Alan Shearer’s column: ‘This is a different Arsenal, but they’re still not title contenders’


It’s not yet time to talk about them as title contenders, but now people know that this is a different Arsenal to the one we saw just 13 months ago.

Gunners’ He won 3-0 at Brentford on Sunday represented progress under Mikel Arteta, as we all remember what happened in this game on the opening weekend of last season – when the Bees failed to beat them, they were bullied.

Everything about Arsenal was different this time: in attack and defence, also the way they controlled the game, and with attitude and intensity. They emerged comfortable winners.

Part of that was down to Brentford being bad, but it was Arsenal’s performance that made the Bees perform so poorly.

I was expecting Brentford to come out flying, knowing what worked last time and trying to hurt Arsenal. They tried to play like that again, but it didn’t work because Arsenal were a very different team.

Chart showing Arsenal's starting XI against Brentford in August 2021: Leno, Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney, Sambi Lokonga, Xhaka, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Balogun
Then? With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette out with Covid, Folarin Balogun led Arsenal in his first League start in the Bees’ 2-0 loss to Brentford in their first game last season. Balogun is currently on loan at French side Reims

This Gunners side is not only bigger and stronger, but also more committed. They were better in every department and dominated from the start.

When the Bees attacked in the same way they did at Arsenal before, long shots or crosses into the box, they did not get any satisfaction.

Their two forwards, Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo, barely had a shot as Gabriel and William Saliba were heavily dominated, and the same was true all over the pitch.

Yes, Brentford gave Arsenal too much time and space for the second and third goals, but they were far from the only times they couldn’t get close to them.

Chart showing Arsenal starting XI and Brentford line-up in September 2022: Chart showing Arsenal starting XI and Brentford line-up: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Fabio Vieira, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli , Jesus
Now? Arsenal have won six of their first seven league games this season. In addition to Balogun, four other players who started their last visit to Brentford have left permanently or on loan: Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari and Nicolas Pepe. Aubameyang and Lacazette have also left

Arteta has transformed the atmosphere of the club

Only four of the Arsenal team that started that defeat against Brentford also started Sunday’s game: Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli.

In just over a year, Arteta has not only built another team, he has transformed the mood of the entire club.

It deserves credit for that, as they received a lot of criticism after the way they started last season, with three defeats in a row.

This time, they have won six of their first seven league games and go into the international break at the top of the table. They deserve it too.

Premier League top picture: 1. Arsenal, 2. Man City, 3. Tottenham, 4. Brighton, 5. Man Utd and 6. Fulham
The Gunners were ninth after seven games last season. They have dropped points only once in 2021-22, in the defeat at Manchester United on 4 September.

It’s been a strange start to this campaign from some of the big clubs, with Liverpool nowhere near the level we know they can be.

Chelsea has been the same, and has had more incidents after the change of manager.

Manchester United also had a bad start, but have recovered well, and Tottenham are still unbeaten and are right up there with Manchester City, who are still the team to beat.

I still think Arsenal’s main goal since 2016 is to get back into the top four, and they haven’t done too much wrong so far.

The next two league games in early October, at home to Spurs and Liverpool, will tell us more about whether they can sustain this strong start, but for now, their fans will enjoy what they see.

Jesus shines as Toney struggles

Toney has had an exciting week after getting one England call with the World Cup just a couple of months away, but it was a game to forget for the Brentford forward.

We know Toney usually enjoys battling defenders and thrives on balls into the box, but here he lost most of the aerial battles and it was one of those days where he had to put his hands up and say that the opposition’s center halves were better. than it was

I’m sure he’ll recover pretty quickly, especially since he’s off with England in the next 10 days. He should also compete against Italy or Germany at some stage, and is a great opportunity to impress.

Gabriel Jesus headed in Arsenal's second goal
Jesus headed in Arsenal’s second goal from a Xhaka cross

However, only one striker stood out at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday: Arsenal’s number nine.

Gabriel Jesus has been excellent since joining from Manchester City in the summer, and with four goals and three assists so far, only Erling Haaland (11) has been involved in more Premier League goals this season.

We’ve seen the likes of Arteta Xhaka improve, as he showed great drive and determination against Brentford, but Jesus is the real game-changer for Arsenal for me.

He saw his move as an opportunity to become the main man after many spells on the bench at City and it has certainly carried him so far.

Jesus is already a big part of Arsenal – it’s not his goals and creativity that make him so important to them, it’s his relentless energy and willingness to run in behind the defence.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner

  • Your Premier League club coverage is bigger and better than ever – it’s here everything you need to know to make sure you don’t miss a moment

BBC Sport banner footer