Brentford 0-1 Arsenal: ‘Adorable’ Kai Havertz earns Gunners ‘statement win’

Arsenal players Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard celebrate

Life as a questioned £65m signing cannot have been easy for Kai Havertz.

The Germany forward has faced intense scrutiny since his switch from Chelsea, with fans and pundits debating his best position, his form and whether he even belongs in an Arsenal shirt.

With Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus fit to return to the starting XI, Havertz was dropped to the bench and forced to watch as the Gunners laboured against a resolute Brentford defence.

However, when summoned in the final stages, he found a priceless goal to seal a win that moved them top of the Premier League table.

“It sends a statement out to Manchester City and Liverpool,” former Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“When you have challenges and you have to overcome them, it makes the moments much more,” said boss Mikel Arteta, who brought up 200 games in charge of the Gunners.

“If things came easy, he wouldn’t have got the reception he got today with everybody hugging him and telling him how much we love him.

“It is because he is adorable and a joy to work with.”

‘The catalyst to his Arsenal career’

Havertz has a knack of delivering when his team needs him.

Famously, his goal in the 2021 Champions League final for Chelsea secured victory against favourites Manchester City.

If Arteta has his way, this goal may prove a crucial intervention as the Gunners seek to edge out Pep Guardiola’s champions in the Premier League this season.

“These late winners are nice and to celebrate in front of the fans was a good feeling,” Havertz said on TNT Sports. “I have tried to put my ego aside and the team is the important thing. We played well and deserved to win.”

Prior to Saturday, Havertz’s only Gunners goal was a penalty in a 4-0 win at Bournemouth in September, although he did score for his country a week ago – albeit while lining up at left-back.

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes this could be the moment that ignites Havertz’s time at Arsenal.

“This could be the catalyst to the next stage of his career,” he said. “That is why they bought him – to score big goals in big moments. Arsenal fans have questioned him but he needed that. The team needed that.”

‘Had to take the opportunity’

After top two Manchester City and Liverpool drew in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, Arteta knew this was a chance to take advantage.

However, he also knew it would not be easy against opponents that had not lost in 14 London derbies.

“When you have an opportunity to take a bite out of everybody, you have to do it,” he said. “It was very cold and it is difficult coming to Brentford. I loved the way we competed.”

Given Arsenal’s struggles going forward, this result was built on a resilient platform, particularly spectacular goal-saving clearances from Declan Rice and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

With only 10 goals conceded, the Gunners have the best defensive record in the Premier League.

“They have a resilience about them,” said Ferdinand. “There is a togetherness and steeliness and they enjoy the hard work. They have players who are stepping up.”

Does Ramsdale have Arsenal future?

With on-loan goalkeeper David Raya ineligible against his parent club, Arsenal were forced to play former number one Aaron Ramsdale and he looked unsteady in a difficult first half.

The Brentford fans revelled in teasing him and he nearly buckled, presenting Bryan Mbeumo with a golden chance and, on a separate occasion, throwing the ball straight to a Bees attacker.

However, he was commanding in the second half to add solidity to a backline boasting six clean sheets in 13 Premier League games.

“Credit to him, he didn’t put a foot wrong in the second half,” said former England striker Peter Crouch on TNT Sports.

“I am sure Arteta is bored about the Ramsdale subject but he has to move if it stays like this.”

Asked directly about the England keeper’s performance, Arteta preferred to focus on his side as a whole.

“I am really happy with the team and the way the team played and kept the clean sheet,” he said.

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