Arsenal ticked every box in swatting aside PSV and the bar has been set… after seven long years out of the Champions League, this was a night to enrich the soul
- Arsenal dominated PSV to win 4-0 on their return to the Champions League
- It had been seven years since Gunners played at Europe’s top table
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off!
‘It was a beautiful night after such a long time,’ said an emotional Mikel Arteta.
It was the perfect night too for Arsenal. Their return to the Champions League could hardly have gone better. A 4-0 win to kickstart proceedings in a group they will expect to top come December.
Seven years these fans had waited. 2,388 days since their last Champions League game – a 5-1 defeat at home to Bayern in Arsene Wenger’s penultimate season in charge.
They have had European football since and even reached the Europa League final in 2019 but frankly, this is a competition that hits differently.
Not least in these parts where they had 19 successive Champions League campaigns under Wenger between 1998-99 and 2016-17.
Martin Odegaard (front), Gabriel Jesus (middle) and Bukayo Saka celebrate the Brazilian’s goal
Mikel Arteta’s men enjoyed a perfect night on the Gunners’ return to the Champions League
How long those years away from the famous Champions League anthem must have felt. The club even printed the lyrics to it in the match-day programme, just in case some had forgotten.
And when it hit, it felt like it always belonged. This was a night of emotion from when that music played to the final whistle. Arsenal’s intensity on the pitch was simply too much for a PSV side that had arrived in London, without a defeat this season.
‘We wanted to produce the right performance to win the game. It was great to see the atmosphere and the Champions League music. Everyone was getting a bit emotional before it,’ Arteta admitted post-match.
Perhaps it was fitting that Bukayo Saka got Arsenal’s first Champions League goal under Arteta, eight minutes in. Twelve minutes later, Saka teed up Leandro Trossard to double the advantage.
There is little doubt about Saka’s quality but for the 22-year-old, this was his arrival on Europe’s premier stage. ‘Back where he belong’ tweeted Saka post-match. This is certainly where he belongs.
When Gabriel Jesus, who had assisted Saka for the opener, powerfully drove past Walter Benitez for Arsenal’s third before half-time, the job was done.
The Brazilian joked post-match to Thierry Henry that it was a good warm-up. In truth, Jesus put on a show.
With a goal every 108 minutes in the Champions League, he possesses a better record than the likes Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema. This, his 21st goal in the competition, ensured that he scored on his Champions League debut for Arsenal, just like he did for Man City six years ago.
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Even the rain couldn’t dampen spirits on a night to enrich the soul on Wednesday
For the kid who would bunk off school to watch the Champions League when he was a kid in Brazil, it’s fair to say he is living his dream.
For those inside the ground, this was a night for the soul. Three goals up by half-time, the younger faces in the crowd must have been thinking what the fuss of the Champions League was all about.
Martin Odegaard added a delightful fourth after the break to decorate another expectional display by the skipper. Minutes later, the chants of Allez, Allez followed. A side filled with confidnece. A fanbase oozing with it.
Everton on Sunday had provided a tougher test and Tottenham this Sunday will provide an even sterner test. But sometimes it’s important to focus truly on the present.
As the final whistle went, one of the fans walked up the stairs besides the press box and shouted over to the media: ‘Easy peasy for the mighty Arsenal on their return to the Champions League!’’
At the least, Arsenal will have a couple more nights like these at the Emirates between now and the new year. Under Wenger, they exited the competition at the last 16 stage, seven seasons in a row.
The big occasion returned to Emirates Stadium and Arsenal will feel they can go deep into the competition this year
This Arsenal under Arteta will know they should go further. They will believe. No Arsenal side has ever won the European Cup and there is a long way to go before those conversations can even be entertained but quietly, that confidence will be there with this current crop.
‘I was, yeah. I was really excited about it. I wanted to be in control and not show that too much, but I was really excited,’ Arteta insisted afterwards. ‘Now we have to produce what we have to produce to stay at this level.’
The bar has been set. After the rollercoaster of last season, this is a season filled with so much promise for Arsenal.
Wednesday night ticked all the boxes. For Arteta and his men, next up – the small matter of a North London derby, with both sides still unbeaten.
For anyone connected with Arsenal Football Club, right now they have every reason to believe.
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