. Arsenal verdict: Arteta’s Premier League title challenge given HUGE boost thanks big win to sealing Europa knock out stages.
SO MUCH for the Thursday/Sunday grind – Arsenal are making it look easy.
Well, not as easy as it would be if they could put away more of the chances they create in the Europa League.
Mikel Arteta has overseen eight wins in the last ten games
Mikel Arteta has overseen eight wins in the last ten gamesCredit: Getty
The Gunners were able to rest a number of stars with Mohamed Elneny enjoying a rare start
Takehiro Tomiyasu’s injury was the only negative note
For Mikel Arteta this was mission accomplished, getting the result his team needed to avoid a play-off tie despite fielding only four of his first 11.
And who knows how important it will be NOT to have two extra games in February, potentially against very high calibre opponents such as Juventus and Barcelona, as the Gunners try to maintain a title challenge?
This being Arsenal, of course they had made it a bit more interesting by losing in Eindhoven a week earlier and so sending Group A into a last-night battle for top spot and automatic qualification for the last 16.
And it took a tight offside call to deny Zurich a second-half equaliser, before some nervous moments in five minutes of stoppage time.
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But the Arsenal bandwagon rolls on.
Despite the Swiss side’s limitations, there was plenty to admire.
The way Arsenal are able to produce the required level of performance despite significant changes in personnel suggests Arteta really has bedded in a way of playing and a culture.
Apart from one early deflected effort that had Aaron Ramsdale scrambling a bit to save, the Gunners’ defence kept the visitors at arm’s length in the first half.
In the second they were untroubled until the 68th minute when Ramsdale made a good stop but was arguably lucky to see the follow-up ruled out for offside.
Granit Xhaka was absent through suspension, but Arteta still had enough confidence in Mohamed Elneny and Albert Sambi Lokonga to leave Partey on the bench for more than an hour. And they did not let him down.
Up front, the same lack of clinical finishing and/or final ball that had restricted Arsenal to a 1-0 home win over PSV was apparent. But at least they were causing problems and creating chances, staying true to their front-foot philosophy.
Some home fans – and Gareth Southgate – will have been nervous to see Bukayo Saka come on against such physical opponents after he had left the field injured inside half an hour at the weekend.
But Saka and fellow substitutes Partey and Martin Odegaard came through unscathed – although Takehiro Tomiyasu did have to go off again after replacing Ben White.
That minor worry aside, Arsenal should go into Sunday’s big game at Chelsea with a good level of energy and confidence.
Europe’s second-tier competition seems to have been more of a help than a hindrance to the momentum that the Gunners are building.
Which is another feather in Arteta’s cap