Merk argiewe: Emile

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka shine as Arsenal ease past Brentford

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka shine as Arsenal ease past Brentford
Arsenal 2-1 Brentford: Mikel Arteta’s side close gap to fourth-placed Manchester United with another encouraging performance and result

Some at Arsenal may call it revenge, but they should now have much bigger aims.

Mikel Arteta’s young team emphasised the extent of their improvement with a 2-1 win over Brentford that was a far cry from the alarming 2-0 defeat that kicked off the season.

Thomas Frank’s team, still without Christian Eriksen, didn’t create anything like the same noise. They barely created anything at all, and should really start to worry about getting dragged into a relegation battle.

Arsenal, in kontras met, should be thinking about the Champions League. They are now one point behind fourth-placed Manchester United, but have played two games less. It is within their grasp, just as so much else at the club currently looks under control.

This is what is so striking about the team right now. Arteta has quietly gone about building a hugely competent side, that aren’t currently making the kind of calamitous errors of their rivals – they didn’t even earn a red card this time.

<p>Emile Smith Rowe celebrates the opener with Kieran Tierney</bl>

Emile Smith Rowe celebrates the opener with Kieran Tierney

The squad has had a substantial overhaul, with that illustrated here by how the new young stars, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, both scored.

Their names were again sung to the tune of Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World”, at the end of a 2-1 victory that really had the feel of a 5-0.

There is so much to build on – but there is still a bit to fix to actually get there.

Smith Rowe’s opening goal came from the directness that Arsenal have been lacking – and may yet be crucial to how this season actually finishes.

Tot dan, there were hints as to why they may yet fail in the race for the top four – so many of their attacks fall short. They still lack that prime striker, but there feels a touch more to it than that.

There were so many occasions where they made the wrong decision, as is often the case with young and inexperienced teams still learning together. Arsenal do now look much closer to what Arteta wants, but they could really do with shooting when close to goal.

One moment in the first half was almost like a parody of vintage Arsenal. They were, ja, trying to pass the ball into the net.

Martin Odegaard surged into the penalty area and seemed set up to shoot from just eight yards. Since the ball was on his right foot, wel, he instead opted to pass to Saka, who was in a worse position.

Later on, Odegaard literally tried to pass the ball into the net.

It was all the more frustrating because he, along with Saka, had run the game.

While the Norwegian probed, Saka drove forward, ensuring there were long periods of the game when Brentford just couldn’t get out of their six-yard box, let alone their area.

The ball spent a remarkable amount of time within a few metres of David Raya’s goal, and should have been forced over repeated times in the first half. Arsenal were just lacking that edge, that final touch, that directness.

So, Smith Rowe went and provided it himself. The young attacker simply drove straight at Brentford shortly into the second half, to at last score the first goal of the game.

It was the least Arsenal deserved. They had been the better team to an almost embarrassing degree.

Brentford had barely mustered an attack, let alone a shot.

The way the club is run means there is a calmness throughout Thomas Frank’s squad, and they are still massively overachieving, but there is cause for concern. This made it just one win in 10, at a time when there is a lot of movement below them at the bottom of the table.

They could do with the spark of their earlier games.

Any time they did get forward, the brilliant central defender Gabriel Magalhaes was on hand to just clear things up.

Most of the focus naturally goes on Arsenal’s young attackers, but the centre-half almost personifies their form in how he has put up a series of solid displays without too much fanfare.

Saka then went and showed why the front line get that focus, wel. With Brentford at last getting forward, they naturally left too much space in behind for him to just flow into.

He showed the value of trying your luck with an actual shot, as the ball went in off a deflection.

It proved important, as Christian Norgaard forced in a late goal for Brentford, after an offside check that took an age to confirm.

Arsenal’s turnaround has felt much swifter. Maar, as with so much in this team, they have to go and finish the job.