81 min: The corner’s taken. The whistle goes. Too much pushing and shoving. The pressure on Brentford is released.
80 min: Rice has a whack from the left-hand corner of the D. A small nick off a Brentford boot takes it wide left. Trossard to take the corner.
79 min: Havertz comes on for Martinelli.
77 min: Mbeumo dribbles down the right and dinks a ball across goal from the byline. Maupay heads down towards the bottom left. Ramsdale is beaten … but Zinchenko sticks out a telescopic leg to clear off the line! Janelt pulls the loose ball back from the left for Maupay, who stabs wide. That’s an outrageous clearance! Arsenal breathe again.
76 min: Maupay and Mbeumo nearly open Arsenal up with some busy play down the left. Saliba does extremely well to stand his ground and usher the ball out for a goal kick.
74 min: Norgaard crunches into Odegaard. Hard but fair. Odegaard felt that.
73 min: Onyeka throws himself in the way of a Zinchenko shot. The ball pings off his hip and out for a corner, which is shinned clear by Norgaard.
72 min: Brentford make a double change. On come Maupay and Baptiste, replacing Yarmoliuk and Wissa.
71 min: Flekken is nearly closed down by Nketiah, but keeps his supercool in the six-yard box. He turns towards his own goal (!) before selling Nketiah a dummy and passing out. Compare and contrast to Ramsdale earlier. Brentford launch an instant counter that ends with Yarmoliuk sending a speculative shot straight at the Arsenal keeper.
69 min: When Saka eventually takes the corner, Flekken claims it.
68 min: Martinelli curls one in from the left. Nketiah prepares to bash a header goalwards from six yards, only for Mee to nip in front of him and deflect the ball over for a corner. Before it can be taken, Nketiah and Yarmoliuk are lectured by the referee for some rough-house wrestling.
67 min: Nketiah’s first act is to pop up on the left flank and win a throw. Other than that, there’s not much going on. “Arsenal play like they’re worried about messing up the opportunity to go top of the league,” observes Kári Tulinius, “but then again this season they’ve played like that most of the time.”
65 min: Nketiah comes on for Jesus.
64 min: Norgaard sends a low bouncer in from the right flank. Ramsdale stoops to claim a dangerously oscillating ball. Brentford are beginning to show a little more in attack.
62 min: Wissa strides with purpose down the middle and feeds Mbuemo, who shuttles the ball wide right to Onyeka. He tries to return the ball into the centre for Wissa, who had kept on running, but the curled pass is well anticipated by Ramsdale, who is enjoying this half much better than he did the first.
60 min: Odegaard busies himself down the right only to float an aimless cross out for a goal kick. Arsenal are dominating in terms of territory and possession, but the final ball has been lacking. Brentford aren’t making life easy for them, to be fair.
58 min: Yarmoliuk rolls a pass down the left channel in the hope of releasing Mbuemo, but Saliba comes across to shepherd the ball back to Ramsdale, who clears without ceremony.
56 min: Martinelli is booked for a late clip on Onyeka.
55 min: A long punt down the middle nearly opens Arsenal up. With Mbuemo haring after the ball, Ramsdale comes out of the box to clear well. That’s fine anticipation by the under-fire keeper. Arsenal would have been in all sorts of trouble without him there.
54 min: Saka and Tomiyasu combine down the right and win a corner off Mee. Saka takes it himself. Pinnock blasts a header clear.
52 min: Ramsdale is now launching it long. But it’s not the Arsenal way, an aerial challenge is lost in the centre circle, and the ball’s soon coming straight back at the keeper. Wissa hooks down the inside-right channel for Mbuemo, who rattles a shot into the side netting.
50 min: Martinelli crosses dangerously from the left, the ball whizzing through the six-yard box. Nobody in neon yellow takes a gamble and the ball sails out for a goal kick. On the touchline, Mikel Arteta can’t believe none of his men made a lunge for that. Any touch and it was in.
48 min: Ramsdale had come back onto the pitch for the second half with a smile and a cheeky poke-out of the tongue, but now he’s raging, upon hooking a clearance straight into the stand. He’s sure the ball twanged off Mbuemo but Brentford get the throw. From that, Ghoddos flicks the ball off Gabriel and out for a corner … but Arsenal get the goal kick. Swings and roundabouts.
46 min: Saka jinks down the right and fires a low cross towards Odegaard at the near post. There’s a double deflection that comes off Pinnock and then over the bar via Odegaard. Very close.
Brentford get the ball rolling for the second half. No changes.
Half-time mailbag. “That VAR decision will, unless things turn out better, allow Mikel Arteta to show magnanimity, forbearance and understanding of the delicacy of fine judgements. Or, he can unleash his chagrin-demons once again. Close call” – Charles Antaki
“So we have David (12 mins) complaining that Arteta freezes out players he doesn’t want, and then Gary (19 mins) recommending Brian Clough for keeping his players relaxed, but consider how he treated Peter Withe, whose goals brought Forest promotion and then the First Division championship, sold after a week of the 1978-79 season. In his excellent book I Believe in Miracles, Daniel Taylor tells us: ‘[In one game] Withe took a bang to his foot and could hardly walk as he left the pitch at half-time. Forest’s medical staff wanted to take him for an X-ray. ‘Peter had to be carried off on Jimmy Gordon’s back,’ Woodcock recalls. ‘As we went into the changing rooms they were delicately taking off his boot when Clough came in. ‘What are you doing?’ he said. ‘Get back out there!’ Peter couldn’t even walk let alone run. He just stood on the centre-spot for forty-five minutes, hobbling around to keep himself warm.’” – Alan Baverstock
“1987 again? I wish. Dundee United have just gone out of the Scottish Cup to Queen of the South on penalties. In November. That’s after losing to Falkirk last week in the
Full Members Cup Zenith Data Systems SPFL Trust Trophy. In 87 we made both Scottish and Uefa Cup finals. And lost both, just in case anyone was wondering. Is it any wonder I drink whisky?” – Simon McMahon
Mikel Arteta stomps off down the tunnel. His men have been the better team and had a goal disallowed for a very marginal offside. A half the nervous Aaron Ramsdale would probably like to forget, mind.
45 min +3: Zinchenko curls in low from the left. Odegaard tries an elaborate back-flick but can only send the ball wide right of goal.
45 min +2: Trossard fizzes the free kick low and hard into a crowded box. Mee clears.
45 min +1: Ajer skittles Jesus to the left of the Brentford box, and concedes a free kick in a very dangerous situation. He’s also booked for hoofing the ball all the way into the middle of next week.
45 min: There will be three added minutes. Meanwhile here’s Justin Kavanagh on that Clough-Arteta comparison: “Let’s hope that Mikel Arteta takes Relaxation Guru Gary Naylor’s advice and that we can look forward to seeing Aaron Ramsdale being warmed up on some European roundabout prior to a future Champions League final. Before a swift couple of pints on the way to the ground, of course. Although, somehow I don’t think we’ll ever hear Arteta praising any of his players for their luuuvely smmiiiiiile!”
44 min: Trossard was the length of his big toenail offside when Jesus took his header. VAR, huh.
43 min: … but VAR is checking for a possible offside.
… but Arsenal come again. The ball’s looped into the mixer from the right by Saka. Jesus powers a header goalwards from six yards. Flekken does well to parry into the air, but the ball drops to Trossard, who bundles a header into the top right from a couple of yards.
40 min: Martinelli worms his way down the left and pulls back for Jesus, whose shot is deflected into the air by Ajer. Flekken does well to adjust and claw the ball away from the top left. Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
39 min: Poor Ramsdale. His head’s gone right now. It’s been an extremely skittish performance so far.