Thursday nights have become a regular European excursion for Arsenal this season. However, while the rest of the Premier League were facing off on matchday 11, Arsenal were forced to play against PSV in the UEFA Europa League.
Arsenal had been scheduled to play the game a few weeks prior, but the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, meant that the fixture was re-scheduled, meaning that their Premier League fixture against Manchester City was moved to the new year.
With a win, Arsenal would see themselves safely qualified for the knockout rounds of the Europa League, albeit with their final standings not yet confirmed.
It therefore came as no surprise that manager Mikel Arteta named as close to a full-strength squad as possible. Six were dropped to the bench from Sunday’s narrow victory over Leeds United and the captaincy was handed to Granit Xhaka in the absence of Martin Ødegaard.
In typical Arsenal fashion, the team started well.
The main characteristics of Mikel Arteta’s side is that they seem to start off with a high-intensity press as soon as possible.
This seemed to hem PSV in and, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that PSV were essentially hemmed in for the remainder of the half.
Though the visitors managed to galavant forward every now and again, Arsenal mainly had both the lion share of possession and also of the chances.
Gabriel Jesus, Granit Xhaka and Kieran Tierney had efforts that caused PSV some issues, but ultimately, the first half was a frustrating one for Mikel Arteta and his men.
PSV may have wanted to attack more, but seeing the offensive threat that Arsenal offered, decided to sit back in a low-block, something Arsenal were simply unable to work around.
The second-half was, more or less, the same.
PSV were unable to break out of their own half for more than one or two sustained attacks and though the likes of Cody Gakpo and Noni Madueke had closer efforts that Arsenal would have liked, the visitors never really seemed to trouble Matt Turner all that much.
Eventually, the deadlock was broken.
A loose ball in midfield was pounced upon by Arsenal, allowing substitute Martin Ødegaard to feed the ball wide to Takehiro Tomiyasu, who’s clipped cross was smashed home by Granit Xhaka on the half-volley to finally break the deadlock.
Arsenal had a few more chances, namely through Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus, but were unable to convert them and, in the end, the final whistle blew out on a frustrating night in front of goal that will largely be masked by that all important three points.
While it had certainly been a frustrating performance, it’s fair to say that it was still a very good performance from the home team. Ruud van Nistelrooij’s side were comfortably pinned back and were unable to really offer any viable threat to the home side.
The performances of Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka were key to Arsenal’s performance.
Both Jesus and Saka weaved in and out of defenders with ease and were able to create a number of big chances for their teammates.
On a number of occasions, both players decided instead to try and put one away themselves, most notably Saka who missed a glorious one-on-one chance at the end.
Both were electric and full of energy and PSV were unable to really lay a finger on either of them.
Granit Xhaka struggled initially, having been forced to partner Albert Sambi Lokonga instead of his usual midfield partner of Thomas Partey.
Lokonga is perhaps not as well-suited to the defensive side of the game as Partey is, and when the Ghanian midfielder was introduced, Xhaka was able to thrive.
Appearing late in the box, as has become his penchant this season, and drifting into pockets of space to open the game up, coloured another good performance from the Swiss midfielder.
Arsenal will be glad that they have secured qualification from Group A. Their focus now will be on securing the top spot, but not before the trip to Southampton, in which they will be keen to extend their lead over Tottenham in the Premier League.
30.) Matt Turner
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu (White 76’)
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Partey 66’)
34.) Granit Xhaka (c)
7.) Bukayo Saka (Nelson 85’)
21.) Fábio Vieira (Ødegaard 67’)
14.) Eddie Nketiah
9.) Gabriel Jesus (Martinelli 76’)
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
31.) Karl Jakob Hein
4.) Benjamin White
12.) William Saliba
17.) Cédric Soares
5.) Thomas Partey
8.) Martin Ødegaard
44.) Cătălin Cîrjan
24.) Reiss Nelson
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
47.) Khayon Edwards
PSV Eindhoven team:
1.) Walter Benítez
29.) Philipp Mwene
5.) André Ramalho
4.) Armando Obsipo
31.) Philipp Max (Teze 66’)
6.) Ibrahim Sangaré
15.) Érick Gutiérrez
7.) Xavi Simons (Ledezma 91’)
23.) Joey Veerman (de Jong 77’)
11.) Cody Gakpo
20.) Guus Til (Madueke 65’)
PSV Eindhoven subs:
16.) Joël Drommel
24.) Boy Waterman
2.) Ki-Jana Hoever
22.) Jarrad Branthwaite
3.) Jordan Teze
17.) Mauro Júnior
37.) Richard Ledezma
21.) Anwar El Ghazi
10.) Noni Madueke
27.) Johan Bakayoko
9.) Luuk de Jong