Away Days Preview - GTECH Community Stadium

After the disappointment of the North London Derby stalemate at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, The Gunners return to action in the league cup with a visit to West London to face Thomas Frank's Brentford. 

It's been a campaign thus far where Arsenal haven't quite been able to click. Despite this, Arsenal remain unbeaten in all competitions and will be looking to maintain this consistency with a win at a ground that has been notriously difficult for visiting teams.

For me, it will be my third visit to this ground, with two very different outcomes in the previous twp trips. Last season was magnificent; Arsenal produced arguably their performance of the season in a comprehensive 3-0 win over Brentford, with goals from William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus, and an absolute screamer from Fabio Vieira to round things off. A display that oozed class, and in reality could have resulted in a far higher margin.

Mikel Arteta took the opportunity to integrate one of the clubs highly-rated youth products in Ethan Nwanieri into the first team set up, with the youngster securing the record of the youngest player to ever play in the top flight of English football at just 15 years of age. "School in the morning, he's got school in the morning," sang the away end.

As much as it would be enjoyable to simply reminisce about that day, it doesn't paint the whole picture of my visits to this particular ground. So, let's rewind back to the opening night of the 21/22 campaign. 

It was the return of football not only after a long summer absence, but the first game with a full crowd following the Covid outbreak. It was a landmark moment, and upon entering the ground I was left overwhelmed with emotion. This wasn't just a football match, this was, finally, a return to something close to my normality. Of course, there were still restrictions in place at that time, with the requirement to wear face masks common place in all establishments.

Prior to the game, I travelled up by train, with my face mask on, went to a pub and had a pint sat outside by the river, and ate dinner on Chiswick High Road. It really was beautiful in its simplicity. Then, walking to the ground, the buzz started to hit me like my first ever game in 2000. As I entered the ground, this feeling was magnificent tenfold. I genuinely couldn't believe I was back in an environment that had felt so distant just months before. There's a video that did the rounds following COVID of a comedian entering a pub and shouting "Hello Pub! Daddy's home!" which resonates with my feeling at that exact moment. It may not have been Arsenal's home, but I genuinely felt like I was. 

The game itself was appalling. Arsenal had been hit by a COVID outbreak, ironically, and we're without a number of first-team players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, meaning that Flo Balogun led the line for an inexperienced Gunners side. Arsenal fell to a 2-0 defeat, a result lapped up by Sky Sports.

I was also caught on camera looking concerned, prompting a number of friends to send messages to me to alert me to my fame. "Hang on in there Tom.... only 37 games to go," read my favourite.

We can expect a much changed side this evening, especially considering the number of injuries that have been accrued in the opening weeks of the season. Nevertheless, I'm hopeful of a return to winning ways following the disappointing result at the weekend. Come on you Gunners!