The Premier League kicks off for the 2021/22 season as debutants Brentford host Arsenal on Friday night.
The Gunners will be looking to hugely improve back-to-back eighth-placed finishes, although will have to overturn some calamitous form in pre-season. Mikel Arteta saw his side lose to Hibernian, Chelsea and Tottenham, with wins only coming behind closed doors.
Brentford, meanwhile, can be nothing but excited for what awaits them. It’s the first time that the Bees have been a top flight club in 74 years, following their 2-0 win over Swansea City in last season’s Championship play-off final. They have reason to be hopeful, too, having drawn 2-2 with Manchester United, narrowly lost to West Ham and beaten Valencia 2-1 in their last three friendlies.
So, to carry on that form and cause an upset on the Premier League’s opening day, here’s the team Frank could set out.
David Raya (GK) – A long-term target for Arteta, Raya seems set to stay put and continue that brilliant work he’s done for Brentford over the past two seasons.
Kristoffer Ajer (CB) – A key figure for Celtic in the past four years, the addition of Ajer will represent key reinforcement to the back line and, having gone with a defensive trio recently, Frank could hand him his debut on Friday.
Pontus Jansson (CB) – Struggled with injuries last term but is a leader in the squad and will likely captain the side against Arsenal.
Ethan Pinnock (CB) – Another important presence at the club, Pinnock will embark on the next chapter of his fairytale career that started with non-league Dulwich Hamlet 11 years ago.
Sergi Canos (RWB) – Could be forced into a more defensive role throughout the season, although he is more than capable of producing moments of magic – as his 18 league goal contributions during 2020/21 will attest to.
Vitaly Janelt (CM) – Was excellent for Brentford last term and should hold firm to provide assurance in the midfield line throughout the club’s campaign.
Christian Norgaard (CM) – Hampered by injury last season, although can be excellent as an all-rounder in the middle of the field on his day. Will be keen to continue a successful summer with Denmark into the new campaign with Brentford.
Frank Onyeka (CM) – Another box-to-box midfielder, Onyeka came on in the second half to score the winner in Brentford’s 2-1 win over Valencia on Saturday, and could be in line for a competitive debut against Arsenal.
Rico Henry (LWB) – The full-back will be crucial to Frank’s side in staying defensively compact while also providing a dangerous offensive option with his dynamism, energy and pace.
Bryan Mbeumo (ST) – Although an unfinished product, Mbeumo will be a real threat with his build up play and knack for finding space in advanced areas. Crucial to Brentford since his arrival in 2019 and will certainly continue in the side.
Ivan Toney (ST) – The main attraction. Toney has unfinished business in the top flight and, having proven how comfortably he can adapt to a level above, he’s one for everyone watch throughout the season.