Arsenal comfortably dispatched PSV Eindhoven 1-0 at the Emirates to clinch a spot in the next round of the Europa League. The Gunners technically haven’t won the group yet, but they’ll need just one point from two matches or to have PSV drop a point to guarantee finishing top.
I was a bit disappointed with the visitors, honestly. I thought they’d prove a sterner test. You expected them to look to play on the counter, but it felt like a worse version of Antonio Conte surrender-ball. The defending wasn’t as good, and the countering wasn’t as threatening. They were well overmatched.
Arsenal generated nearly 3 xG, and on a better finishing day, would have won by multiple goals. Bukayo Saka was twice in on goal but couldn’t convert. Gabriel Jesus worked himself into good positions for shots several times but couldn’t find the killer touch. PSV, on the other hand, managed four shot attempts, just one of which was on target. It forced a decent save out of Matt Turner, but it was a save you absolutely expect him to make.
Don’t let the mild criticism of Saka and Jesus’ finishing on the evening give you the wrong idea on their performance. They were fantastic, by far the two best players on the pitch. It looked as if at the start of the second half, the pair said to each other “right, let’s pick it up a notch” and took over. The cut through the PSV defense with ease and raised the level of the entire Arsenal team.
It didn’t matter that the Arsenal attackers couldn’t find the back of the net because Granit Xhaka, Arsenal legend, continued his remontada. The Swiss midfielder tickled the onion bag with a first-touch, right-footed volley from just inside the 18-yard box. To borrow a phrase from Ray Hudson, some foreshadowing for ‘ya.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the brilliance that was Hudson’s announcing call. Sometimes his over-the-top, ridiculous wordsmithing and explosive energy can be tiresome, but he was circumspect today. Highlights included:
- “He’s as slippery as a trout in a dishwasher” to describe Gabriel Jesus wriggling free of defenders in the box.
- “As cool as a polar bear’s backside” to describe Ruud van Nistelrooy in the technical area.
- “As agile as a squirrel on a telephone wire” to describe Bukayo Saka.
- “Dispatched with the smoothness of a trombone slide” to describe Granit Xhaka’s volleyed goal.
- “The personification of a terrabyte of skill in a nanosecond” to describe a replay of the goal.
It was an enjoyable evening at the Emirates. Arsenal controlled the match, didn’t have to work too hard, and claimed the points. Next up: Southampton on Sunday.