Brentford v Arsenal: Gunners too short to support

Newly-promoted Brentford begin their Premier League campaign with a London derby against Arsenal on Friday night. Mark O'Haire analyses the odds.

Brentford end a 74-year wait

There was a feeling of inevitability about Brentford's eventual return to top-flight football after 74 years away. The Bees tabled seven consecutive top-half finishes in the Championship, were twice undone in the play-offs before rectifying those wrongs by securing promotion in the play-off final at Wembley back in May.

Thomas Frank's team were the second-tier's top goalscorers in 2020/21 and the West Londoners also boasted the division's hottest marksman - striker Ivan Toney bagged a league-record 33 strikes as Brentford's expressive approach paid dividends. The Bees ended their regular season campaign with W21-D13-L4, only Norwich collecting more points.

Toney missed the club's final pre-season fixture but Frank has insisted the forward will be ready and available, whilst Josh Da Silva is a longer-term absentee. With Henrik Dalsgaard sold in the summer, Sergi Canos might be asked to fill in at right wing-back with record signing Kristoffer Ajer making his league debut in the heart of Brentford's defence.

Arsenal end the season with a flourish

Arsenal haven't finished in the Premier League's top-four since 2015/16 and the Gunners begin the current campaign without European football for the first time since 1995/96. It's been a bleak few seasons in North London, although there were potential signs of progress under Mikel Arteta's tutorship during the second half of last season.

Only Manchester City bettered Arsenal's 47-point haul from Boxing Day last term and the emergence and development of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe has given the Spaniard extra options coming into the latest renewal. Ben White's arrival should bolster the third-best defence from 2020/21 having made a big-money move from Brighton this summer.

Elsewhere, defensive midfielder Thomas Partey has been ruled out for "weeks" and centre-half Rob Holding "wasn't fit enough" to feature in Arsenal's final pre-season friendly against near neighbours Tottenham. Gabriel Magalhaes is also unavailable for Friday night's curtain-raiser but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should feature from the off.

Gunners odds-on favourites

Brentford and Arsenal have only ever crossed swords 10 times during league action - the last of which was way back in 1947. However, the Bees do boast a reasonable strong supremacy over the Gunners in those head-to-head encounters, collecting W5-D3-L2. That record includes a W4-D0-L1 return when welcoming Arsenal to Brentford.

Brentford 4.30 suffered only two league losses across their first full campaign at their new Brentford Community Stadium (W12-D9-L2). The hosts have actually been turned over here just once since October 2020, and also enjoyed a reasonable return when taking on fellow top-six clubs in last season's Championship (W4-D4-L2).

Arsenal 1.94 posted W14-D5-L5 in their 24 Premier League fixtures from Boxing Day to conclude 2020/21 in-form. The Gunners also produced the majority of their best work away from The Emirates, posting W10-D3-L6 on their travels. Mikel Arteta's outfit also managed 19 points from a possible 21 when playing away to bottom-seven sides (W6-D1-L0).

Bees the Asian Handicap play

Despite preferring possession, Brentford are no longer the gung-ho side of old. Thomas Frank has overseen a transition towards a more controlled style of play and the same could also be said of Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, with the Gunners often building from the back and looking to keep the backline stable and secure.

It suggests a basketball-style opener is unlikely, even if Over 2.5 Goals 1.88 has been chalked up as the more probable outcome. Instead, I'll be dipping into the Asian Handicap market on the Exchange where Brentford +0.5 & +1.0 can be snapped up at a reasonable 1.78.

We'll earn a full-stakes pay-out should the Bees avoid defeat and only lose half of our stake if Arsenal win by exactly one goal. The only way in which our whole stake is lost is if the visitors triumph by two goals or more on Friday night.

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