13 duels lost: Arsenal’s £27m lightweight who got “dominated” let Arteta down vs Bees – opinion

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Premier League leaders Arsenal suffered a dent to their title hopes after slipping up for the second game running at home to Brentford on Saturday afternoon, with that frustrating, 1-1 draw coming just a week on from the shock defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

Mikel Arteta’s men had ridden an early storm at the Emirates – with Bees talisman Ivan Toney notably striking the crossbar – to eventually make the breakthrough just past the hour mark, with January arrival Leandro Trossard tapping home at the back post having only entered the fray just minutes earlier.

Despite it looking as if that strike would secure all three points for the hosts, Thomas Frank’s side then dragged themselves level in the closing stages, with that man Toney nodding home following something of a scramble inside the penalty area.

That late setback will no doubt sting even more for the north Londoners following claims made post-match that VAR official Lee Mason forgot to draw the offside lines in the build-up to the away side’s equaliser, with midfielder Christian Norgaard having been stood in an offside position.

For all the fury that Arteta will likely direct towards that inexplicable refereeing decision, the Spaniard may also be demanding an explanation from his players as to why there were once again under par, with centre-back starlet William Saliba one figure who will likely be in the firing line.

How did William Saliba perform against Brentford?

The impressive 21-year-old – who was initially snapped up by the Gunners on a £27m deal from Saint-Etienne back in 2019 – has largely enjoyed a remarkable season thus far since forcing his way into the first-team set-up, having previously spent the last three years on loan in his native France.

The highly-rated “Rolls-Royce” – as lauded by teammate Aaron Ramsdale – has been a vital presence in the club’s title charge so far this term, having kept eight clean sheets in 21 Premier League games to date.

For all the plaudits that have been flooding his way, however, the former Marseille loanee proved that he is not impenetrable yesterday, having been simply “dominated” by the aforementioned Toney, according to The Athletic’s Jay Harris.

The former Newcastle United striker had simply been “winning everything” against Saliba in the air, according to GOAL journalist Charles Watts, with the typically commanding youngster seemingly having no response to such physical prowess.

The latter man’s woes were laid bare by the fact that the £40k-per-week sensation lost 13 of his 15 total duels on the day, having remarkably only won one of his 11 aerial duels, according to Sofascore.

Although the eight-cap titan did record five clearances and produce two interceptions to illustrate that it was not a complete car-crash performance, there will be concern at how he was simply unable to live with the dynamic duo of Toney and Bryan Mbeumo.

Such a limp showing unsurprisingly saw the 6 foot 4 lightweight register a rather meagre match rating of just 6.4, as per Sofascore, with that figure the joint-worst of any of his starting teammates, alongside Ramsdale.

The hope will be that performance proves a mere blip with the visit of champions Manchester City now firmly on the horizon, although Saliba will likely face a tough task once again up against the division’s leading scorer, Erling Haaland.


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