Jamie Carragher summed it up perfectly: “How do you describe Arsenal’s defending here? It’s just Arsenal.”
Any high hopes for Arsenal for the 2021/22 season were dashed in a heartbeat as they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by newcomers Brentford on Friday. Arsenal were atrocious at both ends of the field and look like they could be in for another tough season.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Pass. Pass. Out wide to Tierney. Decent cross. Caught by goalkeeper. Rinse. Repeat.
Arsenal were just so tame going forward and clearly are crying out for somebody capable of unlocking a defence. Brentford sat deep and allowed Arteta’s side to pass around the back all game long, safe in the knowledge nothing was actually going to happen.
The Gunners are right to be looking at someone like Martin Odegaard, but the problem is he plays in the same position as Emile Smith Rowe, who is the only current player in the squad capable of creating chances. The solution really needs to be elsewhere.
A £50m spend on Ben White was supposed to be the answer to Arsenal’s defensive woes, but the problems from last season were still there against Brentford – and White was guilty of the same sort of mistakes as David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi were last year.
It was almost comical at times as everyone not named Kieran Tierney continuously conspired to bring Arsenal down. They were clueless when put under any form of pressure.
White was nowhere near good enough either, and that’s a real concern. It’s obviously still early days for him, but he has a lot of work to do to prove himself.
Let’s not get it twisted, Folarin Balogun would not have started this game if any of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah were fit. Arsenal know he’s not ready for that.
Circumstances dictated that the 20-year-old start here, and he looked really uncomfortable. The youngster couldn’t get on the ball enough and really struggled to make anything happen when he did.
In Balogun’s defence, any striker would have struggled with the lack of service he received, but his chances of regular minutes will have taken a hit from this performance.
With his hands, Bernd Leno is alright. He probably should have done better with Sergi Canos’ goal, but you can almost let him off for it.
However, you can’t excuse Leno’s atrocious passes.
The German seemed oblivious to Brentford’s press and would happily hand the ball to team-mates who really didn’t want it. He constantly invited pressure with some sloppy decisions, and it was abundantly clear why Arteta is looking for a new goalkeeper.
He’s been backed in the transfer market, and now it’s time for Arteta to prove that he is worth all the time and money.
It’s one thing building up a good squad (whether he has even done that is debatable) but Arsenal clearly had no idea what to do at either end of the pitch. No tactics, just vibes.
In attack, they passed Brentford to death without ever asking any real questions, before looking woeful at the back whenever they were put under any pressure. Nobody seems to know their job.
These were concerns about Arteta’s management last year, and they’re still there. He has to do more.
How good is Kieran Tierney?
Putting Arsenal on his back for the umpteenth time in his career in England, the left-back was one of the few players who actually looked interested in creating a goal.
At the back, he was surrounded by nervous, flustered defenders who could not cope at all. He needs better talent around him or he won’t be sticking around. Why should he?