Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka Dazzle as the Score to Keep the Gunners in Contention for a Champions League Spot.

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka Dazzle as the Score to Keep the Gunners in Contention for a Champions League Spot.

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20 Feb 2022
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Arsenal cannot be accused of not wanting to finish in the top four at the moment as Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka fire in to keep the side in contention.

As their opponents have struggled in recent weeks, it appears like the competition for the final coveted Champions League spot is one that no one wants to win.

Arsenal’s desire has been signaled by a string of victories since their return from the international break.

Mikel Arteta’s side has clawed their way back into contention after starting the season with a 2-0 thrashing at Brentford and three defeats without scoring.

This win, which came courtesy of goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, brought them to within a point of fourth-placed Manchester United.

They’ll also have three games in hand after this weekend’s action is over.

When the idea was made to Arteta, he skirted the issue, but it’s easy to see why Arsenal icon Thierry Henry said this week that failing to make the top four would be a failure.

Arteta, for one, has urged his players to’maximise’ the situation they’ve found themselves in. That appears to be the case.

Arsenal had struggled to score goals so far this season, and the pattern continued against Brentford, but not for a want of trying.

Arsenal had a lot of possession, shots on goal, corners, and penalty claims, but they couldn’t find a way to score during the first 48 minutes.

With a blocked near-post header three minutes in, Ben White had the first of numerous Arsenal attempts.

Following Josh Dasilva’s challenge on White and Kristoffer Ajer and Pontus Jansson’s combined tackle on Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal had two spot-kick appeals refused.

After having a goal disallowed for offside, the Frenchman and the brilliant Martin Odegaard were left to rue poor judgments.

Odegaard made the altruistic, but ultimately stupid, decision to pass to Saka instead of shooting as he drove into the Brentford box, and the move faded away.

Soon after, Lacazette did shoot when he had two better-placed runners on either side of him, Emile Smith Rowe and Saka.

Brentford also made some crucial defensive saves to keep Arsenal out, including Kristoffer Ajer’s early interception of Saka’s cross and Pontus Jansson’s block to divert Odegaard’s shot wide.

Yoane Wissa was also fortunate that the authorities did not penalize him for appearing to obstruct Cedric Soares’ shot with his hand.

Brentford battled for an outlet and to move out of their half for extended spells with their back five sitting deep and midfield patrolling not too far in front of them, though Bryan Mbeumo got two blocked efforts off at the end of a handful of rare surges.

Arsenal applied sustained pressure, and their 16 first-half attempts set a Premier League record for the season. Brentford must have been relieved when the half-time whistle blew to have made it to that point unscathed. However, they only stayed that way for three minutes following the interval. Arsenal finally got Brentford’s defense out of position and into a situation where they couldn’t break down because they didn’t have a back five. Smith Rowe drove towards Ajer, cut inside, and curled the ball around Jansson and beyond David Raya to score his 10th goal of the season.

As a result of Brentford’s need to change their tactics and remove the shackles, additional openings opened up for Arsenal to exploit.

After scoring, Smith Rowe had a bounce in his step, and Saka put Raya to the test from afar. As the game entered the last 20 minutes, the home side had a scare when Mbeumo almost latched onto a through pass but couldn’t quite collect it in. Brentford benefited from Arsenal’s failure to put the game to bed, as they had a period of enhanced confidence that suggested they still believed.

Those hopes were kept alive by Christian Noorgard’s scrambling challenge to prevent substitute Nicolas Pepe from tapping in after Odegaard’s effort had been saved.

With 10 minutes remaining, though, they were finally put out when Arsenal got through. Thomas Partey released Saka, who slammed in Arsenal’s second off the far post.

Norgaard scored an injury-time consolation to keep Arsenal from keeping a clean sheet, but it was too late.

  • arsenal
  • Brentford
  • Bukayo Saka
  • Emile Smith Rowe
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