Ivan Toney and Arsenal have been connected ever since Brentford returned to the Premier League for the 2021-22 season. A few tweets led to a lot of banter between the two sides over social media, but that all changed last Saturday. The individual performance of Toney against Manchester City combined with the result Arsenal received just hours later could go down as a pivotal day in the title race come May.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It’s August 13th, 2021 and Arsenal is set to face newly-promoted Brentford at the then named Brentford Community Stadium. The Gunners were heavy favorites to win the match, but they were without some of their best players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Brentford was a force to be reckoned with on the night, as Arsenal struggled to match the intensity of the home side. The Bees would end up winning 2-0, thanks to goals from Sergi Canós and Christian Nørgaard.
After taking all three points against one of the historic giants in the Premier League, Brentford’s talisman [Toney] went to Twitter to celebrate their victory publicly. The tweet did not seem like much of a big deal in the moment, that was until Arsenal got their chance to respond on the pitch.
Nice kick about with the boys. ⚽️ @BrentfordFC
— Ivan Toney (@ivantoney24) August 13, 2021
Arsenal hosted Brentford at the Emirates in the reverse fixture on February 19th, 2022. Second half goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka did enough to give Arsenal all three points, and some much desired revenge against Toney and Brentford.
Nice kick about with the boys. ⚽️@Arsenal 😘
— Alexandre Lacazette (@LacazetteAlex) February 19, 2022
Just as Ivan Toney did when Brentford beat Arsenal back in August, Alexandre Lacazette took his elation to Twitter. The French forward said, “nice kick about with the boys”, which is nearly word for word what Toney said in his original tweet. That would not be the last time a back and forth on social media played a role in Brentford versus Arsenal.
It was a new season, but that didn’t close the door on the banter between both changing rooms. Arsenal traveled down to Brentford to face their old friends on September 18th, 2022. Brentford away offered many challenges to the Gunners the year prior, but this was a different Arsenal team.
Three newcomers got on the scoresheet for Arsenal: William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and Fábio Vieira. For the third straight match between the two clubs, a player from the winning side celebrated on Twitter. Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhães said, “nice kick about with the boys”, matching what his former teammate said the last time they defeated Brentford.
At this point in the timeline, Arsenal and Brentford were best known for their social media theatrics following matches. There was no clear bad blood going on between the two clubs, despite what the tweets would have signaled.
That brings us to November 12th, 2022, also known as the beginning of Matchweek 16 in the 2022-23 Premier League season. This is the part of the story that does not include Arsenal playing Brentford, although the two teams were still intertwined despite being 83 miles apart.
A day of action across the top division begins with reigning champions Manchester City hosting Brentford. The Citizens were nearly untouchable at home since Pep Guardiola was appointed manager, so very few gave Brentford a chance to earn a positive result away from home.
Toney opened in the scoring 16th minute, but Manchester City was able to equalize in first half stoppage time through English international Phil Foden. The home side pushed numbers forward throughout the second half, as they knew all three points were required to keep pressure on Arsenal at the top of the table.
A go-ahead goal would be scored in the 98th minute of the match, but not by the team 99 percent of people expected. Brentford sent themselves on a counter attack following a poor corner kick from Manchester City.
Midfielder Josh Dasilva drove past defender Manuel Akanji, placing a perfect ball right inside the six. Toney was able to get on the end of it to tap the ball in, giving Brentford a 2-1 victory in unthinkable fashion. Manchester City trailed first-placed Arsenal by two points, who had a chance to increase their lead to five points later that night.
Arsenal traveled to the West Midlands to play 19th placed Wolves. A win would put their title hopes in great shape heading into the World Cup break. The Gunners capitalized on the golden opportunity, winning the match 2-0 to move five points ahead of Manchester City.
Now that league action has been put on pause due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup beginning in a short time, the Premier League has died down. With so many players traveling to Qatar for their respective countries, the state of the players in terms of little knocks and other injuries is a major question considering the timing of the competition.
The World Cup has never taken place in the middle of the club season, so players from Arsenal or Manchester City or any other club in the Premier League could return with injuries. That is certainly something that could impact the title race when league action resumes in late December.
As mentioned before, the gap is currently at five points between first-placed Arsenal and second-placed Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s men are more than capable of chasing down Arsenal, especially when the two clubs have two league matches against each other. But at the time of writing, a day that many could remember as one that drastically impacted the title race involves Ivan Toney.
Will the “nice kick about with the boys” tweets still be around the next time Arsenal plays Brentford? Probably (fans would love to see it continue), but the connection between the two clubs may feel a bit different based on Toney scoring a brace against one of the title favorites. Arsenal may still concede the league to Manchester City, but if they don’t, Toney should be remembered for his role in the race for the 2022-23 Premier League trophy.