Five things we noticed as Luiz nightmare helps Arsenal sink to Brentford defeat

After thrashing Charlton in their first friendly match at the Emirates as they build up to the Premier League’s return, Arsenal were brought back down to Earth by Brentford on Wednesday.

A week before Mikel Arteta’s men return to competitive action against Manchester City, the Gunners fell to a 3-2 defeat to the Championship promotion hopefuls.

Arteta began the previous encounter against Lee Bowyer’s side with what, on paper, looked to be a more definitive first XI taking the field, before swapping to a mostly second-string side in the second period.

On this occasion, the Spaniard switched things up, mixing his personnel.

They led the behind closed doors match 1-0 at the break through a goal from Joe Willock – who had also scored a fine effort against Charlton.

Alexandre Lacazette, who also notched against the Addicks, restored the lead in the second period after Brentford had levelled.

However, the Bees would score twice late in the day to take victory.

Here are five things we spotted from Arsenal’s latest showing.

1. Swapping up the subs

Against Charlton, it was 45 minutes per man, pretty much across the board; Bukayo Saka and Sead Kolasinac got less than that, with the youngster replacing the Bosnian during the second-half.

Some stepped up their preparations by getting 60 minutes. It is likely safe to reason that those guys will be getting the nod to start against City next week, with the probable outlier being Saka, who got 60 minutes here.

First half XI: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Pablo Mari, Tierney; Willock, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang

Starting Second half XI: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, David Luiz, Tierney; Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Ozil; Aubameyang, Lacazette, Saka

Subs at 60 mins – Martinez for Leno, Sokratis for Bellerin, Holding for Mustafi, Kolasinac for Tierney, Nelson for Aubameyang, Martinelli for Saka.

Subs at 85 mins – Coyle for Nelson

2. New role for Saka

As on Saturday, when Arsenal went without Mesut Ozil in the lineup, there was a definite switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, with Arteta changing up his midfield balance.

Interestingly, Bukayo Saka, who we have only really seen at first-team level play down the left side, as a full-back or in his preferred left-wing position, was given a new role.

The teenager lined up in a central midfield position as one of two No.8s – Willock was the other – with Dani Ceballos sitting as the deepest-lying of the trio.

Changes at the break would see Saka revert to the wing, before his substitution on the hour mark.

Could we see more of him in a central area in the coming weeks?

3. Four of the back five looks set

There is no doubts about the fact that Bernd Leno is Arsenal's No.1 and that has never been in question. Overall, he has had a fine campaign.

Hector Bellerin, back to full fitness, is first choice at right-back once more, and it was from his fine driving run that Willock opened the scoring.

Likewise Kieran Tierney the £25million defender, is back fit and looks set to start at left-back next week.

At centre-back, it looks as though Arteta will continue with Shkodran Mustafi, despite speculation still that the World Cup winner is for sale should the right offer be forthcoming.

It appears most likely David Luiz will start alongside the German and renew acquaintances with Sergio Aguero next week. But the Brazilian didn't exactly do himself any favours in the second half here…

4. Oh, David!

Much has been made of David Luiz's contract situation recently, and the fact of how much Arteta has been impressed with his leadership since taking charge.

The Spaniard won't have been impressed with his Brazilian's decision-making here.

It's not that he tried flicking the ball over an opponent's head. It's that he tried to do so in his own half when he had another opponent a yard behind him and had the option of a simple five yard pass to Matteo Guendouzi, who then could have moved forwards into the acres of space in front of him and mounted an attack.

It was appalling decision-making, and Brentford duly scored from it.

He should know better. Yes it was only a friendly, but given the high standards Arteta sets and expects his players to uphold, it won't be looked upon kindly, and the veteran will have almost certainly been rebuked.

5. More Maitland-Niles in the middle

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has always wanted to play in central midfield, and he impressed in there when handed a somewhat surprise start against Charlton.

If it's about taking your opportunities when handed them, then that's precisely what he did.

Again he was given another 45 minutes against Thomas Frank's side, once more partnering Guendouzi at the base of midfield and being given licence to break forward to join the attack.

No-one will know better than Arteta that his side's ability to transition from defence to attack quickly will need to be on point if they're to secure a result at the Etihad as well as their ability to pinch possession in dangerous areas.

That was something which Maitland-Niles did here, leading to the second goal, as he pounced on an errant pass in Brentford's own defensive third, before feeding the ball forwards quickly.

Unfortunately, he also lose possession in his own defensive third for the Bees winner.

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So, next week, could Maitland-Niles be given the nod? Granit Xhaka was left out here but the assumption would be that, if fit, he will play against the (still) champions.

So could it be 4-3-3, with Guendouzi and Maitland-Niles offering energy alongside the Swiss? Or does Ozil play, in which case Arteta's decisions over what's needed in midfield may well come down to Maitland-Niles vs Guendouzi for a central spot.

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