PSV Eindhoven (0) 2 Arsenal (0) 0
Europa League, Group Stage Matchday 5 of 6
Philipsstadion, Frederiklaan 10a, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Thursday, 27th October 2022. Kick-off time: 5.45pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Rob Holding, William Saliba, Kieran Tierney; Martin Ødegaard(c), Albert Sambi Lokonga, Granit Xhaka; Fabio Vieira, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Ben White, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhães, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Cédric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Karl Hein, Catalin Cirjan, Tom Smith, Bradley Ibrahim
Yellow Cards: Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 70%
Referee: Marco Di Bello (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Alberto Tegoni (Italy), Davide Imperiale (Italy)
Fourth Official: Antonio Rapuano (Italy)
UEFA Referee Observer: Thomas Einwaller (Austria)
VAR Team at UEFA HQ, Nyon, Switzerland: VAR Massimiliano Irrati (Italy); AVAR Abdulkadir Bitigen (Turkey)
Although we have already technically qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League, it would be a major achievement if we could finish at the top of Group A, and if we were able to defeat PSV Eindhoven tonight, then we will. However, at the time of writing, we have won each of our last three matches in the Europa League without conceding a goal; the last time that we won four games in a row without conceding was the five matches played between August to October 2007; let us hope that we can carry on this noble tradition this evening!
The opening exchanges of this match tonight were fairly even with both sides trying out each other’s defences, but it was not until the eighth minute that a real chance came, and that was in the form of a very good Xavi Simons shot from outside the penalty area, which Aaron Ramsdale got his fingertips to, which neutralised the effort. We then started to push the ball around quite sucessfully, dominating possession but not making too many clearcut chances, although Gabriel Martinelli, looking to mark his hundredth first-class Arsenal appearance with a goal, registered our first attempt, but his shot was closed down and the deflection saw the ball loop on to the roof of the goal, sadly. On the nineteenth minute, our collective hearts were in our mouths when Cody Gakpo got the ball into our net with a clever chip over Aaron Ramsdale following a quick counter-attack, but the linesman’s flag was raised to prematurely end the home side’s celebrations, thankfully. The disallowed goal appeared to galvanise us into life, and a couple of minutes later, a superb Eddie Nketiah shot that looked to be a certain goal was acrobatically saved by goalkeeper Walter Benitez, who appeared to hang motionless in the air as he flipped the ball over the bar for an Arsenal corner. Just after Eddie Nketiah’s superb attempt, the PSV supporters were on their feet applauding one of their supporters who recently passed away, along with the sound of fireworks exploding outside the stadium too, whilst some fans movingly held up a banner in tribute to one of their own, which is a good thing to see on this rather chilly Eindhoven evening. On the half hour, we looked like we were caught napping when Anwar El Ghazi was fortunately unable to find Xavi Simons as the home side cunningly created a two-on-one situation down our left-hand side, but it came to nothing, which was a relief as it could have been a rather sticky situation for us. There is no doubt that both sides are certainly trying to play neat and tidy football, but both sets of defences are concentrating and everyone is holding firm with ten minutes of the first half remaining. We saw some first class defending from Takehiro Tomiyasu, who professionally handled PSV striker Cody Gakpo really well following a ball over the top, as he got the right side of him and shielded the ball until Aaron Ramsdale could collect it safely, and on the thirty-eighth minute, Gabriel Martinelli found space inside the PSV penalty area to control a cross on his chest, but he rushed his shot and blasted the ball yards over the bar miles high and into the stand behind the PSV goal; it was a real chance for him to score, but the ball just took a wee bit too long to drop for Gabriel Martinelli to get some real purchase on it. Three minutes before the break, the home side got the ball into the Arsenal net for the second time in this match, but fortunately VAR adjudged it to be cancelled because of an offside infringement. In injury time, there was some real panicky moments when it looked like we were going open the scoring, but captain Martin Ødegaard’s strong shot sailed aimlessly over Walter Benitez’s crossbar which ensured that both teams went into the half-time break honours even.
A much anticipated second half got underway, with no changes from Mikel Arteta at this point, and within a minute of the restart, an early corner for us came to nothing, but the home side could not get the ball clear and Eddie Nketiah took hold of the situation and whacked a low first-time strike just wide of the goal, whilst a minute or so later, Kieran Tierney cut in from the left and his clever, dipping shot went just over the crossbar; and then suddenly, the home side caught us cold but fortunately Aaron Ramsdale made a great double stop to deny Xavi Simons and then Joey Veerman scoring, but he was unable to prevent Joey Veerman opening the scoring ten minutes after the restart when Luuk de Jong laid the ball off to Joey Veerman on the edge of the box, who brought the ball under control and unleashed a thunderous strike that left Aaron Ramsdale with no chance in keeping it out of the back of the net. Mikel Arteta immediately made two substitutions; Martin Ødegaard and Albert Sambi Lokonga were replaced by Thomas Partey and Bukayo Saka. It did not make a difference, as a couple of minutes later, the home side made it two nil when, from a corner, Aaron Ramsdale came out to meet it, but completely missed with his punch, allowing Luuk de Jong to head the ball into an open net; and then just after the restart, they nearly made it three nil when Cody Gakpo got the ball into our net, but thankfully it was cancelled out for offside. Mikel Arteta then replaced Rob Holding for Gabriel Jesus, and when things contiued to look even more dangerous, Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu were replaced by Ben White and Gabriel, with the hope to get something out of this match, but despite building pressure on the PSV goal, we could not find a way through their defence, which is incredibly frustrating to say the least. Jarrad Branthwaite (on loan from Everton) produced a superb last-ditch tackle to deny an almost certain Arsenal goal, nipping in to beat Gabriel Jesus to the ball inside the six-yard box. With ten minutes of the match remaining, deputy captain Granit Xhaka looked to offer Xavi Simons help in getting off the pitch, which inevitably did not go down well with the PSV players. Both players got themselves a yellow card, and after a prolonged farewell Xavi Simons eventually departed the pitch after all that pointless chaos. We had a penalty shout turned down by referee Marco Di Bello when Bukayo Saka was so obviously tripped up in the penalty area, and as time wore on, our chances of getting anything at all out of this match were decreasing by the minute. In the three minutes injury time, despite one or two chances to grab a late consolation goal, it all came to nothing, and a disappointing performance ended in an inglorious defeat.
This terrible defeat at the Philipsstadion tonight means that we will have to wait until the final game against FC Zürich at the Emirates next Thursday to try and clinch top spot in Group A, where nothing but a win will do. Not wishing to be too maudlin about this, but if we do fail to win our last game in the group and PSV Eindhoven beat Bodø/Glimt in Norway, then we will face two extra games in the knockout round playoffs, where teams that finish third in the Champions League group stage, including Barcelona, drop into, and we really do not need that kind of pressure at all. Firstly, the positives (of which there are few); we had seventy per cent possession and it was only our second defeat across all competitions this season. The negatives? Not only were we poor out there tonight, but in the second half our defence appeared to buckle at times and it is to be remembered that we have important Premier League matches on the horizon against Nottingham Forest, Chelsea, Brighton and Hove Albion as well as Wolverhampton Wanderers, all before the World Cup break on 12th November, and the sooner we can put this game behind us and get back to strong winning ways the better for all of us (and Mikel Arteta too, of course).
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Nottingham Forest at the Emirates on Sunday, 30th October at 2.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon
Nice review, Steve. Very much the game I saw, more’s the pity.