Arsenal 1-1 Brentford: Frustration | Arseblog … an Arsenal blog

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Leaving the stadium yesterday and chatting to people on the walk to the pub (where the real post-game analysis takes place), there was palpable frustration at the result, our performance, and more. It was present inside the ground during the 90 minutes too, a somewhat fractious end to the game saw tensions high at pitch level and between the benches.

Arsenal dropped points again, that’s reason enough, but we had to deal with a lot of time-wasting and gamesmanship from Brentford, and we conceded a sloppy goal from a set piece that I certainly didn’t think was a free kick. The battle between William Saliba and Ivan Toney was one the Brentford man came out on top in. It will be a learning experience for the young Frenchman who struggled to win the aerial duels, but in this instance, Toney had his arms around Saliba’s back as much as the other way around. It could easily have been given the other way.

Still, we should have defended it better, Aaron Ramsdale had to get the ball if he made that move, and Toney nodded home from close range. Annoying given how hard we’d worked to fashion the opening that had put us ahead just a few minutes before. Then, inside the ground, we saw there was a VAR review but we don’t get to see any of the workings, so ew just sat there. It seemed to take ages and ages, and then the goal was given.

The thing about offside and VAR is it’s pretty black and white. It either is or it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a bit ridiculous when you’re talking about half an arm being off or something like that, but it is what it is.

Except, as it turns out, when it isn’t. In my Twitter mentions, people sent me an image which seemed to show a Brentford player offside, and subsequently it has emerged that – allegedly – Lee Mason on VAR failed to draw the lines which would have proved that. The same Lee Mason who was on VAR when Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was disallowed at Old Trafford for a ‘foul’ in the build-up.

If that is the case, if the man who has one job to do when it comes to adjudging offside simply didn’t do that, he ought to be canned. That’s simply not acceptable at this level of the game. At best it’s incompetent, at worst, something much more sinister.

Afterwards, a clearly exercised Mikel Arteta said:

Yes I just looked it back and it is offside yeah. It is frustrating but probably they will give an explanation later in the week but today we haven’t got any, looking at the images, you have to apply certain principles in defending and you do that by sticking to the rules and suddenly you apply different rules you have to change your principles. Tell us before because then you don’t hide the line that high because you have an advantage you get blocked.

And look, maybe Brentford might have got a goal another way, but to drop points at home due to an officiating error is really tough to take. It had been extremely hard work to go ahead in the first place. There’s a good reason why the their recent run has been so good: they are a big, strong, well organised side who made life really tough for us. Not to mention they had some good chances themselves. The overall stats might make you think this was pretty one-sided, and it was in terms of possession, but they hit the bar, fizzed one just wide, and caused us problems.

The manager’s decision to keep faith with his ‘first’ team was understandable to an extent, but we didn’t really click in the first half. The passing wasn’t quite crisp enough, the movement not quite sharp enough. I thought we were better in the second half, and the one time we did burst behind their defensive line, we scored the goal. Bukayo Saka did brilliantly, and substitute Leandro Trossard was there at the back post to score his first Arsenal goal. He might have played himself into the team for the Man City game with that, because again Gabriel Martinelli wasn’t at his best.

I thought Arteta bringing on Fabio Vieira for Granit Xhaka was interesting, as we tried to add a bit more craft to find a winner. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was more likely to help us than anything else we had available. In those final minutes, Brentford’s players went down ‘injured’ a lot, it took them over 60 seconds to take a corner at one point, David Raya took at age over every goal kick and kick from his hands (where is the 6 second rule gone?), and that’s completely understandable.

We all get it, and we’ve done it ourselves at times, but I honestly thought that with all the shenanigans, plus the long stoppage for VAR, we’d have significant injury time, not a scant five minutes. Not a good day for the officials, and I realise some of my desire for more was due to desperation, but if this had been a World Cup game we’d have had ten. No question.

The late free kick sort of summed us up. ‘Whatever you do, don’t hit the first man’, I thought. Vieira didn’t do that, but delivering it straight to the keeper instead denied us the Danny Welbeck v Leicester moment was hoping for. From where I was sitting, I could see angry exchanges between Arsenal and Brentford staff members at the final whistle. At one point Gabriel Jesus was in the middle of it, but it was calmed down quickly.

Brentford came to frustrate us, they did that, but ultimately it’s up to us to deal with it. This is quite literally a consequence of being top of the table and the form we’ve showed to get there. If the opposition sense you’re vulnerable, they’ll come out and play; if they sit back in a deep block, it’s an admission they understand their own vulnerability to an extent.

Arteta was asked about this afterwards, because Newcastle and Everton did much the same, and he said:

Yeah, but it was the same with Brentford away, Fulham, Southampton and with a lot of teams that we have beaten here, it’s nothing new for us. We know every team has their way of playing. That’s what they try to do.

This does feel like a bit of a blip in form for us though. To be fair, we’ve had blippier blips than this in the past, but we’ve got a huge game on Wednesday now and we’re going to have to be at close to our best to do what we need to do. The sooner Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe get back, the better. We’re just lacking the ability to change things in the final third as much as you need on days like this, so fingers crossed on that.

As much as this was frustrating – and it really was – I do wonder if in the context of this season and what Brentford have done to other teams, four points from six might turn out to be a decent return overall. It’s never easy to step back and think about that way in the immediate aftermath, but they’re a very good outfit and you need to be at your best to beat them. We definitely weren’t yesterday, and there’s work to do before Wednesday.

Right, that’s it for this morning. I’m heading back to Dublin this afternoon, we’ll have an Arsecast Extra for you tomorrow.

Have a good Sunday, folks.

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