Football Features

King Kai sends Arsenal top of the Premier League with best-ever run to save Ramsdale’s blushes

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:50, 9 March 2024

Kai Havertz was the hero for Arsenal as they went top of the Premier League table thanks to a 2-1 win over Brentford.

With Liverpool hosting Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, all eyes were on Arsenal as they welcomed Brentford to the Emirates. Playing first, Arsenal had the chance to go top of the Premier League, knowing at least one of their title rivals would be dropping points this weekend.

Form was on their side, with the Gunners having won their past seven Premier League games since losing back-to-back matches against West Ham and Fulham at the end of 2023. Brentford, at the same, time had lost five of their past seven Premier League games, only picking up points in a win over Wolves and draw with Chelsea.

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Arsenal took the game to Brentford from the off and were well worth their lead after 20 minutes. The Gunners had been patient in their build up before Ben White floated a cross into the box for Declan Rice to score with a wonderful header.

After netting in the 6-0 win over Sheffield United on Monday, Rice has now scored in back-to-back games in the Premier League for the first time ever. That’s just one of the examples of the levels Rice has reached this season.

Already a good player at West Ham, the new role that Mikel Arteta has Rice playing has not only transformed the man himself, but also Arsenal. Rice now has as many goal involvements this season (11) has he managed in each of his previous two Premier League campaigns combined — six in 2022/23 and five in 2021/22.

It’s very clear that Rice was the missing piece of the puzzle from last season, not a goalscoring striker as many hypothesised, though that might have helped.

Arsenal were in control as the half ticked on but somehow they entered the break level. And it was a moment Aaron Ramsdale will want to forget.

With David Raya unable to face his parent club, Ramsdale was thrown back into the starting XI for the first time in the Premier League since November when Arsenal last faced the Bees.

Arsenal were passing the ball around the back trying to see out the half, but Ramsdale took too long on the ball, being closed down by Yoane Wissa. A bit too calm, Ramsdale’s eventual kick was blocked by a sliding Wissa and the ball went into the back of the net.

“I’m devastated for him,” Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports at half time.

“How he must feel right now, only he could tell us. Because when you’re in that position as a player and you’ve given away a goal it’s so difficult for him.”

Karen Carney added: “It’s just a nightmare.”

Ramsdale did make amends for the mistake with a couple of great saves to keep Arsenal ahead as the Gunners were frustrated at the other end of the pitch. Brentford didn’t come out of their dressing room trying to play football, instead looking to disrupt and defend.

In the second half, Brentford completed just 45 passes, almost five times fewer than Arsenal. They also committed six fouls and were the main cause for the seven minutes being added on, as players took time on injuries.

The killer blow actually came before injury time, but it was one that Arsenal deserved. And it was a big one to show themselves and everyone else that they are very much in this title race.

It came from Kai Havertz, who had a tough start to life at Arsenal but is very much finding his feet. Coming via another header from a White cross, Havertz has now scored in four consecutive Premier League games, his best record in the competition.

He has also levelled his best-ever Premier League return with eight goals, previously hitting that mark in the 2021/22 season for Chelsea.

“I think I’m not a player who can only play in one position,” Havertz told Sky Sports of his own performance.

“Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad. I think it suits me quite well, I like to be anywhere all around the pitch.

“The last couple of games I’ve played as a false nine, I love it in this team, I love to play on the No.9, the No.10… Wherever you want me to go.

“In Germany I played as a left-back as well, so it’s all good.”