Back in the Champions League, Arsenal seem to belong

Arsenal’s enthusiasm for their first Champions League appearance in six years was so high that they included the text of the competition anthem in the program of the day. Not many sang “Zadok The Priest” when the time came, but there was a standing ovation when the first bars sounded at the rain-drenched Emirates Stadium, which was a cathartic relief from the pain suffered during his long absence from the main club in Europe. scene.

The Gunners were determined to exploit their momentous moment and did not disappoint by scoring a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, achieved thanks to the authority usually associated with experienced Champions League campaigns. However, none of the current players after their previous departure (a 5-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich in March 2017) remains at the club.

In fact, there has been only one surviving member of the team since that evening (midfielder Mohamed Elneny), and with a Champions League rookie coach like Mikel Arteta, the home team could be forgiven if they approached this much-vaunted occasion with a little hesitation. None of them were on display, despite the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins.

“It was great to see the atmosphere and music of the Champions League,” Arteta said at his post-match press conference. “Everyone used to be a little excited. I was [emotional], yes. I was very excited about it. I wanted to be in control and not show it too much, but I was very excited.

“The journey started last year when we won the right to participate in this competition, where we should be as a club. Now we have to produce what we have to produce to stay at this level.

“I think we used this energy and emotions correctly. Speaking of enjoyment. Obviously we have to compete at this level, but you have to enjoy [these moments] because I think in the end this is going to be a memoir.”

Although it must be said that PSV’s defense was clearly in the Europa League, Arsenal demonstrated that ruthless efficiency in the fight against the goal, which Arteta complained about during the club’s campaign in the Premier League to date.

The matches were more intense than Arteta would have liked, due to the fact that they failed to realize their superiority in the score, but they achieved a 3-0 advantage in 38 minutes when Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossar and Gabriel Jesus hit the net.three well-executed strikes. . PSV did not react to Arsenal’s firepower and this allowed Arteta to switch to autopilot in the second half, making a number of changes taking into account Sunday’s North London derby, including breaks for Jesus, Saki and midfielder Declan Rice. Martin Edegor took advantage of even more freedom in dangerous areas to score the fourth goal in the 70th minute, shooting from the edge of the penalty area, which is quickly becoming his trademark style.

PSV offers an assessment of Arsenal’s recent development, given that these two teams faced each other in the Europa League group stage last season. In October last year, the Eredivisie team almost lost by one goal in North London and won the second leg with a score of 2-0.

Since then, Arsenal has invested heavily: Trossard arrived in January, Rice and Kai Havertz (who started here) joined in the summer. The end result was a victory that laid a solid foundation on which they can build their task in Group B.

On another night, David Raya’s selection in goal would have been a more debated issue. Arteta played with the prospect of changing goalkeepers this season, but for Aaron Ramsdale, it is ominous that Raya starts here for the second match in a row.

Any suggestion that Ramsdale could have been a goalkeeper in Arsenal’s cup competition was quickly refuted here. If Raya starts the match against Tottenham Hotspur, and Ramsdale takes part in the EFL Cup match next Wednesday in Brentford, the hierarchy will be finally established.

Kicking skills were the main reason Arsenal chose the Spanish Internacional, agreeing to Brentford’s down payment for one season before opting for a permanent move, which the Gunners would almost certainly agree to. The first action of the game turned out to be touching in this context.

Jesus returned the ball straight to Raya, who then tried to launch an Arsenal attack, allowing the back line to start noticeably higher up the pitch. Raya finished with 58 touches, more than midfielder Havertz, who played 90 minutes in one of his most encouraging performances in a Gunners shirt.

Not wanting to go into further discussions about this decision, Arteta explained it as “a belief I had in the team that I wanted to play against an expected opponent; moreover, I made other changes for the same reason.”

In some circles, Arteta was teased for once playing “You’ll never walk alone” during a training session in an attempt to set up his players for a match against Liverpool at Anfield, only to lose later. According to Jesus, several team members decided to play the Champions League anthem in the gym earlier this week, partly as a joke.

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