An undeniably lacklustre performance saw the boys take all three points at home to PSV, meaning we are guaranteed to get through to the knockout stages, and only need one point next week at Eindhoven to secure first place in the group. The match saw a cracker from Xhaka, and a relatively strong team, with six changes from the starting XI that beat Leeds on Sunday, including Turner for Ramsdale, Holding, Tierney, Vieira, Sambi, and Eddie. Arguably, the narrow goal margin that secured our place in the knockout stages should have been higher, as we dominated possession and fired in over 25 attempts, seemingly just lacking the final pass to add more goals to the scoreline.
PSV seemed happy to sit back and allow us to pass the ball around, and at the 11th minute mark, we started our attempts on goal; before the 20th minute, Tierney, Xhaka, and Jesus all had good chances at goal. Tomiyasu worked fantastically to keep Gakpo in his pocket, preventing PSV’s star player from getting much involvement on the ball at all, all the way through the game. The first half ended goalless despite so many attempts from Arsenal, and it just felt like a matter of time until we made a breakthrough.
After the break, Jesus and Saka combined for a couple of fantastic efforts but on one occasion our number nine just couldn’t get enough on it. Arteta replaced Sambi and Vieira with Captain Ø, who just won the Norwegian Kniksens Hederspris, and Thomas Partey. Ødegaard was vital in the build up to Xhaka’s goal; it was played perfectly down the line by him into Tomiyasu, who clipped the ball back and Xhaka, who was left unmarked, had plenty of room to swing his right leg around it and fire it into the back of the net. We didn’t just sit back after this, though, as Saka forced the keeper into a good save, and a very tired-looking Jesus was replaced by Martinelli, as Tomiyasu was replaced by White. After those changes, Martinelli, Saka, and Eddie all had chances they couldn’t finish off and the game ended 1-0.
The squad definitely looked incredibly tired on the night. Jesus and Saka weren’t their usual selves as the latter failed to put away so many chances that he would have scored on his day. Xhaka was fantastic, scoring his third goal of the campaign already as he appears to be thriving in his new position under Arteta. This was definitely not the performance I think many of us expected from PSV, including Arteta, who, in my opinion, played an unnecessarily strong team despite fatigue. It will be interesting to see if they step up to the playing field at home next Thursday, knowing that this game could be the one to seal Arsenal’s fate and send us straight to the knockout stages starting at the beginning of March. My MOTM is again Xhaka, he has improved so much this season and it is so nice to see him love his club again.
Looking forward to Southampton on Sunday, I think Arteta will definitely be giving Jesus a break and giving Eddie some time in the Premier League as our opponents currently sit 14th with just one win in their last five. Saka I feel could also benefit from a much deserved break and we may see Marquinhos given a PL start. Both Turner and Ramsdale have been great this season and with our defence being so solid I think both have had it a lot easier than last season. Gabriel just signed a contract extension, so I fully expect to see him start and it should be a fantastic match with lots of young talent on show.
Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson