Matteo Guendouzi came in for Willock and Ceballos, and Ozil and Laca came on for Pepe and Eddie.
It meant a change of shape for the Gunners but no end to the opportunities we were making. Mustafi went close from a corner and Lacazette went closer with a real fizzer of an effort.
Leno was called into action to pull off a great save from Baptiste, but Brentford weren’t to be denied and Fosu scored past second half sub Emi Martinez.
With less than twenty mins to go, we went ahead again. Alex Lacazette was the man to score and his close control earned enough space to fire home.
Brentford bit back almost instantly though, as Laca undid his good work in scoring when he lost the ball in his own half and the Bees capitalised by running straight through and scoring.
With seconds to go, the Bees took the result and shocked their hosts. They once again took possession from us and fired into our goal.
Game over and Brentford took the spoils, but Arteta will have seen what he needs to see in order to gauge our readiness for next week – and for Man City.