A near perfect start to our Europa League campaign saw Eddie Nketiah and debutant Marquinhos both grab a goal and an assist each. Mikel Arteta made seven changes to the side that lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, which was to be expected as the Europa League is a good opportunity for younger players and back up players to get their time to shine. We saw a senior debut for Marquinhos after some success with the U21s and Matt Turner also made his debut and was unlucky not to come away with a clean sheet after Nketiah conceded a penalty.
Having made seven changes, it understandably took the Gunners a little while to settle into the game and a shaky start saw Turner defenceless after a back pass from Gabriel went wrong, but luckily the shot from Tosin only hit the post. It didn’t take us long to respond to this, though, after a cross from Nketiah found Marquinhos who put it in the back of the net. It was emotional to see what this meant to him, as he fell to his knees and even began to cry as his teammates celebrated his debut goal on his debut performance. This was all allowed by a stunning ball from Vieira into Nketiah who has impressed in the CM position following Partey and Elneny’s absence through injuries.
Shortly after, we had a few good chances with Vieira coming close as he calmly flicked the ball over Yanick Brecher but he made just a bit too much contact with the ball and it bounced on top of the bar. Granit Xhaka also forced the keeper into a good stop as he smashed the ball towards the goal. We dominated possession throughout the first half but failed to execute in the final third and our narrow lead was undone by a silly mistake. However, just two minutes before half time, Nketiah made a rash clearance which resulted in contact with Fidan Aliti, and the referee awarded the penalty which was taken by Kryeziu, who sent Turner the wrong way and equalised for Zürcih. Despite not playing at home, the Zürich fans were incredibly vocal which undeniably helped the team to build momentum.
At half time, news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away meaning both sides lined up for a minute’s silence before the game resumed. We returned dominating the second half much like we had in the first half, forcing Zürich to play out from the back and they were even struggling to leave their own half. However, Eddie soon made up for his previous indiscretion when he scored the winner at 62 minutes. Marquinhos provided an excellent cross to the back post, which Eddie headed low into the ground to open his scoring for the 22/23 campaign, much to the delight of the travelling fans who were sat just behind the goal. Matt Turner was forced into a beautiful save to deny a Zürich equaliser through a n Ivan Santini header, but we took all three points and topped the group, as the PSV vs Bodø/Glimt game finished all square at 1 -1 thanks to goals from Albert Frønbæk and Cody Gakpo.
This game was very much reminiscent of the Manchester United game, where we dominated possession but, due to our lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, we only managed to maintain a narrow lead. Moving forward, it is vital that our strikers are more alert in front of goal and manage to execute the goals we need to win, after all, games aren’t won by dominating. If we carry on making matches harder than they need to be by not putting the game to bed early on, which we are more than capable of, it will continue to leave us vulnerable to a come back, like we saw today and like we saw in both matches against Aston Villa and Fulham.
It is uncertain as to whether the Premier League matches will go ahead this weekend following the news of the Queen’s passing, however if it does we will be going head to head with Everton, who currently sit sixteenth in the table and have failed to win a game so far this season. This win in the Europa League will have boosted our knocked confidence and will set us well on the way to another Premier League win, whether it be this weekend or next, and in my opinion we should be confident going into the PSV game next Thursday.
Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson