Brentford 0-3 Arsenal – Premier League: the Gunners climb back to the top of the table

They are superstitious, footballers. So the sight of a player called Vieira scoring for Arsenal in an imperious performance that takes them back to the top of the table is going to make a lot of sense.

Yet why not? Here’s another display that suggests Arsenal have the guts to fight, and certainly the strength to finish in the top four and return to the Champions League, qualities that were once taken for granted under Arsene Wenger. So at the very least, Mikel Arteta has them heading for former glories, although few see past Manchester City and Erling Haaland for the title no matter who leads.

For now, however, City still have some catching up to do. Arsenal are one point ahead of the international break and that’s an impressive result. Cynics will argue it’s just Brentford, but Thomas Frank’s side started the day in the top half of the league and with Ivan Toney recently called up in the England squad; the first Brentford man to be so recognized since Les Smith in 1939.

Fabio Vieira marked his full Arsenal debut by scoring his third goal in a comfortable Sunday lunchtime win at Brentford

Vieira's goal delighted traveling fans, who chanted the name like old times, as they returned to the top of the Premier League

Vieira’s goal delighted traveling fans, who chanted the name like old times, as they returned to the top of the Premier League

Gabriel Jesus shows off his dance moves after scoring Arsenal's second goal, a dominating first-half header

Gabriel Jesus shows off his dance moves after scoring Arsenal’s second goal, a dominating first-half header

So Arsenal establishing a 2-0 half-time lead was impressive. Fabio Vieira, on his first Premier League start, then put the result beyond doubt just three minutes into the second half. Bukayo Saka slid the ball inside him and the young Portuguese midfielder – recruited from Porto in the summer – fired a shot that beat goalkeeper David Raya and went inside a post.

Visiting fans immediately dusted off a favorite old song about a guy called Vieira, who came to Arsenal from foreign lands, with Portugal fitting perfectly into the line where Senegal was. Luckily he didn’t come from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was also the signal for a mockery for Toney whose comment on social media the last time this game was played is still remembered in north London. Brentford won 2-0 that day, the first game of the 2021-22 season, and Toney hinted it had been easy. “Nice kick with the boys,” he tweeted.

He may regret this jibe despite the positive turn of his personal situation. He will have been remembered by many within the ranks of Arsenal and those who were unaware or forgot about him will most certainly be remembered. Fans pointed their observations in his direction. “Ivan Toney – it’s a walk in the park,” they sang. They were right too. Brentford was hugely disappointing.

Gunners defender William Saliba leaps to head Bukayo Saka's corner past Brentford goalkeeper David Raya

Gunners defender William Saliba leaps to head Bukayo Saka’s corner past Brentford goalkeeper David Raya

Raya tried his best to keep the ball on the outside but it was clearly over the line after Saliba's header with Gabriel Jesus hidden

Raya tried his best to keep the ball on the outside but it was clearly over the line after Saliba’s header with Gabriel Jesus hidden

And the margin could have been greater. Gabriel Jesus made a great run only to have his shot saved by Raya after 57 minutes, while a fine passing motion involving Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli and Jesus, ended with Saka forcing an excellent save from Raya at 66 minutes.

Yet forget the idea that this was a straightforward game for Arsenal, whose last league result was the 3-1 defeat at Manchester United. All eyes were on them here and victory was not a foregone conclusion. Brentford can be tough as Manchester United and Leeds found themselves here and Arsenal, beaten and second best last time out, were now without captain Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko, a revelation at the back since leaving Manchester City.

Do not worry. Arsenal are doing tougher things these days. They were much better at Old Trafford than the scoreline suggested and it was an impressive fightback, the perfect bounce.

A goal after 17 minutes, a doubled lead after 27 minutes, it could have been even worse for Brentford, had Martinelli not slipped at a vital moment after two minutes when Xhaka – captain of the day and absolutely dominating the game from midfield pitcher in tandem with Thomas Partey – place the ball on a plate for him.

Jesus moved in front of the Brentford defense to drive home Granit Xhaka's cross and double Arsenal's advantage

Jesus moved in front of the Brentford defense to drive home Granit Xhaka’s cross and double Arsenal’s advantage

The Brazilian striker celebrated in stark fashion after scoring what is already his fifth goal since joining from Man City

The Brazilian striker celebrated in stark fashion after scoring what is already his fifth goal since joining from Man City

Match Facts

Brentford (4-3-3): Raya; Hickey, Ajer, Mee, Henry; Jansson, Janelt (Onyeka 63), Jensen (Baptist 69); Mbeumo (Wissa 76), Toney, Dasilva (Damsgaard 63)

Substitutes not used: Strakosha (GK); Canos, Ghoddos, Roerslev, Zanka

Administrator: Thomas Frank

Arsenal (4-3-3): Ramsdale; White (Tomiyasu 86), Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Vieira (Nwaneri 90+2), Partey (Lokonga 78), Xhaka; Saka (Marquinhos 90+2), Jesus, Martinelli (Nketiah 78)

Substitutes not used: Turner (GK); Exploitation, Smith, Sousa

Administrator: Mikel Arteta

Scorers: Saliba 17; Jesus 28; Vieira 49 Reserve: Xhaka, Jesus

Arbitrator: David Coute

Arsenal were on top form from that point on, defending well against Toney and the rest of the front line. William Saliba, in particular, has the potential to be an exceptional player for the club. So Arsenal took on Brentford with a goal. They were a physical and technically superior match and their danger in the air is perhaps their most underrated quality.

In the 17th minute, a nice corner from Bukayo Saka on the right was greeted by Saliba with a chilling header. It was a tight angle, but beautifully directed. The ball hit the far post and was pushed back by Raya, but not before crossing the line some distance away. Referee David Coote was duly alerted by his magic watch and the goal was awarded.

Then, ten minutes later, Arsenal took very firm control. Xhaka and Kieran Tierney exchanged passes down the left before Xhaka hit a nice cross that Jesus met in insane space. Like Zinchenko, he has flourished since leaving Manchester City and his header has given Raya no chance. The game was pretty much over by then. Brentford offered very little.

Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player in Premier League history at 15 years and 181 days when he came late in the game.

Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player in Premier League history at 15 years and 181 days when he came late in the game.

Both groups of fans observed an impeccable minute of silence for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before kick-off

Both groups of fans observed an impeccable minute of silence for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before kick-off

The stadium then rose again on 70 minutes to cheer to mark the Queen's 70 years on the throne

The stadium then rose again on 70 minutes to cheer to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne

After 52 minutes, Toney received the shortest free kick, lifted the ball and then hit it on the volley, just over the bar. It would have been a superb goal, but it was only a matter of seconds in more than 90 minutes of relative calm. For him and Brentford, it was a game to forget and a reminder of the progression that international football will be.

For Arsenal, however, it only got better. As four minutes of added time were reported, Mikel Arteta introduced Ethan Nwaneri for Vieira, at 15 years and 181 days, the youngest player in Premier League history, taking over claimed slack from Harvey Elliott – 16 years and 30 days – for Liverpool against Fulham in 2019. To put that into perspective, Nwaneri was not born when the club left Highbury.

He is Arsenal’s first Eimrates baby. “School in the morning, he’s going to be at school in the morning,” chanted Arsenal supporters. They were wrong, of course – but only because schools are not open for the monarch’s funeral. Nwaneri didn’t touch the ball significantly in his added-time minutes, but that doesn’t matter. To be given involvement in such a good team at his age suggests unique potential. There are so many reasons to feel positive about Arsenal right now after so long on the periphery. Omens, real or imagined, are very, very good.

Relive Sportsmail’s live blog for the Premier League clash between Brentford and Arsenal with Adam Shergold below