Arsenal opened their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 victory in Switzerland over F.C. Zurich. The Gunners thoroughly controlled the match but that one-goal margin had me nervous until the final whistle. All it needed was a solitary mistake to turn a professional outing into a poor result. But that mistake never came, and honestly, Matt Turner wasn’t really tested all match.
Not surprisingly for an XI that hasn’t played together much, it looked a bit disjointed from Arsenal all match. Final passes were off. Players didn’t quite know where their teammates would be. But the Arsenal’s overall quality and individual performances were enough to get the Gunners over the line.
It was an impressive debut for Marquinhos, who scored the first Arsenal goal and assisted on the second. He is physical, pacey, and direct. It was his tidy volley into the top corner that finished off a lightning-fast counter for the Gunners — seriously, it went from a blocked shot in the Arsenal area to the back of Zurich’s net in about 10 seconds. Fabio Vieira, who was also fantastic on the day, picked up a loose ball, took a nice touch to give himself room, and fired a ball over the top into space for Eddie Nketiah. Nketiah outran his mark, carried it up the pitch, and played an early cross that may or may not have been deflected, but it doesn’t much matter.
Marquinhos repaid the favor to Nketiah in the second half, with a pinpoint cross swung in from well outside the box. The Arsenal striker did really well with his headed finish too, nodding the ball down into the ground and between the keeper and the far post.
Sambi Lokonga quietly had a solid game. You can definitely see his potential, he just needs playing time and experience to smooth out some rough edges. He had a particularly lovely chip over the Zurich midfield and backline that fell perfectly for Vieira on the dead run, but the Portuguese midfielder’s dink over the keeper went just over the bar.
Takehiro Tomiyasu looks to be regaining his form. Having him fit and available will give Mikel Arteta another option to set up his side. Granit Xhaka continued his fine run of form. Kieran Tierney got forward well and had a great sliding shot-block. The only disappointment on the day was Matt Turner, who looked a bit uneasy with the ball at his feet, which is what we expected from him. Hopefully that improves with time.
All in all, it was a workman-like performance from the Gunners. They were supposed to win and they did without too much fuss or difficulty. Again, you’d like to see a more flattering scoreline, but Zurich didn’t offer much resistance. Their only goal came off a somewhat-dodgy penalty award, and they hardly troubled the Arsenal defense otherwise.
Now we wait to see whether the Premier League games will take place this weekend or if they’ll be postponed as part of the mourning for Queen Elizabeth’s passing.