Arsenal (2) 3 Brentford (0) 1
Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) Third Round
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 26th September 2018. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal; Elneny, Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Smith-Rowe; Iwobi, Welbeck.
Substitutes: Bellerín, Ramsey, Lacazette, Torreira, Martínez, Kolasniac, Nketiah.
Scorers: Welbeck (2), Lacazette
Yellow Cards: Welbeck, Lichtsteiner
Referee: Mike Dean
Our first appearance this season in the Carabao Cup (aka The English Football League Cup) comes around again tonight, with a home tie against Brentford, who currently hold seventh position in the Championship; of course, The Bees didn’t always play in lowly divisions, as there was a time when they were one of our rivals back in the old First Division before the corrosion of relegation and decline set in for them in the post-1945 football world. Apropos to Brentford, they do actually play an important part in our history, as our 2-0 victory at the Old Place on 2nd May 1939 was filmed and used in the feature film The Arsenal Stadium Mystery, which incidentally was the last official league match before hostilities broke out four months later.
Back to tonight. Straight from the kick-off, Arsenal assumed dominance, but to be fair, it did look rather dicey in the goalkeeping department (again) with just a minute or so on the clock. A simple pass-back found Bernd Leno lose his footing and as the ball slipped away for a Bees corner, a collection of hands on heads from home fans could be seen around the stadium. Whoops. All forgotten though, three minutes later when, after a short corner from Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Mattéo Guendouzi looked up, and wasted no time in getting the ball across to Danny Welbeck who opened the scoring with a sublime header. Although shell-shocked Brentford started to come back into the match, our defence held firm, and thus became the bedrock for more forays into the opposition 18-yard box. It was one of these attacks that the second goal came rather inevitably eight minutes before half-time. Building from the back, we appeared to simply move at a canter through The Bees’ midfield in a familiar pattern of perpetual movement; Leno-Lichtsteiner-Mkhitaryan-Iwobi-Monreal-Welbeck. And it was indeed so that Danny Welbeck got both his second (and Arsenal’s too) of the night by merely stroking the ball into the net after this wonderful exhibition of pass-and-advance. Despite one or two failed attempts, we went into the break the leading team on the night, and deservedly so.
Returning after the break, we carried on where we left off, with missed chances that should, by rights, increased our goal tally. Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan must have regretted their squandered efforts, as literally out of nowhere, Brentford got one back just before the hour with an incredibly well-taken free-kick that hit the back of our net. How can it be? Suddenly the mood in the stadium went from one of elation and confidence to one of nervousness and doubt all around for a period of time. In an effort to score again, Emile Smith-Rowe was subsituted for Alexandre Lacazette, and things started to look a bit better for us, briefly. After more close Bees’ chances, we made two more substitutions, and as per usual more wasted chances in front of the opposition goal became the fate of our strikers. But wait! A breakaway, a chance, and Alexandre Lacazette puts the match beyond doubt with our third and final goal of the night. A minute later, this game was done, and we can all be thankful that Mike Dean blew the whistle when he did, and we therefore find ourselves in the hat for the fourth round draw on Saturday.
Arsenal really made hard work of this victory in North London this evening. We allowed Brentford back into the match on several occasions, when by rights, we had enough talent and firepower to put this game to bed quite early on in the proceedings, but we denied ourselves the luxury of an early win by mere indecision and, it has to be said, periods of self-doubt, which Mr. Emery must quickly stamp his authority on when the team get back to London Colney tomorrow. Watford lie in wait for us on Saturday afternoon; we have to firm, dominant and ruthless at The Emirates then, and show everyone (not least our supporters) our true credentials in the Premiership race. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.