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Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven CL Preview: Welcome back

Champions League football returns to the Emirates as Arsenal begin group stage play

Arsenal FC Training Session - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

After six long, frustrating seasons away from Europe’s premier club competition, Arsenal return to the Champions League on Wednesday night, signaling not only an overdue return to the storied contest, but the club’s return to the ranks of the game’s elite.

The Gunners entered the 22/23 season with aspirations of securing CL play and obliterated their goal when they found themselves in the title hunt late into the season before finishing second behind eventual treble winners Manchester City.

Wednesday night is poised to be an electric evening regardless of the competitor as Arsenal host PSV Eindhoven from the Dutch Eredivisie. Currently leading the league, PSV are an explosive side that can score in buckets, having scored 13 while conceding only once through four league matches so far. Quality of their opposition aside, PSV are an attack-minded team and may prove to bet the most potent threat the Gunners have faced all season.

Arsenal’s history with PSV goes back to as recently as last season’s Europa League group stage. Clearly, their fates are inexorably tied, as they find themselves facing off once again, this time in the group stages of the CL. Last season, the two sides split the ties as Arsenal topped the group. At the Emirates, the Gunners prevailed 1-0 through a late Granit Xhaka goal. Away from home, Arsenal fell 0-2.

For Arsenal to come out on top, they will need to contain the PSV attack. The Dutch league leaders like to attack through the middle, with midfielder Luuk de Jong their leading scorer this season. This is where Declan Rice will need to continue shining for the Gunners, as he has successfully done this season. His ability to disrupt opposition attacks has been tremendous, which makes the jobs of the center backs easier. He will be counted on to neutralize play before it gets a chance to develop into a serious threat, a specialty of his.

On the other side of the coin, Arsenal will need to finally find their shooting boots. Arsenal have suffocated the matches they have played, statistically. Where they lack, though, is putting the ball in the net, a frustrating trend after last season saw them set a club record for goals scored during a Premier League campaign. The Gunners have returned to the “boring, old Arsenal” that quietly dominated matches, necessitating the revival of the 1-0 to the Arsenal chant.

But we know that this team has goals in them. Their lack of production is a combination of several factors, but it is not for lack of chances. The first few matches also saw Arteta tinkering with lineups, testing out different tactics with the hopes of making Arsenal more unpredictable to opponents at the detriment of scoring at will. Now that the schedule is in full swing, the time for experimenting is over, and the goals need to start flowing, too.

The big question ahead of the match, and this season, is how Arteta manages the squad. The Gunners follow up Wednesday with the North London Derby on Sunday, and the fixture list doesn’t get any less congested as the season rolls on. Arsenal have already seen the injuries flare up with Gabriel Martinelli picking up a hamstring injury of unknown severity on Sunday, joining Jurrien Timber and Thomas Partey in the physio room.

Arteta has built a solid roster for this moment. Three matches a week are the standard for top clubs, so there is no reason to not play a first choice side. Rotations will happen as needed, but the Gunners are far better suited to withstand that than in years past. A strong start to the campaign will be a great statement of intent as the CL kicks off, and a boost of momentum as Arsenal host rivals Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.

No matter what happens, it just feels so good to be back.

WHAT: Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven
WHEN: Wednesday, September 20th, 3:00pm EST/11:00am PST/8:00pm GMT
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on the Paramount+ app.

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