Arsenal 2-1 Brentford: Havertz heads home the winner as Arsenal take Premier League top spot

Without a head-to-head victory over Arsenal in 85 years, Brentford’s Thomas Frank made the sole change to his starting eleven as Keane Lewis-Potter replaced Sergio Reguilón. Meanwhile, Arsenal headed into the game with an unblemished seven-match Premier League record this calendar year – which has seen the Gunners close the gap to two points to league leaders Liverpool – but were forced into a change in goal as Aaron Ramsdale replaced ineligible Bees’ loanee David Raya.

ARS: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior; Ødegaard, Jorginho, Rice; Havertz, Saka, Trossard

BRE: Flekken; Jørgensen, Ajer, Mee; Roerslev, Onyeka, Nørgaard, Janelt, Lewis-Potter; Wissa, Toney

Having already found the back of the net on 11 occasions across their two London derbies this year, Arsenal surprisingly began cautiously at the Emirates as Ivan Toney headed straight at Aaron Ramsdale shortly after the quarter-hour mark.

However, the hosts did not need long to wheel away in celebration of the game’s opening goal as Declan Rice headed Ben White’s delicious delivery into the danger zone, beyond the grasp of Mark Flekken.

It appeared that the in-form figure of Kai Havertz – three goals in as many Premier League games – had missed a glorious opportunity to double the Gunners’ advantage heading into half-time. But the eagle-eyed third official spared the striker’s blushes after signalling the striker had strayed into a marginally offside position in the build-up.

Harrowingly for Arsenal, Brentford took hold of their reprieve deep into stoppage-time, as an uncustomary error from Ramsdale allowed Yoane Wissa to charge down the keeper’s clearance for a seventh goal in nine matches against capital-based clubs.

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Knowing three points would send them to the summit of the Premier League, Arsenal bombarded Brentford’s goal in the opening exchanges of the second half, as a plethora of corners saw Vitaly Janelt ultimately clear Gabriel’s goal bound header to safety. In response, an ambitious effort from a distance courtesy of Toney’s boot was expertly-saved by Ramsdale.

Controversy would then surround referee Robert Jones as the game surpassed the hour-mark at the Emirates, with Havertz being allowed to remain on the pitch despite it appearing the German international should have been shown a second yellow card for an unlawful act of simulation.

Determined to lead his side to victory, Rice came agonisingly close to restoring Arsenal’s lead in the 74th minute, however, his wonder strike beat Flekken, but glanced off the crossbar on its way out of play.

Despite a spirited display from the visitors, Havertz ultimately would have the final say – sending the Emirates into raptures with only four minutes left of regular time – by heading home another dangerous delivery from White past Flekken.

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A war of words will surely rage on long after the final whistle as Havertz’s winner sees Arsenal temporarily lead the Premier League by one point – ahead of Liverpool’s mouthwatering clash at home to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, a fifth winless league outing leaves Brentford right in the mix of the hotly-contested end-of-season relegation battle.