A comprehensive defeat by Premier League newcomers Brentford laid the Gunners’ problems starkly bare

Mikel Arteta smouldered and in front of him, Arsenal wilted. A comprehensive defeat to exuberant newcomers, a clutch of experienced players absent and others simply missing in action: this was the stuff nightmare starts to the season are made of and, in a situation that he is aware demands freshness and optimism, the manager finds himself on the back foot before 18 of his rivals have kicked a ball. Brentford’s night was a triumph for Arteta’s opposite number, Thomas Frank, and the latest occasion that laid the visitors’ long standing problems starkly bare. Frank had noted before the match that there is “a part in every single game where all players feel a little bit insecure, a little bit under pressure”; he was spot on and it was Arsenal, facing top-flight novices, who buckled under moderate strain.

The mitigating factors are clear, although Arteta knows there is little room for excuses now and was unwilling to gloss over Arsenal’s vices. He entered this assignment without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, both of whom had fallen ill in the buildup. He had known for longer that Thomas Partey, who is likely to be out until next month, would not be around to anchor the midfield. But it was initially possible to detect a silver lining in the reshuffle that ensued. There is legitimate unease about the lack of an obvious succession plan for Arteta’s two first-choice forwards, who are both struggling for consistency and in the autumn of their careers. The selection of Folarin Balogun and Gabriel Martinelli may have been forced on Arteta, but it could have been framed as a welcome opportunity to point a way forwards. In the event neither player made much impression and it would have taken Olympic-level contortions to detect a revolution starting here.

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