Well that was like rolling back the years last night, wasn’t it? What I mean by that is that it was Arsenal back in the Champions League, the music blaring, the light show, but also, the kind of performance we used to routinely take for granted.
That felt like the kind of game that we used to do in the Champions League against a Sporting Lisbon, Porto, or another such side. We’d turn up, we’d have superiority over our opponents, we’d get a bunch of goals, all of which were perfectly timed to make it a perfect start to our Champions league campaign. Well, everything except the fact it absolutely bucketed it down the whole evening. And as a result the TFL Met Line train basically gave up on us on the journey home.
I say ‘us’ because The Management made her first game of the season with me and despite all of the rain and general weather unpleasantness, by all accounts she seemed to have a lovely ol’ time. I think she thinks this football malarkey is easy; she only seems to watch us batter teams and last season it was Leicester at home that was her choice. So when Bukayo Saka put us in front within ten minutes, she gave me a little wink and a nod to say “told you – going to be an easy night”.
And by all accounts it was. From kick off we dominated pretty much the entire game. There was a few moments in which they threatened, but defensively we snuffed out pretty much any threat that PSV offered and at the back Saliba and Gabriel were once again imperious. The second goal from an excellent Trossard at a nice time in the first half came around 12 minutes later was expertly well taken and once again it was Saka bolstering his season stats by providing a side pass in to the path for the grateful Trossard to sweep home. There’s no doubt we miss Martinelli and his raw pace and power, but Trossard is a little magician on the ball and he followed up his Everton heroics with another fine finish to make this first CL game in seven years feel like it was never truly going to be in doubt.
That’s because it wasn’t really and that is why I say the goals were perfectly timed. In any match if you ask me what sort of game would make me feel at ease and comfortable the most, I’d tell you:
- Get an early goal in the first ten minutes
- Get a second pretty early on in that second half
- Maybe one before half time, or just after – I’m not picky
- One midway through the second half.
And that’s pretty much what we did. The third goal was once again Trossard, but this time I thought his run was good, the touch to bring the ball out of the sky was excellent, then to float that ball perfectly for Gabriel Jesus to kill the ball dead before slamming it home, was great to see. That passage of play happened right in front of me and it is when you watch that play out live and just yards in front of you, you realise just how elite these top level footballers are. The ball out from the back was brilliant, but Trossard had just seconds to control, then find a man at the back post. I was watching the play in front of me, I had a better view than Trossard, yet I STILL couldn’t picture the ball to Gabriel Jesus. That is a mark of genius and we are so lucky to have these players. And to think that some of the guys who played yesterday like Trossard are ROTATION options as well!
Halftime came, a beverage was consumed, then it was back out to the wet for the second half and because the game was done, it was more about control and dominance than humiliating our opponents. The team still pressed and Odegaard’s finish was impressive to add another cherry on this flavoursome cake, but in that second half it very much felt like it was a case of control and ball dominance to see out the game and keep the clean sheet. And that is why I think Arteta loves Kai Havertz. he was better last night, albeit not spectacular, but what he does offer is control. He had the second highest passing accuracy behind Ben White and I think that is the kind of guy Arteta adores. He wants his teams to suffocate opponents. He wants football matches to be boring once they are won and if that means you have a team of players who never lose the ball, then that is perfect for him. Remember the quote about 600,000 passes (or similar to that number) after the Watford game? That was what he wanted from that second half and that is exactly what he got.
And I suspect that is why we are seeing a changing of the guard in goal. Even The Management was surprised not to see Ramsdale starting but Arteta wants control, dominance and assuredness. Raya exudes that. He didn’t have a lot to do but what he did do he did with ease and you can see why we might see that changing of the guard. It doesn’t mean it isn’t uncomfortable for me and I kind of secretly hope that Arteta is true to his words and starts to chop and change our ‘keepers around depending on the game, but I am not convinced at all. Perhaps Arteta has spoken to them both and said that he’s going to do matches in ‘blocks’ of games, but it just feels the same as the Leno situation where Ramsdale took the starting gloves off of him, so I’m thinking that might be it for Rammers. Sadly.
We don’t have enough data points yet though, it has to be said and I think once we get to a dozen matches in to the season I suspect we’ll have a better idea of Arteta’s intentions. But right now it does feel as though a decision has been made and I’d be surprised if we saw Ramsdale in for the North London Derby on Sunday.
But that’s a worry for another day. What we can be happy about no is that there were no drama’s in our first Champions league game against what might be seen as the strongest other team in the group (Sevilla haven’t started the season that great in La Liga and Lens are probably seen as the underdogs in the group), so we have to be pleased with the efforts of the team.
The attention and focus now moves to the big one on Sunday: The Scum at home. More on that over the coming days.