After a year’s unexpected absence, Arsenal have returned to European football. Though Arsenal fans hoped that last season would have yielded the more coveted form of Champions League football, Arsenal fans will nevertheless be happy to return to European football on some stage.
The half-time news announcement of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was announced in the ground and it is a shame that Arsenal’s return to European football must occur on such a sombre occasion for the nation.
Arsenal travelled to Zürich with a number of first-teamers rested. Benjamin White, William Saliba, Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka were among those rested, with a debut handed to Brazilian winger Marquinhos, as well as a full-debut for Fàbio Vieira, who made his first official appearance for the club in the weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Arsenal started well in Zürich. Though there were definitely warning signs of the home side’s potential, it’s fair to say that Arsenal never really looked out of control.
The Gunners began to work some interesting opportunities and asked questions of captain Yanick Brecher; Gabriel Martinelli spuring an early chance from a header.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to break the deadlock. A superb through ball from Fàbio Vieira released Eddie Nketiah, who broke to the edge of the 18-yard box and laid an inch-perfect cross along the floor for the onrushing Marquinhos, who made no mistake from close-range, firing his shot into the top corner to give Mikel Arteta’s men the lead.
Arsenal continued to dominate, but were often frustrated by Zürich’s low-block.
Despite Arsenal’s dominance throughout the match, the home side soon found themselves back in the game in a way that only Arsenal could engineer.
A seemingly innocuous corner wasn’t adequately dealt with by the Arsenal defence and Eddie Nketiah mistimed his attempted clearance, scything down an attacker in the process to hand Zürich a penalty, which was confidently dispatched by Mirlind Kryeziu, sending Matt Turner the wrong way.
Half-time was unlikely to have been an easy time for the players. The news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth will no doubt have been a minor punctuation for Mikel Arteta’s team-talk.
Arsenal came back out for the second-half and were once again completley in control.
Zürich tried as hard as they could to keep Arsenal out, but in the end, Arsenal’s attacking quality was too much for them to handle.
A truly superb cross from debutant Marquinhos was met at the back-post by Eddie Nketiah, who headed the ball down and bounced it into the back of the net to restore Arsenal’s advantage.
From there, Arsenal continued to create chances, but ultimately never really looked like scoring; Gabriel Jesus coming the closest after coming on, but his effort was an easy save for Brecher.
The final whistle blew out and Arsenal sent themselves top of the group at the end of matchday one.
Overall, Arsenal have played better in other matches, but that shouldn’t take away from what was near enough total domination of FC Zürich.
The performances from Kieran Tierney, Fábio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Marquinhos will no doubt give Arsenal fans plenty to be excited about.
Marquinhos in particular looked every bit the player that Arsenal have been looking for to deputise Bukayo Saka.
Of course, one performance against a fairly unimpressive opposition shouldn’t be enough to throw him into the starting eleven for the next match, but it was enough to show that he can provide something clinical to Arsenal’s game.
Fábio Vieira and Albert Sambi Lokonga impressed in midfield too. The former seemed to show what he can provide from central areas, while Lokonga looked calm and composed when in posession, holding off opposition and allowing the sort of license that Granit Xhaka only ever receives when playing with Thomas Partey.
In light of the news about Queen Elizabeth II, it is likely that Arsenal’s next few matches may be postponed as the country goes into mourning, however, the work will likely still continue at London Colney as they turn their attentions to the visits of Everton and PSV.
FC Zürich team:
25.) Yanick Brecher (c)
19.) Nikola Boranijašević
2.) Lindrit Kamberi
31.) Mirlind Kryeziu
6.) Fidan Aliti
11.) Jonathan Okita (Avdijaj 80’)
21.) Blerim Džemaili (Conde 67’)
8.) Ole Selnæs
3.) Adrià Guerrero (Rohner 67’)
7.) Bledian Krasniqi (Marchesano 67’)
15.) Tosin Aiyegun (Santini 80’)
FC Zürich subs:
1.) Živko Kostadinović
34.) Gianni De Nitti
4.) Bećir Omeragić
28.) Karol Mets
16.) Marc Hornschuh
17.) Cheick Condé
27.) Selmin Hodza
23.) Fabian Rohner
10.) Antonio Marchesano
9.) Ivan Santini
20.) Bohdan Vyunnyk
18.) Donis Avdijaj
30.) Matt Turner
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney (Zinchenko 69’)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
34.) Granit Xhaka (c)
21.) Fábio Vieira (Ødegaard 69’)
27.) Marquinhos (Saka 69’)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Eddie Nketiah (Gabriel Jesus 78’)
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
31.) Karl Jakob Hein
4.) Benjamin White
12.) William Saliba
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko
72.) Matthew Smith
8.) Martin Ødegaard
44.) Cătălin Cîrjan
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Gabriel Jesus
85.) Amario Cozier-Duberry