Arsenal welcomed themselves back into the Champions League with a backside blistering spanking of PSV. Their biggest in Champions League history. The performance was… very good.
The biggest shocker in the starting line-up was seeing David Raya on the teamsheet again. A lot of Ramsdalians collapsed on pub floors up and down the country knowing full well they’d been in my mentions and DMs telling me Raya was a passing phase. They’d been hoofing copium after he was dropped last week, knowing full well Rambo would at least get cup duties – wrong. Occam’s razor sliced their narrative with brutal precision – the simplest answer for Aaron not being in the team was always this: Arteta rates Raya over him. Though I have to say, I thought he’d give Rambo a soft landing, but it wasn’t to be.
We saw Kai back in the side, Eddie dropped out for Jesus, Trossard kept his place, and everything else was pretty strong.
Arsenal dominated from minute one until the end. We sliced PSV to pieces with beautiful build-up play that felt like choreographed chaos. The Dutch team weren’t equipped technically to deal with our talent on the ball and they couldn’t match our power.
I don’t want to explain each goal – but key facts:
Saka scored a goal and got an assist.
Trossard had another sublime finish, rekindling his pre-season form
Gabi Jesus celebrated his return to the starting 11 with another great goal
Martin Odegaard showed last season’s taste for long-range efforts was no fluke
There were lots of great individual performances. I know it’s not fashionable to say it, but Kai Havertz had a really strong game. His finishing right now absolutely stinks – it’s like watching Kaba Diawara out there – but his all-round game is getting sharper by the match and you can see the green shoots of a monster beanstalk in the making. The doutbers should get the jabs in the now, because I think claims that he’s going to be a huge waste of money will look very dated, very soon. He was good in midfield and offered a lot as a striker later in the game. Once that first big goal comes at Spurs, he’ll be up and running.
Declan Rice is just a total beast of a man. He showed his fangs last night, but also showcased his outrageous talents by pinning the midfield on his own like he’d been with us for 10 years. He has so much personality on the pitch. His range of passing and the accuracy is so sharp and I love the way he has a 6th sense for sniffing out danger. He was everywhere.
David Raya didn’t have a lot to do – but everyone in The AOP comments on Youtube said the same thing: he was great. He’s our new number one. He has an icey calmness about him the best keepers have. Some keepers want to be noticed – others don’t. Raya wants to be the Spanish iceman. He brings tranquilo to every moment, collecting crosses with no drama, picking out 70-yard passes in his stride, and making neat work of the basics. The eye-test shows you all you need to know about why Ramsdale is where he is at the moment. Even the little tactical talk Arteta gave him after the first goal told a story. What we really haven’t seen yet is a BIG game. No doubt he starts against Spurs and there will be more to deal with that he’s had in his first two games. Two clean sheets though – not bad.
Benny Blanco put in a dogged performance. He covered a lot of ground and did a lot of dirty work. He’s in an interesting space, because part of you think he might have been sitting next to Rambo right now if Timber had stayed fit… but part of you also wonders if that might have been Zinchenko? Whatever the future state is – it’s hard to imagine a world without Benny Blanco in our starting 11. He has so much character and offers 110 percenters every game.
I also want to just say that I think William Saliba is going to end this season with no doubt that he’s the best centre-back in the world. The man has too much sauce. Did you see some of the showboating today? Disgusting.
Hard to say we learned too much today – we played a weak European side and battered them at home. No one is engraing the Champions League trophy with your name after that. What you can say is we’re taking it seriously, every player wants to step up, and other clubs will be taking notice.
Final point – the crowd was great. Particularly with Havertz after a few of his misses. Arsenal are better when the crowd is with them. They’ll be needed this Sunday for the Spurs game. I can’t wait.
Ok, hit up the latest podcast. x