After a 100% record in the UEFA Europa League has catapulted them to the top of Group A, matchday 5 provided Mikel Arteta’s team with a chance to secure top spot in the group.
After a narrow 1-0 win over PSV last Thursday, Arsenal travelled to Eindhoven in need of only a point in order to qualify as group winners. In doing so, they would also avoid the dreaded round of 32 match against those that have dropped out of the Champions League.
As a result, Mikel Arteta named a strong Arsenal side. The likes of William Saliba, Aaron Ramsdale, Granit Xhaka, Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Martinelli were all given a run out.
It was fair to say that from minute one, PSV dominated the game. A fair thing to expect, given that they were the home team and were chasing a form of qualification from the group themselves.
There were danger signs early on, especially from the likes of Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons, both of whom found themselves in excellent positions on a regular basis.
Arsenal tried to create chances of their own and found one or two potential avenues.
Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka desperatley tried to put together some decent attacks, but ultimately, they all fell flat and but for a snatched volley from Martinelli, Arsenal didn’t provide too much of a threat in the first-half.
VAR was perhaps Arsenal’s best player on the night. Cody Gakpo found himself pushing past the Gunners’ high line and dinked a spectacular effort over Aaron Ramsdale, before the offside was called.
Xavi Simons soon found himself free in the box and after wriggling past multiple defensive challenges, he slotted home for the game’s opener, before that too was disallowed owing to an offside in the build-up.
These were the early danger signs for Mikel Arteta’s men and they headed in at half-time lucky to only be 0-0.
Whatever hope Arsenal fans may have harboured about a turn around in performance in the second-half was swiftly silenced.
Gakpo once again had the ball in the net, only for it to be chalked off again for offside, but that didn’t stop PSV opening the scoring.
A brilliant bit of play from PSV allowed Joey Veerman entirely too much room and he rifled home a fantastic effort, one that had Aaron Ramsdale beaten from the moment it fell to him.
Soon after that, the damage was done as Cody Gakpo’s excellent corner was whipped in and Aaron Ramsdale, missed the potential cleareance, allowing substitute Luuk de Jong to head in from close-range to double the host’s lead.
Arsenal tried as hard as they could to get back in the game, but it’s fair to say that it was too little too late. Even the introduction of big players like Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Jesus didn’t have much of an impact.
Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah came relatively close for the visitors, but they were speculative efforts at best and PSV looked good for the win as the final whistle blew out around the PSV Stadion.
It was, without a doubt, one of Arsenal’s worst performances this season, triumphed perhaps only by their torrid 0-1 win over Leeds a few weeks earlier.
There is a definite feeling of drop-off of late. Arsenal have won well earlier in the season, but more recently haven’t looked up to standard, especially on Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton.
Thursday’s game was perhaps a long overdue pounding at the hands of a team entirely more up for it than Mikel Arteta’s men, but it was still an exceptionally abject performance regardless.
Thursday games are hard at the moment for many of the club’s fringe players as they are seldom given a real chance to show what they can do as they are often hoiked off before the 80th minute.
Despite this, the performances of the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Albert Sambi Lokonga, two players who have been exceptionally vocal about their lack of game time, did very little to further entice Mikel Arteta to hand them more.
Lokonga, in particular, has looked very far off the mark in recent weeks and while there is an element of leeway as he is forced to cover the defensive midfield role in the absence of Thomas Partey’s usual understudy Mohamed Elneny, there is still a definite feeling of anti-climax.
Nketiah too has not looked like the hungry and raring-to-go striker he was at the tail-end of last season either and Arsenal’s European performances have notably suffered for it.
Arsenal remain top of their group and can secure that place with a win next week. PSV’s vastly superior goal difference does cause a problem for them, but Arsenal will be hoping that they can set the record straight against FC Zürich after a visit from Nottingham Forest, themselves already on a high after a shocking 1-0 upset over Liverpool.
PSV Eindhoven team:
1.) Walter Benítez
29.) Philipp Mwene
5.) André Ramalho
22.) Jarrad Branthwaite (Teze 81′)
31.) Philipp Max
23.) Joey Veerman (Til 81′)
6.) Ibrahim Sangaré
15.) Érick Gutíerrez
7.) Xavi Simons (Madueke 80′)
21.) Anwar El Ghazi (de Jong 45′)
11.) Cody Gakpo (c) (Mauro Júnior 84′)
PSV Eindhoven subs:
16.) Joël Drommel
24.) Boy Waterman
4.) Armando Obispo
2.) Ki-Jana Hoever
3.) Jordan Teze
8.) Marco van Ginkel
17.) Mauro Júnior
37.) Richard Ledezma
20.) Guus Til
10.) Noni Madueke
27.) Johan Bakayoko
9.) Luuk de Jong
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu (White 74′)
16.) Rob Holding (Gabriel Jesus 64′)
12.) William Saliba
3.) Kieran Tierney (Gabriel 74′)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Partey 56′)
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c) (Saka 57′)
21.) Fábio Vieira
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Eddie Nketiah
31.) Karl Jakob Hein
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
17.) Cédric Soares
5.) Thomas Partey
89.) Bradley Ibrahim
72.) Matthew Smith
44.) Cătălin Cîrjan
24.) Reiss Nelson
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Gabriel Jesus
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