Morning Gooners, hope you’re all grand and feeling chipper ahead of what I think will be a very tough match at the Emirates against Brentford today, who are in form and unbeaten in nine games. They’ve had a few draws during that run, but it also dates back to an away victory over Man City that should have us very aware of the threat that this Brentford team could pose. I watched that game in November and I’ll be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised with the way Brentford played. They created an xG that was similar to City on the day – 1.6 to City versus 1.3 to Brentford. They had a last minute winner from Toney who also scored early and then they had to weather the storm, but they did it and it became a bit of a shock result.

Brentford create chances. We’ve seen that all season and they have just come off the back of a 3-0 hammering of Southampton who, whilst they are not great and looking likely relegation candidates this season, still represent a side you have to do the business over and Brentford did that.

The Bees go in to this game with nothing to lose and that is dangerous, but this Arsenal team has shown this season that it poses plenty of danger itself and we now need to prove that we can get back to winning ways, because a defeat today would mean three in a row and then you’re starting to ask questions around whether or not we’re in a rut. Mikel Arteta will be painfully aware of that and I think he’ll have been stressing the importance of focus today; ignore anything else and just focus on Brentford, because if you don’t do the business in that game, then there will be questions to answer and the pressure will really ramp up because City WILL beat Villa tomorrow.

The good news is that we seem to have a pretty much full clean bill of health in terms of those players that are not currently on long-term injury absentee list. Gabby J and ESR are still working their way back to fitness and Mo is out for the season practically. But Partey looks like he’s had a full week of training and I think he’ll be in line to start. And I think Arteta goes with his strongest team today, so we’ll see a line up of Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Odegaard, Xhaka, Saka, Nketiah and Martinelli. There are some legitimate questions over whether Trossard could start given Martinelli hasn’t been at his scintillating best, but I think Arteta will put out his most consistent XI today and try to get us starting fast at home.

The home fans will be in fine form again I believe too. We’ve back them and sung up all season regardless of the opposition and because we’ve been starting games well, that’s also enabled the fans to get even louder through games. But I feel like that fast start is important. Brentford will no doubt want to weather that initial storm, but then they’ll look to inflict pain through their approach, which will be with a back three and wing backs and looking to go direct for Toney to win battles and cause Gabriel and Saliba a problem today in the air. That’s why when that happens, the second ball is essential. In Mbuemo they have a rapid wide man who will probably look to take up the spaces that Zinchenko vacates and could be an area that we are exposed on, which means Gabriel might find himself in one or two foot races. In Wissa they have another pacey player who will look to run at White. But both players also work really hard off the ball and I’m expecting Brentford to do the same as Newcastle and Everton did last weekend: double up on our wide forwards. If that is the case and Brentford do play three at the back, it is going to be a congested final third for us today and Brentford will no doubt look to frustrate us all afternoon. We’ve shown – Everton aside – that we have plenty of answers this season, but in 2023 so far when teams have sat deep and been difficult to break down, we’ve really struggled to adapt. Newcastle are an example of that, although we must acknowledge that they are the best defensively in the league, whilst the Scum and Man United were always going to be games where the opponent comes out at you. That’s why I think today will be really tight, because I think Brentford will have looked at Newcastle and Everton and seen a blueprint to frustrate us.

But if you are going to win leagues, you have to have answers to low block teams who go direct and look to sucker punch you. And if you drop points to these teams then you don’t deserve to win a title. That’s the mantra Arteta should be drilling in to those players; winning the big games is amazing and gives such a thrill, but if you don’t have answers to these types of games like today, then you deserve nothing when the honours are handed out in May.

I have concerns about this match for this reason and I will be nervous for the whole of today leading up to this game, but I also have hope, because this Arsenal team has been so good so far this season. If they want to show the rest of the Premier League that blips can quickly be avoided, then Arsenal go out there today and they do the business.

On the doubling up thing, I think last weekend we played poorly and Everton made the most of what they had, but I do think that Martinelli and Saka were left too isolated. I think today Ben White and maybe Granit Xhaka get a little closer to Martinelli and Saka by the simple nature of the fact that I think a lot of the game could – and should – be played in Brentford’s half. If we are squeezing them deeper then I think we see Ben White moving to overlap more and hopefully creating space for Saka to move around the pitch. If we are the ones having to unpick a low block, I think we’ll also see us try some longer shots. I have no really tactical insight on this, it’s just a feeling we have. There’s no point in putting balls in from wide because the likes of Mee, Pinnock and Kjaer/Jorgensen will just nod them away all day.

We need this win. We need to get back on to winning ways. And we need to see the players step up and show they can handle the pressure.

Let’s hope we get it.

Catch you all tomorrow.