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Arsenal welcome Brentford’s Bees to the Grove for a traditional 3 pm kickoff in the league. The Gunners sit atop of the league (you mean, you haven’t heard?), 17 points ahead of the Bees with a game in hand. Brentford is pushing with Brigton against that little team from Middlesex for the fifth place Europa League spot. As such, they’ll be keenly interested in banishing the ghosts of Arsenal’s win at theirs in September, hoping to be a banana skin for Arsenal rather than leaving something that has homeward-bound Gunners glorying in the moonlight.

Brentford are one of the few teams in the league getting closer to Arsenal over the last month or so, having accrued 13 of their last 15 possible points; Arsenal have managed only 10, though that is equal to or better than the rest of the pack. They’re unbeaten in the league since Villa thrashed the visitors 4-0 at the end of October, a run of 10 games that includes draws with Spurs and wins over City and Liverpool. As did the Arsenal, they went out of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup over that same period. Needless to say, it’s another game that Arsenal’s squad have to prepare for and approach with the intensity and quality of most in the first half of the season. They’ve beaten teams as good or better than Brentford all season long with their high pressing, high-intensity, fluid goalscoring game. But, if they play in front of the home crowd as they did at Goodison Park last weekend, it portends a long, unhappy game.

Brentford, under manager Thomas Frank, has evolved into a team of aggression, able to counter-press and play long ball with equal facility. Expect their energy to be high; their age profile is similar to Arsenal’s, though at their average of 2 years older is skewed by their well-aged defensive pairing of Mee and Pinnock. In leading goal-getter Toney they have one of the better forwards in the League, supported well by Mbueno, ex-Gunner Dasilva, Henry, and Roerslev…all in their early-to-mid 20s.

Brentford will be bring Arsenal their full-strength squad. Longer-term absentees Jansson, Onyeka, and Baptiste remain unavailable; goalkeeper Raya will look to add to his count of clean sheets (8) while supported by tyro Cox from the bench, his usual back up Strakosha suffering from an ankle injury. In recent games Brentford sometimes has had a hard time scoring when they line up in what seems to be their favored 3-5-2, using Toney paired with Mbueno up front and Jensen with Janelt as wingbacks. However, against weaker teams (it seems) they line up 4-3-3 with Wissa joining the attack. It will be a challenge for Arsenal defenders to track their runners; support from midfielders and forwards will be essential.

As for the Arsenal, it looks like everyone who was out with long-term injury is still out (Jesús, ESR, and Mo’neny), no one is lost to suspension, and Nelson’s return to the matchday squad adds to the attack. Arsenal too are coming off a great run of form; using the late October draw at Southampton as a starting point they’ve won 7 from 9, and beaten United, Spurs, and Chelsea, and drawn Newcastle in that stretch.

All mentions of this coming Wednesday’s City game have been deferred by the squad and the staff, with Brentford’s visit being the sole focus. And coming off two very different losses (the one against City being “satisfactory in its performance”, the one against Everton, basically, “sucking”) we should expect our best team to start:


White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko

Partey – Mø – Xhaka

Saka – Nketiah – Martinelli

though I actually wonder if Nelson will get a start front left, giving Martinelli a breather and a substitute appearance. It’s down to how they’ve trained this past week, clearly, and hopefully the fire and spark they’ve largely shown this season will be back in abundance.

Expect an active high press and a midfield keen to hold their defensive shape, especially ersatz midfielder Zinchenko, using the Bees’ aggression against them. Brentford also have height; many on their team are 6′ or above, so playing crosses in from the wing might be a forlorn hope compared to Arsenal’s backs over- or under-lapping and getting ball to feet in the box. Something tells me Arsenal’s speed up front will be a challenge to their center backs. Eddie should have some good chances, and if he converts them Arsenal should be able to pull off the win. And I expect the crowd to be loud and boisterous and supportive all game through, regardless of what’s happening on the pitch. They’ve been stellar this season, and their support has contributed to Arsenal’s success: they’ve only dropped two points at home all season.

In my 23 years of supporting Arsenal I’ve come to hate February and March, for the most part. The squad tend to run into their walls at this time, sometimes choosing it for the worst run of form in the season; a potential banana skin against the Bees is now at hand. And yet: regardless of losing their last two games in all competitions Arsenal are 5 points clear at the top of the table, with at least one game in hand on all chasers back to 6th-place Brighton. Their defensive record is second best in the league, as are their goals scored and goal differential. They’re in a brilliant position at this point, with a brilliant manager and an outstanding (if small) squad, to bring us glory in the moonlight this season. Wherever you watch this from on Saturday get up, get loud, and give our rip-roaring, never boring Arsenal every last drop of your energy and support!

The Holic’s Pound

The bookies apparently think Arsenal will win this. Anything shy of 4-0 doesn’t get above 9-1, while that scoreline could get you 18-1. If you think Arsenal are not going to hold a clean sheet but are still going to hammer them, take a chance on 4-1 at 22s.


39 Drinks to “I Busken af Spøgelser: Bananskind eller Måneskin i Herlighed?”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent preview Scruz. I am nervous about this game as Brentford are an awkward side and they are bang in form. To quell those nerves I am dining with TTG before the match. This is always an experience as every maitre’d on Holloway Road abases themselves before the legend in his own lunchtime, hoping to be the recipient of his largesse. I think we might go one nil down, but the Emirates crowd will roar us on to a two one win.

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    Thanks scruz for an excellent preview even as you have baffled me with the title. I trust all shall be revealed on that score in due course? 4-1 sounds too easy especially considering nerves, and the suggestion of a Bananaskind about this one. 2-1 for me but I would prefer the 4-1 any old day. We’ve got toget the points!! COYG

  3. 3
    Bathgooner says:

    A cryptic title over a great preview, scruz. A favourite 42 year old album perchance, in Danish as a tribute to our captain?

    I’m actually not sure why we succumbed to Everton’s Dyche-driven energy last Saturday. I don’t agree that we ‘sucked’ as, while Everton did make and spurn some good chances in the first half, we spurned chances too. It was a game that could have gone either way though at certain moments we didn’t do enough to win.

    Nonetheless, we have to get that result out of our system pronto though I’m not confident you’ll get any return on a bet on either 4-0 or 4-1. This is yet another ‘must win game’, not only to abort that sequence of losses but also to inject some confidence for Wednesday.

    Any kind of win will do me though I don’t think it’ll come easy. Brentford are big, strong and dynamic but we have more craft and we will probably need to fight for the right to display it. I hope we are ready to compete, determined to create and focused on finishing.

    Go win, Arsenal!

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    What other blog could start a match preview with a reference to a novel about Yoruba mythology and religion in Danish? Scruz, you are holding Dr F.’s literary toes to the fire, and upholding the fine traditions here.

    Your match analysis is pretty good, too. My only quibble would be that Trossard would start if Martinelli is rested. Arteta will have had the players focused on Brentford, but he will have been thinking about the City game. No doubt he will be hoping we have the game wrapped up early on so he can get the core of the team putting their feet up well before the 90 mins are done.

    To echo what you said about the crowd, Martinelli said this in his piece on The Players’ Tribune: I promise you, when you are chasing the ball, and you feel dead tired, you want to give up … and 60,000 fans are chanting all around you … you will get to that ball. The energy boost is incredible.

    Despite your fear of February, you’d have to go back five games to 2006 for the last time we dropped points on February 11, a 1-1 draw against Bolton, and back nine games to 1984 since we last lost, 2-1 to ‘Pool.

    That said, as C100 says, Brentford are an awkward side, but we have to beat them to get back on track.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Another really insightful preview, and also Everton review, by 7am: https://7amkickoff.com/index.php/2023/02/10/brentford-preview/

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    A Danish tribute to a Norwegian? I suppose it’s plausible enough. It’s the Swedes who don’t get along with anybody as I have been told. Oh, never mind.

  7. 7
    TTG says:

    Very comprehensive preview Scruz, covering every angle I can think of . I agree with Ned that if Martinelli does not start, Trossard will replace him. Nelson is only just back to fitness. I am deeply nervous , to quell those nerves I am dining with C100 before the match. This is always an experience as every maitre’d on Holloway Road abases themselves before the legend in his own lunchtime, hoping to be the recipient of his largesse. I learn at the feet of the master .
    Actually I’m not really nervous at all, because we schooled them at their ground , a game I covered for the blog. I have great admiration for Brentford.They are extremely well-run with a canny manager and several good players . Rico Henry is a particularly good left back and it will be interesting to see how he handles Saka . The last two opponents have used double coverage on both wingers and we have been stifled . If they try to do this I’d switch Saka to the left . But I expect us to have lots of possession and to eventually pull them apart . I hope it will be 2-0 to the Gunners

  8. 8
    scruzgooner says:

    thanks, all. some comments.

    baff@3, i don’t think we sucked against everton, but it sucked for us (supporters)…just as i thought it was generally the feeling that city was “satisfactory in performance”.

    c100, enjoy the lunch out with ttg!

    and yes, all, trossard not nelson. i’d just like to see reiss succeed, and i completly forgot about trossard!

    so here’s how my weird little mind works. lately all i hear from people around here is about the danish heavy metal group måneskin, who won the eurovision and were nommed for best new artist grammy. my sister-in-law saw them in san francisco the other week and loved them, blah blah blah. and as i was writing i thought of talking about the banana skin that brentford pose, as did everton…and it rhymed with måneskin. well, in danish måneskin means “moonlight”, which made me think of “moonlight in glory”, my favorite track from byrne/eno’s “my life in the book of ghosts…so came the title (roughly translated): “in the bush of ghosts: a banana skin or moonlight in glory?” and that’s with me stopped drinking since the end of october!

  9. 9
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Great preview Scruz!

    In the shadowed grove: banana skin or glorious moonlight?
    Half of Brentford team and their manager is Danish. I hope they are reading this. The preview itself should convince them to give up the ghost, if not Mikel’s icy stare from the dugout.

    If none of that works, the squad can also do the job. 🙂

    I am guessing a start for Tomiyasu (White has been a bit less than his best lately) and Trossard (Martinelli to start against City). Otherwise the team we all probably agree on.

    We just need to be at our best. Players and the supporters on the ground. The rest will take care of itself.

    Come on Arsenal!

  10. 10
    TTG says:

    Impressive stat follows
    Eddie Nketiah has the best non-penalty expected goals rate of any player in Europe’s big five leagues to have played 500+ minutes this season (0.81 non-pen xG per 90 minutes):0.81 – Nketiah
    0.80 – Lewandowski
    0.80 – Haaland
    0.74 – Núñez
    0.65 – Osimhen

  11. 11
    scruzgooner says:

    cheers, faustus. i love “in the shadowed grove” for “in the bush of ghosts”, the twist there turning it into something even more arsenal!

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    Another interesting preview focusing on Brentford as much as Arsenal:
    Arsenal v Brentford: a Close Look at the Bees and How to Smoke them Out

  13. 13
    Trev says:

    Thanks scruz, good stuff !

    November became my month miserablis at some point, as opposed to Feb and March, although Feb has put paid to our cup hopes more than once.

    Comment to follow on Martinelli – but it’s 3.00am now !

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    and still out partying in the clubs, I suppose, Trev….

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    Wherever he is partying he’s giving it a very good go! We may have to fine him on the eve of a match ! 😃😃

  16. 16
    Ollie says:

    Will catch up with the preview in the lounge. Not a big fan of having to read it on the phone, but it’s a day trip. I predict a tough match.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Bon Voyage Ollie !

  18. 18
    Trev says:

    Ned, no chance – fell asleep on the sofa !

  19. 19
    Trev says:

    I’m not sure rest is the cure for Martinelli .
    I think the tactical piece on Arseblog was nearer the mark in that the Zinchenko, Jesus, Martinelli, Xhaka group that works the left hand side has been so affected by Jesus’ absence. There is a greater burden on Martinelli and he doesn’t have the interchanges with Nketiah that he enjoys with Jesus.
    Also, my own thoughts – Martinelli hasn’t played that much with the six weeks of the World Cup and we’ve only really had one game a week since the restart.
    I know everyone says “rest all the first team for the domestic cups” but with only one game a week, I wonder if that cost the first teamers some loss of rhythm last weekend. Having made six changes for the City cup tie, the first eleven hadn’t played together for two weeks. The performance lacked the usual pace and understanding, quite apart from Partey looking under par with his injury.

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@18: 🥴

  21. 21
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks scruz, I think you have covered it well. We’ll get the team news shortly and see if MA is going to react to the Everton defeat with any changes. I thought the win against Brentford was an excellent performance earlier this season but they may have improved a bit since then. Hoping for 2-0 with goals for Gabi M and Eddie.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Team news is as we were. White and Martinelli start.

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    White. Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko
    Thomas, Xhaka, Odegaard (c)
    Saka, Martinelli

    Turner, Tomiyasu, Tierney, Holding, Kiwior, Jorginho, Vieira, Trossard, Cozier-Duberry

  24. 24
    Trev says:

    Trev knows ! 🤣

  25. 25
    Up4GrabsNow! says:

    @ North Bank Ned – “Despite your fear of February, you’d have to go back five games to 2006 for the last time we dropped points on February 11, a 1-1 draw against Bolton”

    I was at that game! Last season at Highbury vs. Big Sam’s lumps. Very late goal from Gilberto. Our back four that day was Larsson, Djourou, Senderos and Flamini. Surprised we only conceded one! Up front we had Reyes, Adebeyor and Henry. Can you believe these three came off the bench: Bergkamp, Freddie and Pires? Wow!

    No surprise MA has just named his preferred XI for today. We will win but it will be tight.

    Chel$ea can only manage 1-1 with WHam. That lot have a blue fur coat and no knickers. Long may it last.

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    We seemed a bit tense that first half, of course that might have been me! Rode our luck a couple of times at least. Three points any old how will do fine

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Trossard!! Get in you beauty

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great work from Saka and great timing on the run from Trossard

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Ridiculous foul given against Saliba and Brentford equalize
    So fucking annoying but to be fair we defended it poorly

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    VAR Check but we can’t be saved, bollocks

  31. 31
    Sancho Panza says:

    Come on Arsenal one last push.

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Frustrating game though we played better 2nd half.

  33. 33
    Sancho Panza says:

    All a bit poor at the moment.

    Expecting a better performance against City as we can’t seem to raise our game at the moment against the time waster type stubborn teams.

    Ramsdale needs to do more on their goal also.

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    A not-so-good day at the home office. We seem to have lost fluidity in midfield and aren’t creating many chances as a result, despite all our possession. Perhaps other teams have just worked out how to clog up the midfield and negate the threat of Saka and Martinelli cutting in from the wings.

  35. 35
    Bathgooner says:

    We have dropped two points to a criminally inept VAR decision. Will the moron on the monitor suffer any consequence? I very much doubt it but he should be sacked! I think we should be told.

  36. 36
  37. 37
    Ollie says:

    Great day out, frustrating football. Even more annoying now reading about yet another VAR fuck-up…

  38. 38
    Sancho Panza says:

    It was Lee Mason on VAR apparently. Say no more.

  39. 39
    Bathgooner says: