Friday night sees the start of the 2021/22 Premier League season as newly promoted Brentford welcome 13-time league winners Arsenal to the Brentford Community Stadium.
The clash in West London is the curtain raiser for a Premier League season expected to follow a more traditional course, after the last two campaigns have been disrupted by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The most notable factor will be the return of fans to stadia, with many supporters having waited as long as 18 months to see their side perform on home turf.
Circumstantially, many Brentford fans have never seen their side play in their new home, with the Brentford Community Stadium replacing their old stomping ground of Griffin Park at the beginning of last season.
As such, it will be a sweet moment for many Bees fans to witness their side in Premier League action in new surroundings for the very first time when they welcome a giant of the English game on Friday.
Arsenal may have had a lacklustre campaign last time out but that will not dampen the excitement for their visit to Brentford.
Mikel Arteta’s side missed out on European football for the first time in 25 years with their 8th placed finish last term and will be targeting a marked improvement this time around.
The Gunners’ aim will no doubt be a place in next season’s Champions League and they can feel confident travelling to face a Brentford side who they haven’t been beaten by for 83 years.
Admittedly there have only been 14 games between the two clubs, with the most recent coming in the League Cup in 2018 where Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners at the Emirates. The last top flight meeting between the Gunners and Brentford came in 1947.
For the Bees, survival must be their first goal this season, with many bookmakers tipping them for an immediate return to the Championship.
Thomas Frank’s side were promoted from the second tier via the playoffs last season, beating Swansea City in the final at Wembley to secure a Premier League place. Their promotion represents the first time Brentford have played top flight football since the mid-1940s.
Key to their promotion last term was Ivan Toney, with the former Newcastle United striker bagging a remarkable 33 goals in 47 second-tier matches.
Toney’s phenomenal tally is a record for any player since the rebranding of ‘Division One’ to the Championship in 2004 – but was still some way short of Guy Whittingham’s mammoth 42 goal haul for Portsmouth in the early 1990s.
For Arsenal, fans will be keen to see Portuguese defender Nuno Tavares and Belgian midfielder Sambi Lokonga pull on the shirt in competitive action for the first time since their summer arrivals from Benfica and Anderlecht respectively.
On the injury front, Arsenal will be missing Thomas Partey, Rob Holding, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Magalhaes with knocks.
Brentford have some concerns over the fitness of the aforementioned Ivan Toney, but the club are hopeful he will be able to feature. Josh Dasilva however is unavailable for the game with the Gunners.
Brentford against Arsenal kicks off the 2021/22 Premier League season at 8pm on Friday 13th August.