Beesotted’s Jim Levack looks back at a memorable afternoon in North London as impressive Brentford continued their unbeaten run against title-chasing Arsenal.
In years to come when Brentford are (hopefully) an established Premier League side, fans will look back on the breathless 1-1 draw at the Emirates as a defining moment in our history.
This point at a title-chasing Arsenal outfit, whose fans trudged into the north London night with “teams like Brentford” piercing their anguished conversations, was a coming-of-age moment.
Thomas Frank tactically outwitted his emotional opposite number in a brave display that epitomised everything good about this incredible journey we’re all on.
He asked for cool, brave and aggressive and that’s what he got. To the letter for a full 97 minutes that still weren’t enough to assuage the tantrums of the spoiled brat Gunners boss.
A fairy-tale it may be and for many long-standing Brentford fans something they never thought they’d see, but this was a performance that put down a marker… we are here to stay.
Resilient, organised, united, powerful, technical, humble and above all, brimming with the elixir of confidence that comes with 10 games unbeaten in the best football league in the world. But a season ago this wouldn’t have ended all square.
You don’t become one of only two sides to leave the Emirates with something to show for it without being, as Thomas would say it in almost apologetic, deferential tone, ‘fxxxxxx good’.
The same batch of players as last season have learned fast. Bryan’s body shape going for bouncing balls, Rico’s awareness of when to go or stay and unsung hero Mads Roerslev’s diligent defensive work all shone in north London.
The contrast was never more evident than when Premier League rookie Kevin Schade picked up a rash yellow yard for a foul deep into injury time. That was the kind of impetuous challenge we saw a lot more last campaign from this team.
And a team it is. In every sense of the word. From the individual physical and mental determination to help each other to the touching gesture to absent team-mate Sergi Canos who lost his mother in midweek.
This is not just a bunch of supremely gifted footballers. This is a squad of players who are – to a man – down to earth, capable of playing with intelligence and, most crucially, prepared to learn.
They’re a mirror image of most Brentford fans too. Because we’ve experienced the very bad times the good ones taste even sweeter. We expect nothing more than graft and effort, and we’re being spoiled rotten at the moment.
The realisation that you can’t appreciate the good unless you’ve experienced the bad is something supporters of the so called Big Six will never really be able to grasp.
The radio phone-ins underlined that. Entitled Arsenal fans suggesting the end of the world was looming because a “dustbin of a club” (that one courtesy of twitter) wouldn’t roll over and let them continue their chase for the title. You get the gist.
I loved this message on a Bees fans WhatsApp group from one diehard fan before the game.
It read… “On the tube. Two Arsenal fans. “Don’t understand how people support a team that will never win anything? They think they’re good! What are they? 8th or 9th?”. Her sign off, which included the words smash, arrogant and an expletive, was perfect.
The ‘morning after’ meltdown has been a joy to watch too, with Arsenal journalists only too happy to lap up Arteta’s VAR frenzy to bemoan the fact this could affect the title race. Yes, so could Bryan’s early goal, but that doesn’t fit the narrative here.
It’s not just the national hacks either. MotD quite rightly flagged Brentford’s equaliser as dubious, but mentioned Brentford’s perfectly good first goal only in passing. An agenda or editorial incompetence? You decide.
The harsh reality that the national media can’t or don’t want to accept is that Brentford are upsetting the status quo. They’re simply not meant to take points off Arsenal at home.
What they also can’t accept is that this Brentford squad is far greater than the sum of its parts… and those parts are exceptional. No big time Charlies, just honest, decent blokes playing for each other with the fans almost part of the team.
There will be bumps in the road, but the eleven, and us the twelfth man, will always stick together because – without any offence intended – we’ve been beaten at Bury and Rochdale away.