Arsenal thwarted by Toney equaliser as Brentford continue to elevate their own ambitions
Arsenal (0) 1 Trossard 65
Brentford (0) 1 Toney 74
Brentford extended their incredible unbeaten league run to 10 matches as they dented Arsenal’s title push with a deserved point.
Ivan Toney’s 15th goal of the season cancelled a first goal for the Gunners from Leandro Trossard nine minutes earlier.
The Bees striker celebrated by rushing to the touchline to grab a shirt bearing a heartfelt message to Sergi Canos whose mother died in the same week that he left the club to play in Greece.
The goal was mired in controversy, with Lee Mason, on VAR duty, failing to flag up two offsides in the build-up, but the Bees were worthy of a point.
This result may well cast the Gunners into unwanted introspection at the very worst moment – a summit with Man City just four days away.
For Mikel Arteta’s men, this match provoked the same feelings of frustration as last month’s goalless stalemate against Newcastle at the Emirates and was a far cry from the carefree 3-0 win at Brentford earlier in the campaign.
They struggled to break down a well-organised defence and coming on the back of last week’s 1-0 reverse at Everton will hurt.
They are now six points ahead of City, having played the same number of games – but they had hoped and expected to make it eight.
In truth, the visitors might easily have won it as they made the better chances. Toney missed two great openings before his goal.
We could easily have been talking about only a second win ever for the Bees at Arsenal and a first in north London against them for nearly 85 years. Not that this statistic is as bleak as it sounds because this was only a fifth meeting in these parts between the clubs since that 1938 victory.
Toney nodded home the equaliser after Ethan Pinnock won the final round of head tennis in the penalty area and Christian Norgaard was able to hook the ball back from the left byline.
That goal snuffed out the possibility of Trossard’s strike settling a tight affair. The Belgian raced in to tap home at the far post after Martin Odegaard had found the overlapping Bukayo Saka to his right for the telling final cross.
Thomas Frank should be deeply satisfied with another impressive showing from his men. They created by far the better chances before the interval – two of them Category A opportunities which really should have been put away.
Just five minutes had been played when Toney swung in a low cross from the right that Rico Henry met with a mis-hit from close range when it seemed easier to score.
And Toney will wonder how he spurned a fabulous chance on 25 minutes – his one-two in the box with Bryan Mbeumo ending with the goal gaping from 12 yards. It’s his favourite distance, but this time, he struck the moving ball onto the upright with the goal at his mercy.
He would also hit the side netting after being teed up by Mathias Jensen in the second half.
Arsenal did not offer much. Gabriel Martinelli’s left-volley volley from a cushioned Granit Xhaka header went comfortably over. It summed up their struggles to turn plenty of possession into something more concrete.
On a day when they perhaps missed Gabriel Jesus more than they would care to admit, this was a reminder, if any were needed, that a Premier League crown doesn’t come easily.
For the Bees, the tantalising prospect of European football is increasingly coming into focus. Only four defeats in 22 league games underlines that.
Gunners: (4-3-3) Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko – Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka (Vieira 81) – Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli (Trossard 62). Subs not used: Turner, Tierney, Kiwior, Holding, Tomiyasu, Jorginho, Cozier-Duberry
Bees: (3-5-2) Raya – Ayer, Pinnock, Mee – Roerslev, Janelt (Dasilva 71), Norgaard, Jensen, Henry – Toney (SChade 90), Mbeumo (Wissa 71). Subs not used: Cox, Hickey, Zanka, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste