Brentford stunned Arsenal in the opening fixture of the 2021/22 English Premier League season, picking up a 2-0 win in front of their home supporters at the Brentford Community Stadium on Matchday One.
With captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette ruled out through illness, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta opted for a front three of Nicolas Pepe, Folarin Balogun and Gabriel Martinelli in the first match of the season. Super Eagles midfielder Frank Onyeka also made his debut for his new club Brentford. Arsenal started on the front foot as they moved the ball around quickly, looking for openings to allow their attackers weave their magic. It was, however, Brentford that opened the scoring against the run of play through former Liverpool midfielder Sergi Canos in the 27th minute. Centre back Ethan Pinnock cushioned a header down for Canos, who took a lovely touch to set himself up before rifling in a shot at the near post to send the capacity crowd into raptures. The Bees players endeared themselves to the home fans as they left it all out on the pitch. The halftime whistle went with Arsenal knowing they needed to step up in the second half.
The second half resumed with Arsenal raising their game by several degrees. Pepe and Emile Smith-Rowe began to assert themselves on the game more, and the Gunners began to carve out half chances against a sturdy Brentford backline. Brentford boss Thomas Frank sent on Mads Bech for a stricken Kristoffer Ajer, and the defender was on the pitch for just two minutes before he played a huge part in the second Brentford goal on 73 minutes. Brentford won a throw-in high up the pitch and Bech delivered a long throw into the Arsenal area which both the centre backs and goalkeeper failed to deal with. Danish international Christian Norgaard popped up to head home the bouncing ball into an empty net and whip up a frenzy from the players and fans. Nigerian international Onyeka kept running up and down the pitch snapping at Arsenal heels and making his presence felt, earning him an ovation from his home fans for an excellent debut when he was substituted for Mads Bidstrup after 80 minutes. Arsenal tried to initiate a late onslaught on the Bees, but apart from a brilliant counter that saw Pepe force a spectacular save from Bees goalkeeper David Raya, the Gunners barely laid a glove on an excellent Brentford defence.
The final whistle sounded to great cheers from the fans inside the Brentford Community Stadium as their side had done the impossible by beating Arsenal on their Premier League debut. Brentford’s last top flight win came in 1947, and their last win over Arsenal came in September 1938, 83 years ago. The Bees announced their arrival into the big time in style.
For Arsenal, there is trouble lurking around the corner from the first day of the season. The Gunners find themselves behind their rivals from the first day after a lacklustre performance by a young team that showed a distinct lack of leadership on the pitch. The Gunners will host European champions Chelsea in their next league match on August 21st before traveling to Manchester for a meeting with the Premier League champions the following weekend.