Gunners blow away PSV on return to the big time
Arsenal 4 (Saka 8, Trossard 20, Jesus 38, Odegaard 70)
PSV Eindhoven 0
Arsenal blew away PSV Eindhoven on their return to the Champions League this evening.
Goals from Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus and skipper Martin Odegaard gave the Gunners a thumping 4-0 victory.
It was a performance like few others even last season. Arsenal, playing the swift passing football we have become used to under Arteta, sweeping aside PSV in a first-half of chance after chance.
But this was also something else. It was a performance of anger, a release of pent-up frustration built over six-and-a-half long years away from Europe’s top table - which began with Arsene Wenger’s long goodbye and is ending with a new dawn under the Spaniard.
The home side’s play was as fine as it was at any stage last season. Flowing moves finished off with sublime finishes time and again.
But Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko were also flying into tackles like their lives depended on it – with a nastiness rarely seen under Arteta.
Some will dismiss Dutch opposition. And it’s true they are no Manchester City – not even Bayern or Real.
But this is a PSV team blessed with talent. Luuk De Jong and Johan Bakayoko just two lovely players who were hardly given a kick this evening.
The Gunners played like wounded animals – affronted by the absence of this competition for a few years after almost taking it for granted for so many.
Maybe they needed the absence to reignite the passion. Elimination in the knockout stages in those painful last few Wenger years was as predictable as qualification for the tournament in the first place. Almost a case of familiarity breeding contempt.
But there was no such problem this evening. Arsenal took the lead after just eight minutes. They worked the ball to Saka on the right, who fed Odegaard. The skipper’s shot was saved by Walter Benitez in the PSV goal, but Saka was first to the rebound to tap home.
In a lightning fast start they could have doubled their lead just two minutes later, Jesus getting his shot wrong when well placed, before PSV had appeals for a penalty kick waved away at the other end – VAR seeing no handball.
Arsenal continued to push. Trossard, whose winning goal on Sunday at Everton earned him a starting place this evening, teeing up Odegaard for another shot, again saved by Benitez.
But the PSV defence could hold out no longer. Soon Jesus nicked the ball away from his marker on halfway, sped away from the trailing PSV defence and fed Saka down the right. Saka then squared the ball to the onrushing Trossard, whose first-time shot found the bottom right corner of the net.
PSV were stunned. The Gunners were completely dominant – Jesus could have made it 3-0 and game completely over shortly afterwards, seeing a shot again saved by Benitez.
At the other end Eindhoven really were feeding on the rarest of scraps. A half-chance came from the left foot of Bakayoko on 30 minutes, but his shot was comfortably wide.
But soon enough Jesus did get his goal. And what a stunner it was. Trossard crossed from the left, Jesus controlled instantly, and fired the ball back across the goal into the top right-hand corner.
The PSV fans’ drummer finally silenced. At least for a while. The home fans almost stunned.
The Gunners started the second period just as impressively. PSV had the first half-chance. However it was really only that.
Bakayoko’s curling effort easily held by David Raya, again starting in goal ahead of the unfortunate Aaron Ramsdale.
Arteta was even afforded the luxury of taking off two of the star performers – Zinchenko and Trossard – after less than an hour, such was his side’s superiority. Saka, Jesus and Declan Rice soon followed, with Spurs on Sunday to come.
But despite the changes, the Gunners kept coming. Before his departure, Jesus could have made it 4-0. Substitute Reiss Nelson found Kai Havertz, whose centre was flicked just wide by the Arsenal number 9.
But soon it was four. And Odegaard deserved his goal. Havertz broke away and was roared on by a crowd desperate for his season to ignite. It didn’t quite happen for Havertz, but Odegaard finished the move in style – a low shot from the edge of the box making it 4-0.
This was the perfect start back in the big time for the Gunners. Familiarity may have bred contempt. But absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Teams: Arsenal: Raya, Saliba, White, Gabriel, Saka (Vieira 68), Odegaard, Jesus (Smith Rowe 69), Trossard (Nelson 58), Havertz, Zinchenko (Tomiyasu 58), Rice (Jorginho 76)
PSV: Benitez, Teze, Bella-Kotchap (Ramalho 76), Lang (Vertessen 76), Dest, De Jong (Pepi 90), Bakayoko (Lozano 66), Boscagli, Schouten, Veerman, Saibari (Tillman 66)