Goals from Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard consigned Arsenal to an opening-night Premier League defeat at newly-promoted Brentford on Friday.
Roared on by a raucous crowd, the hosts took the lead when Canos fired home at the near post midway through the first half.
Kieran Tierney and Granit Xhaka went close to equalising for the Gunners, but Norgaard made sure of victory for Thomas Frank’s side when he headed home from close range with 17 minutes to play.
A fixture at Brentford Community Stadium - at capacity for the first time - on the first day of the season was always going to be a stiff test for Mikel Arteta’s side, whose task was made tougher before kick-off, with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unwell and not available for selection.
Folarin Balogun started as a result, spearheading an attack also featuring Nicolas Pepe and recent Olympic gold medalist, Gabriel Martinelli. Ben White and Sambi Lokonga were handed Arsenal debuts, with fellow new arrival, Nuno Tavares, on the bench.
This was Brentford’s first top-flight match in 74 years, with their buoyant fans understandably bouncing at kick-off. Arsenal immediately set about asserting their authority on proceedings though, winning a corner inside the first minute, before Kieran Tierney stung the palms of David Raya.
Arteta’s side dominated possession in the early stages, but Brentford carried a threat on the counter - a point emphasised when Bryan Mbeumo combined nicely with strike partner, Ivan Toney, before flashing a shot against the outside of the post.
Midway through the half, Brentford came forward again. And this time, they scored. After Ethan Pinnock had found him in the left channel, Canos took a touch inside before firing a fierce shot in at the near post.
It almost got worse for Arsenal soon after but, after beating White, the lively Mbeumo dragged his shot wide.
In truth, the Gunners struggled to craft a clear-cut opportunity during the opening 45 minutes, though they could have been awarded a penalty on the half-hour, when Balogun was caught by Rico Henry - the defender’s momentum seeing him collide with the forward after he had initially made contact with the ball.
Arsenal, led by the impressive Emile Smith Rowe, began the second half with renewed impetus, and could have been level five minutes after the restart, when our No 10 received the ball on the half turn before advancing at goal and seeing his shot palmed away by Raya.
Bukayo Saka, on for Balogun just before the hour mark, almost made an instant impact, instigating a counter-attack which finished with Tierney’s shot deflecting just off target. From the resulting corner, Martinelli’s header floated agonisingly across goal and away to safety. Then, soon after, Xhaka’s powerful shot flew just over the bar.
But then, out of nowhere, Brentford extended their lead when Arsenal failed to clear Pinnock’s long throw, allowing Norgaard to profit - the midfielder powering home a header from close range.
Arsenal kept going, and almost pulled one back when Raya brilliantly denied Pepe - but there was to be no grandstand finish.
Arteta handed debuts to summer signings White and Lokonga, while there was also a first Premier League start for Balogun. There were notable absentees from the Arsenal squad - Lacazette and Aubameyang both ruled out through illness - though Saka was named among the substitutes, along with Tavares. Xhaka captained the side.
Another London derby awaits when Arsenal host Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, August 22, before the Gunners travel to West Bromwich Albion in the EFL Cup the following midweek.
Copyright 2022 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.