The lyrics of the Champions League’s hymn were featured in the matchday programme due to the intense anticipation at Arsenal for their first Champions League appearance in six years. The opening bars of “Zadok The Priest” were clearly cheered across a sodden Emirates Stadium as rain fell, providing a cathartic release of the sorrow caused by their protracted absence from Europe’s top club stage. Few people joined in on the singing, but there was an audible cheer as it began.
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A Arsenal’s Night of Redemption
The Gunners were keen to take advantage of their return to prominence, and they did not dissapoint, strolling to a 4-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday with a confidence usually reserved for Champions League veterans. However, none of the starters from their last game, a 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich at home in March 2017, are still with the team.
Since just one player from that team is still alive today, midfielder Mohamed Elneny, and Mikel Arteta is a first-time Champions League manager, the home team may have been excused if they approached this prestigious event with some trepidation. Despite the adrenaline pumping through their veins, none were on display.
Embracing the Occasion
In his post-game press conference, Arteta praised the atmosphere and Champions League music, saying, “It was great to see them.” Before that, everyone was showing signs of emotion. Yes, I was rather emotional. I was quite enthusiastic about it. I was quite aroused, but I tried to control myself and hide it.
“The journey began last year when we earned the right to participate in this competition, which is where we must be as a club,” the club member said. To maintain this level, we must now generate what is necessary.I believe we handled that vigour and feeling well. I’m talking about the fun. We must compete at this level, of course, but you must also take pleasure in these times, as I believe they will remain in your mind.
Arsenal displayed the kind of merciless efficiency in front of goal that Arteta has lamented in the team’s Premier League season thus far, despite the fact that PSV’s defence was unmistakably Europa League.
Since they haven’t been able to score on their advantages, games have been closer than Arteta hoped, but they surged out to a 3-0 lead after just 38 minutes. minutes thanks to goals from Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, and Gabriel Jesus. PSV was unable to match Arsenal’s firepower, which allowed Arteta to go on autopilot in the second half and make a number of adjustments in preparation for Sunday’s north Jesus, Saka, and defensive midfielder Declan Rice will all be rested for the London derby.
On the stroke of 70 minutes, Martin degaard added a fourth goal, blasting home from the outside of the box in a move that is quickly coming to define his game.PSV, who played Arsenal last season in the Europa League group stage, provide a gauge of Arsenal’s recent development. The Eredivisie team won the rematch 2-0 after losing by a single goal in north London in October.
Since then, Arsenal has made significant investments, bringing in Trossard in January, Rice in the summer, and Kai Havertz in the autumn (all of whom began their careers here). The final outcome was a commanding victory that provides a strong basis on which they can construct their Group B campaign.
The Goalkeeping Conundrum
David Raya’s goalkeeping choice might have garnered more attention on another night. This season, Arteta has emphasised the possibility of switching up his goalies, but the fact that Raya began this game for the second time in a row is concerning for Aaron Ramsdale.
Here, Ramsdale was quickly disqualified from consideration as Arsenal’s cup goalie. The hierarchy will be clearly defined if Raya starts against Tottenham Hotspur and Ramsdale is substituted for next Wednesday’s EFL Cup match against Brentford.
The main factor in Raya’s selection by Arsenal was his dexterity with the ball. The Spanish international signed a season-long loan agreement with Brentford, with an option for a permanent transfer that the Gunners will almost definitely exercise. In this setting, the opening action of the game felt significant.
Raya attempted to begin an Arsenal assault after receiving the ball from Jesus, which allowed the backline to start substantially higher up the pitch. Midfielder Havertz played 90 minutes in one of his more encouraging performances while wearing an Arsenal shirt, but Raya finished with 58 touches, surpassing him.
Arteta refused to debate the choice any further, but gave the following justification: “A belief that I had in the team I wanted to play against the expected opponent — not only that, but I made the other changes for the same reason.”
Arteta once tried to prepare his team for playing Liverpool at Anfield by playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ during practise, but instead lost. This led to mild jeers from certain places. Several team members reportedly made the decision to play the Champions League anthem at the gym earlier this week, mostly in fun, according to Jesus. Whether it was a joke or not, Arsenal this time appeared to belong.
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