LONDON – Walking off the field at Brentford’s small stadium in west London had a very different feel for Arsenal this time around.
A straight-forward 3-0 win at the 17,000-seat Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday retained Arsenal’s spot atop the Premier League table and made it six victories in seven games for Mikel Arteta’s side.
Quite a contrast from a year ago, when Arsenal opened the season with a humbling 2-0 defeat at Brentford — which was playing its first topflight game in 74 years — and went on to lose the next two games as well for its worst start to a campaign in 67 years.
“A lot of people described that day as embarrassing but I looked at it as a character-building day,” Arteta said. “You have to learn from those moments and then days like today happen. We are enjoying our football.”
And there’s plenty to enjoy, especially from the team’s newcomers.
Defender William Saliba — who spent the last three seasons out on loan — underlined his status as the team’s new fan favorite with his second goal of the season, while summer signings Gabriel Jesus and Fabio Vieira also scored.
Everton finally has something to enjoy as well: a first win of the campaign.
Frank Lampard's team beat fellow struggler West Ham 1-0 at home in a game with few clear-cut chances for either team. Only two games were played Sunday as Chelsea-Liverpool and Manchester United-Leeds were both postponed due to limited police resources ahead of the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II on Monday.
All Premier League games this weekend paid tribute to the queen with a minute's silence before kickoff followed by a rendition of the national anthem. There was also a minute's applause after 70 minutes at each game in celebration of the queen's 70-year reign.
At Brentford, Saliba headed in a corner in the 17th minute before Jesus scored his fourth goal of the campaign with another header around halfway through the first half. Vieira then marked his first league start by scoring with a long-range effort early in the second.
Vieira started in place of injured playmaker Martin Odegaard and made a strong claim for getting more playing time after spending much of the season on the bench so far.
“We know his talent and why we signed him and what he can bring to the team,” Arteta said. “He is a creative player, he needs to play with his instinct and we need to create as many scenarios as possible for him. The goal here and the way he went about the ugly part of the game, I was really impressed with.”
Arteta even had the luxury of sending on 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri for the last few minutes, making him the youngest player ever to appear in a Premier League game.
Arsenal now heads into the international break one point ahead of defending champion Manchester City and Tottenham. Its next game will be a better gauge of the team's title credentials, as Arsenal hosts Tottenham in the north London derby on Oct. 1.
Everton's early-season struggles have been largely due to a lack of attacking threat in the absence of injured striker Dominic Calwert-Lewin, with the team scoring just four goals in its opening six games.
Summer signing Neal Maupay finally scored his first goal for Everton against West Ham, and that was enough for a much-needed victory for Lampard's team.
It was a well-taken goal, too, as the Frenchman collected a pass from Alex Iwobi on the edge of the area and used his first touch to set himself up for a volley that snuck inside the near post in the 53rd minute.
“It’s a win that has been a little while coming," Lampard said. “We have been hard to beat recently but we haven’t had that clinical edge in front of goal but today we had that.”
The win lifts Everton to 13th place with seven points, while West Ham — which has only scored three league goals this season — is in 18th on four points.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports