The 2021/22 campaign kicks off in style with Premier League debutants Brentford hosting Arsenal on Friday evening.
Here’s everything you need to know about that meeting at the Brentford Community Stadium:
Season Preview and Team News
Having come so close over the past few seasons, Brentford finally clinched promotion to the promised land last term, putting their 2020 Playoff final defeat to Fulham behind them to coast past Swansea a year on at Wembley with a 2-0 victory.
That triumph saw Ivan Toney net his 33rd goal of the season from the penalty spot, the former Newcastle man making the step up to the Championship with consummate ease, having been plying his trade for Peterborough in League One the year prior.
Now preparing for their first-ever campaign in the Premier League, the Bees will be pinning a lot of their survival hopes on their striking talisman, although there is enough quality in Thomas Frank’s squad for them to perhaps be something of a surprise package this term.
The club – as ever – have been astute in the transfer market, their major outlay being the addition of highly-rated Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, while they’ve also procured the services of former Midtjylland man and Nigeria international, Frank Onyeka.
With the enigmatic Pontus Jansson spearheading the defence, Danish international Christian Norgaard providing defensive cover in midfield and with Bryan Mbuemo offering explosive support to teammate Toney, such a strong spine could bode well for the newly-promoted side.
As for this weekend’s clash with Arsenal, Frank is likely to be without star midfielder Josh Dasilva due to his ongoing hip issue, the 22-year-old having previously come through the youth ranks with the Gunners, before departing in 2018.
It looks to be a make or break campaign for Mikel Arteta at the Emirates, the Spaniard perhaps already on borrowed time having overseen a hugely disappointing campaign last term that saw the club miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.
While rumour had suggested he would have something of a ‘war chest’ to try and revamp the squad in time for the new season, as yet there hasn’t quite been the investment that was expected – the club seemingly hampered by their inability to shift on some fringe players so far.
Brighton and England defender Ben White has joined the club for a fee in the region of £50m, while the arrivals of promising full-back Nuno Tavares and young midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga leaves some reason for optimism – though there remains a number of issues that need to be ironed out in the coming weeks if they are to have a successful season.
An injury to last summer’s acquisition Thomas Partey hasn’t helped preparations, yet even without the Ghanian’s absence, the midfield looks thin on the ground, despite Granit Xhaka’s future once again appearing to be at the Emirates after looking nailed on to join Roma.
Rumour would suggest that one of James Maddison or Martin Odegaard could still join the club, yet neither man will come cheap, while question marks remain over both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Arsenal fans, however, with Emile Smith Rowe committing his long-term future to the club amid interest from Aston Villa, while teenage star Bukayo Saka is likely to have been buoyed by his impressive showings at Euro 2020.
As for this weekend, Saka is unlikely to start due to his lack of match fitness, while forward Eddie Nketiah is out with an ankle problem. Brazilian defender Gabriel is also sidelined with a knee injury.
Arsenal 3-1 Brentford, League Cup, 26 September 2018
The two sides hadn’t met since 1947 prior to this encounter, with the Premier League side eventually running out winners in a lively Carabao Cup third-round tie.
Former Manchester United man Danny Welbeck netted twice inside the first-half to put the Gunners firmly in control in the tie, before the Championship side sparked some home nerves with an Alan Judge free-kick midway through the second period.
However, that goal ultimately proved to be a consolation as Alexandre Lacazette sealed the win late on, the Frenchman adding the hosts third in the 93rd minute to secure passage to the next round.
While it was an expected win for Unai Emery’s side, the result was noteworthy as it saw a young Emile Smith Rowe make his first start for the club.
Brentford: Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock; Canos, Norgaard, Janelt, Onyeka, Henry; Mbeumo, Toney
Arsenal: Leno; Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Lokonga; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Who is the referee?
What channel is it on?
UK and Irish readers can watch the match on Sky Sports Premier League.
What time is kick off?
Friday 13 August, 20:00 BST
Brentford – 16/5
Arsenal – 5/6
Draw – 11/4
Subscribe to our social channels:
Author: Robbie Walls