Arsenal thrashed Lens 6-0 to advance for the Champions League knockout rounds at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal thrashed Lens 6-0 to advance for the Champions League knockout rounds at Emirates Stadium, displaying a swaggering performance of absolute dominance.
Goal Scorers: Havertz ’13, Jesus ’21, Saka ’23, Martinelli ’27, Odegaard 45+1, Jorginho (pen) ’86
PSV’s 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in the Group B early start on Wednesday meant the Gunners knew a win was needed to secure first place with a game to spare, and they went about their business brutally.
Lens defeated Mikel Arteta’s team 2-1 in the opposite meeting, but fell apart following Kai Havertz’s opportunistic opening.
Bukayo Saka’s barreling dribble set up Gabriel Jesus, who turned home when Brice Samba shoved Gabriel Martinelli’s shot into his path.
Martinelli then left Samba with no chance as he curled into the far corner, concluding a dizzying spell of four goals in the space of 15 minutes.
The visitors regained their composure and Facundo Medina struck the crossbar with a blazing long-ranger, but there was more agony to come in stoppage time when Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu combined to set up Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard to volley home a wonderful fifth.
The second half was more sedate, but Arsenal maintained unshakable control throughout, and Jorginho scored from the penalty spot following a handball by accident-prone Lens replacement Abdukodir Khusanov.
Following Arsenal’s first goal, the formality of a lengthy VAR check suggested that this would be Kai Havertz’s night. After scoring a late winner against Brentford to send Arsenal to the top of the Premier League, the much-maligned Germany international scored again, showing great instincts to sniff out a poacher’s finish.
Of course, Havertz’s slick ball to Martinelli before Saka made it 3-0 was another nice moment for the big-money acquisition. Mikel Arteta has been unable to use Havertz and Odegaard as dual offensive midfielders behind Saka, Jesus, and Martinelli as much as he would have wanted due to form and fitness difficulties.
This was the first-choice configuration mapped out during the early weeks of the season.
Although not all opponents will be as accommodating as a self-destructive Lens, there was a lot to enjoy. A squad that has been accused of losing its offensive zeal this season became the first English team to lead a Champions League game by five goals at halftime, and it was also the first time in this competition that five different players scored in the first 45 minutes. For the Arsenal manager, the distinctive identity of those players was something meaningful.