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Arsenal vs. RC Lens match thread: wrap it up

The Gunners can clinch Group B at the Emirates.

Arsenal FC v RC Lens: Group B - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal host RC Lens at the Emirates in the Champions League with a chance to guarantee a place in the knockout stages. The Gunners need a point to ensure they advance out of Group B. If PSV lose to Sevilla, Arsenal go through regardless of the result at the Emirates. If PSV don’t win, Arsenal win the group with a result. Securing the top spot in the group this evening, would be fantastic for the Gunners and would go a long way towards easing the early December fixture congestion.

RC Lens aren’t going to roll over, however. The French side are tied with PSV for second in the group on 5 points (Arsenal have 9) and are eyeing a place in the knockout stages themselves. Lens downed the Gunners 2-1 in France in early October by defending deep and counterattacking effectively. The hosts needed three shots on target to score two goals. Elye Wahi was the dangerman, assisting the first goal and scoring the second.

Arsenal won’t be expecting much change in the visitor’s gameplan. The French side will sit back, force the Gunners to unlock their block, and look to hit on the break. It will be a much tougher ask, however, for RC Lens to replicate their home success at the Emirates. The French side were undoubtedly buoyed by the electric atmosphere created by their home supporters witnessing their first European match in decades. The crowd at the Emirates will be as hostile as Arsenal are on their home ground. The Gunners have scored 6 and conceded 0 in their two CL matches at the Emirates

I’ll be keeping a particular watch on Martin Ødegaard. He’s been limited this season by injuries, first a hip problem then concussion, and hasn’t been able to replicate his stellar form from last year. He’s been fine but not spectacular. He’s the straw that stirs the drink for the Gunners and one of the players most likely to unlock a stubborn opposing defense.

Bukayo Saka (surprise, surprise) is the other gamebreaker to watch. The star winger has three assists in the four Champions League matches this season and will want to mark the five year anniversary of his senior debut in style. Both Ødegaard and Saka will look to set up Gabriel Jesus, who has scored in all three of his Champions League appearance this season.

Set pieces are another area to keep an eye on. Thus far, Arsenal have scored all nine of their Champions League goals from open play (tied for the most in the competition) but present a significant threat from the dead ball. The Gunners have scored the most goals from set pieces in the Premier League (8) and should win a bevy of them against Lens’ deep setup.

Arsenal will be without Fabio Vieira, who will miss several weeks recovering from groin surgery. Thomas Partey, Jurrien Timber, and Emile Smith Rowe are all still out. Mikel Arteta recently said that both ESR and Partey could return in December, with the Englishman more likely to return earlier. Ben White, who has been nursing a muscle problem and trained on his own this week, is available for selection.

The visitors do not have any injury issues coming into the match.

Arsenal - Raya, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Rice, Havertz, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus

RC Lens - Samba, Danso, Abdul Samed, Sotoca, Wahi, Fulgini, Medina, Haidara, Gradit, Mendy, Frankowski

WHAT: Arsenal vs. RC Lens
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Wednesday, November 29th 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET | 9 pm BT
US TV: Streaming on Paramount+

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