Despite an eighth-place finish last season meaning Arsenal will be without European football for the first time since 1995, there is a feeling that Mikel Arteta is laying the foundations for a much brighter Arsenal future.
Much of that optimism comes from Arsenal's strong form in the second-half of last season which was built on a nucleas of exciting young talent coming through at The Emirates. After winning just four of their opening 14 Premier League games, Arsenal won 14 of their remaining 24 league outings with Emile Smith-Rowe (above) and Bukayo Saka among those to come to the fore as the season wore on.
The Gunners' scoring charts were still dominated by the class acts of Alexandre Lacazette (13) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (10) but Smith-Rowe, Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, and Folarin Balogun all made their mark in with goals and assists as well.
This summer has seen Arsenal spend big in the transfer market to bring in defender Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion, Belgian midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, and left-back Nuno Tavares from Benfica.
Writing for Hot Off The Press football.london journalist Kaya Kaynak expects: "Formation-wise, it will be a 4-2-3-1 as that’s what we’ve seen pretty much right the way through pre-season.
The back four will play quite a high line, press the ball up high and try to win the ball from the opposition. I know Brentford are a team that like to play nice football and so I think Arsenal will try and win the ball from them as high as possible. You can expect left-back Tierney (above) to attack quite aggressively, while I think Calum Chambers will probably be at right-back, drifting into the midfield to form an infield three as a Pep Guardiola style inverted full-back.
Smith Rowe will pick up the ball where he can and dart all over the place and something I’ve noticed throughout the past few weeks is how much the frontline interchange their positions. As I said, it is difficult to say for sure, but I think you can see quite an exciting, fluid line-up. That’s not to say there aren’t defensive weaknesses Brentford could take advantage of"
Thomas Frank has ruled out Josh Dasilva (hip) and Mathias Jensen (foot) while Ivan Toney (neck) is fit to start.
For Arsenal, there will be no Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Gabriel (knee) and Thomas Partey (ankle) but Bukayo Saka is expected to start, despite only returning to training last week following the European Championships. There are reports that both Aubameyang and Lacazette may also miss out tonight due to illness.
A stylish central-midfielder, Mikel Arteta's 17 year professional career saw him pick up plaudits and trophies wherever he went. He was an Intertoto Cup winner with Paris St Germain in 2001 before doing the League and Cup double with Rangers in 2003. His six-and-a-half years at Everton saw him twice named Player of the Year and also named Players' Player of the Year in 2006. Ending his career with Arsenal, the Spanish Youth International added another pair of FA Cups and two Community Shields to a very impressive career haul.
After 539 professional appearances, he retired to focus on coaching and was appointed to Pep Guardiola's backroom staff at Manchester City in 2016. Working alongside fellow assistant coaches Brian Kidd and Domenec Torrent, Arteta helped City to two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two Carabao Cup trophies.
He left to become Arsenal manager in December 2019, winning his first match as boss on 1 January 2020, a 2-0 victory over Manchester United. Later that season, he led his side to the FA Cup, becoming the first person to win the trophy as both captain and manager of Arsenal. He also became the first boss to win a major trophy in his first season in charge of the club since George Graham in 1987.
THE OPPOSITION VIEW
Speaking about tonight's game earlier this week, Mikel Arteta told www.Arsenal.com:
"If you look historically at what [Brentford] have done in the last few years there’s a very clear direction.
"I think from top to bottom of the club they know what they want to do and they execute it really well. I think they will be a really tough opponent for every team in the Premier League.
"[I like] the clarity in what they do. They’ve been doing it for a long time together and you can see they have that fluidity and chemistry between them, and they believe that the plan they’ve put in place works for them. I think that’s a big strength for any team.
"[Striker Ivan Toney] has shown his quality, that’s for sure. But every recruitment they’ve done in that position over the last few years in that position has been pretty successful, so it’s the player, but I think it’s also the system and how they work with their players.
"There are always different ways [into management]. I think what [Thomas Frank] has done is remarkable. I will share with you the opinion that they are a very exciting team and the way they have come up after a few disappointments in the last few seasons, on the last day, and the way they have reacted tells a lot about them and what Thomas has done there it's fantastic"
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Mike Dean
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.
346 fouls - Fewest in Premier League
47 yellow cards - 17th in Premier League
5 red cards - Second-most in Premier League
We will be wearing our new 2021/22 home shirt tonight.
Priced at £49 for adults and £38 for juniors, this season’s kits are available for purchase online shop.brentfordfc.com. The Bees Store will be open until 8pm tonight with the external kiosk (5pm-10.30pm) and Family area kiosk (6.30pm-10.30pm) open at the stadium throughout the evening.
Tonight's game is a complete sell out with no tickets remaining on the Ticket Exchange.
Any Season Ticket Holders who have activated the Print-at-Home option, your Brentford Card will be deactivated for the Arsenal match and will not grant you entry for Friday night’s game. You must bring your Print-at-Home ticket to access the stadium.
Tonight's game is exclusively live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky One in the UK. It is also available around the world via the Premier League's broadcast partners.
The game will also be available to listen to on iFollow with Mark Burridge and the team.