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Gunners do enough, win Europa League group

Gunners do enough, win Europa League group

Arsenal beat FC Zurich 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night to ensure top spot in Group A of the Europa League, and a bye into the last 16 of the competition.

The win ensures the Gunners successfully avoid having to navigate a playoff matchup against one of the sides dropping out of the Champions League. The win also provides a boost going into this Sunday’s derby against Chelsea.

Mikel Arteta’s men started slower than expected and faced early pressure from the visitors who seemed a trickier, and more attacking, proposition than when the two sides last met in Switzerland.

However, a brilliant first-half effort from Kieran Tierney settled the tie. Arsenal weren’t at their best, and had to survive a disallowed goal 20 minutes from the end to secure the victory.

Positives

Three points, no injuries and a clean sheet meant it was a case of job done for Arsenal. Bukayo Saka returned to action, too, which delighted the home crowd.

Negatives

It’s now eight games without a goal for Arsenal’s strikeforce, which will be something of a concern for Arteta. Gabriel Jesus‘s performance was full of energy, but it’s not quite clicking for the forwards right now.

Manager Rating

7 — Arteta rotated his squad with the Chelsea game in mind, so he will have been pleased that his lineup came through with the win. He will, however, have expected more goals, but the energy and fluidity wasn’t always there. He might also have been frustrated at having to use quite so many experienced players to help see out the win.

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Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Aaron Ramsdale, 6 — Zurich offered more going forward than when the two sides last met, but Ramsdale will have few quieter games than this one. Claimed a teasing cross in the second half.

DF Ben White, 7 — Combined well with Nelson in the opening goal and his overlapping runs in general were a useful outlet. As ever, he was aggressive in his defending. Made way before the end.

DF Rob Holding, 5 — Arsenal didn’t always look comfortable when Zurich went forward, and Holding was among those nervy at the back. He did, though, take the captain’s armband after Jesus left the field.

DF Gabriel, 6 — A quiet night for the defender who did little wrong, but who was booked towards the end for… winning a header.

DF Kieran Tierney, 7 — Displayed incredible technique to keep his foot over the ball and thunder home his first goal since December 2021 to open the scoring. As ever, a useful outlet on the left.

MF Mohamed Elneny, 6 — Returned to action for the first time since early August and reminded the boss that he can provide a sense of calm in front of the back four. That said, Arsenal looked a different side when Thomas Partey came on.

MF Albert Lakonga, 6 — Given more licence to get forward, the Belgian took time to feel his way into the game. He was more involved in the second half, but didn’t do enough to secure a starting berth each week.

MF Reiss Nelson, 6 — Nelson kept his place following the 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest, and he delivered a perfectly weighted pass in the build-up to the opening goal. He later got into a good position in front of goal himself, but couldn’t control the ball.

MW Fabio Vieira, 6 — The youngster was integral to the opening goal, for it was from his thunderous effort from the edge of the area that the ball was blocked, falling to Tierney. Vieira got forward plenty of times. First, he misjudged an attempted bicycle kick from a Tierney cross, before he saw another shot blocked from around the penalty spot. Lively, but a bit erratic.

FW Gabriel Jesus, 8 — Wearing the captain’s armband for the first time, Jesus was integral to Arsenal’s attacking intentions. He was everywhere, and had the first shot of the match, which was blocked by Cheick Conde. He was also involved in the goal when his cross eventually ended up at Tierney’s left boot. Still, it’s another game without a goal for the Brazilian.

FW Edward Nketiah, 6 — As Arsenal ramped up the pressure after breaking the deadlock, Nketiah did his best to find the scoresheet. He saw one shot well saved and a driving run blocked. Ultimately, while he didn’t find the net, his movement pulled Zurich’s defence around.

Substitutions

MF Thomas Partey (Elneny, 62′), 7 — With Elneny tiring, Partey was brought on to raise the tempo and get the Gunners over the line. He interrupted the play expertly, and looked a class above his predecessor.

FW Bukayo Saka (Jesus, 62′), 5 An obvious change with Chelsea looming at the weekend, Saka was greeted to loud cheers from the home support. He was quiet thereafter, but the minutes in the legs will help.

MF Martin Odegaard (Vieira, 73′), N/A — The Norwegian seemed to be coasting after he came on, perhaps conscious of the derby at the weekend.

DF Takehiro Tomiyasu (White, 73), N/A — Didn’t get enough time to settle into the game, the Japanese international picking up a knock not long after coming on.

DF Cedric Soares (Tomiyasu, 88), N/A — Called on to help close out the game in the face of Tomiyasu’s knock.

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