A 71st minute Granit Xhaka strike has given Arsenal a big advantage in their push for the round of 16 of the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League after a tough battle with Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven on Thursday night.
The game, which was postponed from September 15, 2022, due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022, was played outside the normal Europa League calendar on Thursday, October 20, 2022, in front of thousands of Arsenal fans at the Emirates.
Arsenal now go into the knockout round with two games to spare after winning all four of their group stage games to date. They are five points clear of PSV, who they will face in the return fixture in Eindhoven a week from today.
Arsenal are guaranteed a top two finish by virtue of the points they have amassed and only need a draw in the Netherlands to seal top spot. That will send them straight to the round of 16 and help them avoid the hurdle of facing one of the UEFA Champions League teams that will drop down to the Europa League at the completion of the group stages.
Arsenal was on the back foot for most of the game as PSV, who are one of the most in-form teams in Europe this season, took the game to the Premier League side. A resolute defensive performance from both sides and some poor finishing counted for and against the Eredivisie team in the game.
Arsenal’s American goalkeeper, Matt Turner, who has had a strong outing had a quiet evening because the Dutch side were poor in their finishing. Eventually, they paid for not taking their chances when Xhaka struck a first time shot into the back of the net at the 71-minute mark.
Before the Swiss international’s goal, Arsenal had the clearer chances but failed to produce any results. Gabriel Jesus had the clearest chances in the opening stages of the match but dragged a shot wide while missing a clear header.
His pass to Bukayo Saka for what proved to be Arsenal’s clearest chance of the whole game before Xhaka’s goal, was scuffed by the young Englishman. That chance tilted the momentum in favour of the Gunners and 19 minutes after, Xhaka whipped in a first-time shot from a Takehiro Tomiyasu cutback.
The fans proved the 12th man for their team, whose performances this season have been both surprising and inspiring. After three seasons, Mikel Arteta’s process finally looks to be yielding results for the Gunners.