Kai Havertz’ 89th minute winner puts Arsenal on top in a tightly contested affair against London rivals Brentford.
There was little to show between the two sides throughout the match with Brentford impressing defensively and so limiting the Gunners opportunities up front.
In fact, the German’s goal was only Arsenal’s second shot on target in the second half, their first coming minutes earlier after increasing late pressure from the North London club.
It was Bukayo Saka, as it often is, who turned provider.
His neatly whipped in cross nodded down by Havertz at the far post. The forward’s header bouncing off the turf through Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken’s legs to send the away end into pandemonium.
After Liverpool’s draw with Manchester City earlier in the day, the Gunners knew that three points would send them top of the table.
Ramsdale under pressure
A task that seemed beyond them for much of a game that provided little in terms of goal action. Brentford started strongly, intent on a high-pressing game to put the Arsenal backline under pressure. Specifically one man: Aaron Ramsdale.
David Raya’s exclusion from the game, due to the loanee facing his parent club, gave Ramsdale a rare chance to prove himself. He was evidently nervous, itching to reclaim his place in the side.
First, he was caught taking too long with the ball at his feet in the 15th minute, allowing Yoane Wissa to close him down and block his clearance before Bryan Mbeumo’s shot was cleared off the line by Declan Rice.
Not long after, he was again fortunate to escape a costly mistake. Unconvincingly throwing the ball straight into the ground when meaning to get it well clear of his area. In a game framed as an opportunity to show Arteta what he is missing, it was an unfortunate demonstration of the opposite.
The only other notable moment of the first half came in Leandro Trossard’s disallowed header just before half-time.
Cancelled out by the most minor of margins, his foot was judged to be inches in front of the rising body of Gabriel Jesus, whose initial header was palmed into the path of Trossard by Brentford goalkeeper Flakken.
It was Brentford though, in the second half, who often seemed the more threatening on the counter. Oleksandr Zinchenko came to Arsenal’s rescue with another goal line clearance from Neal Maupay’s header.
Arsenal go top
But it was to be a day when the headlines were already written. Embattled forward Kai Havertz’ introduction with just over ten minutes to play was met with little fanfare. The German needing a moment to kickstart his so far underwhelming Arsenal career.
This was his moment.
To seal an important victory that looked to be slipping away. His winning header sending a message that Arsenal are true challengers to the ever-dominant Manchester City.
“You have to work and have to believe. I tried to put my ego aside, the team is the important thing. I am just happy I got it for the team.” Havertz stated in his post-match interview with TNT.
Arteta proved more delighted when talking to TNT: “I do not know anybody who is not happy for him. He fully deserves it. He is a tremendous football player. He was the right player and won the game for us.”
There is no doubt in that fact, the German proving the difference in a game otherwise equal. The match-winner to send the Gunners top with a third of the season done.
The question remains: Can they stay there?