CAPTAIN XHAKA SENDS ARSENAL THROUGH
Arsenal continued their perfect home record this season with a 1 - 0 win over PSV Eindhoven
on Thursday night in North London.
Despite making six changes from the win over Leeds on Sunday, Mikel Arteta’s side reached
the knockout stages with two matches to spare in this season’s group stage.
The Gunners started well against a PSV side who were playing more negatively than they
typically do, sitting in behind the ball and allowing Arsenal to work early opportunities for Granit Xhaka and Kieran Tierney.
Xavi Simons blazed a shot over the crossbar from twenty yards with PSV’s only real chance of
the half, before Arsenal mounted a strong finish to the opening 45 minutes. Gabriel Jesus
almost latched onto a beautiful cross from Fabio Vieira, but couldn’t quite get the decisive touch.
After the break it was more of the same from Arteta’s team, with Saka and Jesus forcing savesfrom Walter Benitez in the PSV goal. On what was a disappointing night for the Dutch visitors,their supporters arguably provided more highlights than their players, making an awesomenoise through the night.
It was just after a low shot from Xavi Simons was saved by Matt Turner that the Gunners finallyfound the breakthrough, with Granit Xhaka expertly steering home Tomiyasu’s cross from theright hand side. It was the third goal of the season already for the Swiss international, with all three coming at home.
Bukayo Saka and substitute Gabriel Martinelli both forced good saves from Benitez as Arsenal pushed for a second but in the end the goal from Xhaka was enough to get the points for the Premier League leaders.
The win puts the Gunners straight through to the knockout stages, needing two points from theirremaining two games to secure top spot in the group. This is vital as group winners can now skip the play-off round in the Europa League, instead advancing directly to the last 16.
Whilst Arteta was delighted with the overall performance from his team, he couldn’t resist
heaping the praise on his vice captain, who led the side to victory on Thursday night, wearing the armband until club captain Odegaard came on for Fabio Vieira.
Rotation is always key for a side competing in Europa and the Premier League, and Arteta
struck a fantastic balance. Despite making six changes, he showed off the depth of this Arsenal team, with quality players such as Kieran Tierney and Fabio Vieira being brought in.
This is an area where Arsenal have struggled in previous seasons, but a productive transfer
window seems to be paying off just as much in the Europa League as it has in the Premier
Next up for the Gunners is a trip to St Mary’s to play Southampton on Sunday. The Saints
climbed out of the bottom three with a 0 - 1 derby win away to Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
Dropped points for Tottenham and Chelsea this week leave Arsenal four points clear of third
place with a game in hand. Regardless of title talk, a return to the Champions League is looking more and more likely every week for Arteta’s Gunners.