Result: FC Zurich 1-2 Arsenal
Competition: Europa League
Date: 8 September 2022
Arsenal: Turner, Gabriel, Holding, Tomiyasu, Tierney, Xhaka (c), Sambi, Vieira, Marquinhos, Martinelli, Nketiah
Subs: Ramsdale, Hein, White, Saka, Odegaard, Jesus, Saliba, Zinchenko, Cirjan, Smith, Cozier-Duberry
Eddie Nketiah and debutant Marquinhos helped themselves to a goal and assist each as Arsenal started their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 win at FC Zurich.
Having made seven changes to the starting lineup that faced Manchester United, it wasn’t wholly surprising that it took Arsenal a few minutes to settle. There was even an early scare for keeper Matt Turner who, after receiving a back pass from Gabriel, hesitated under pressure, conceded possession and watched on as Tosin hit the outside of the upright.
Soon enough the Gunners found their groove with Xhaka, Lokonga and Vieira dominating the centre of the pitch as Tomiyasu and Tierney variously inverted and overlapped to provide additional options in possession. Zurich sat back in a deep block and showed little ambition to push up.
On 16 minutes, we managed to pick the lock and Fabio Vieira’s quality was key. The Portuguese, playing as our number 10, picked up the ball in the centre of midfield, played a brilliant pass down the flank for Nketiah who took one touch before crossing for Marquinhos to find the top corner first time. The teenager had tears of joy running down his face as he celebrated opening his Arsenal account. (GOAL 1-0)
The Gunners were close to doubling their lead on 20 minutes when Lokonga floated a ball over the defence for Vieira who dinked a lob over the advancing keeper. Unfortunately, the effort landed on the roof of the net. Xhaka also tested the keeper with a low drive to the near post.
While we had huge swathes of possession, we weren’t very tidy in the final third and you always sensed we might be undone by a silly mistake. Tierney made a brilliant block to keep the scores level before Zurich found an equaliser against the run of play from the penalty spot.
Nketiah was correctly adjudged to have fouled Aliti after clearing out the Zurich defender’s legs while trying to whack the ball clear. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot and centre-half Kryeziu stepped up and sent Matt Turner the wrong way. (GOAL 1-1)
At half time, news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away meaning both sides lined up for a minute’s silence before the game resumed.
Arsenal continued to dominate but lacked composure inside the box – a common theme all evening. Nketiah twice, Martinelli twice and Tierney all fired at goal but didn’t unduly concern the Zurich keeper.
Eventually, the pressure told. Marquinhos picked the ball up on the left flank, cut inside and played a fine ball to the back post where Nketiah squeezed a header inside the near post. (GOAL 2-1)
As the game edged towards the 70th minute, Arteta sent on Zinchenko, Saka and Odegaard for Vieira, Tierney and Marquinhos. Clearly, we wanted to see things out but the changes, which soon after included Jesus for Nketiah, definitely disrupted our attacking flow.
Arteta was visibly frustrated that his side couldn’t find the goal that would give them some breathing space. Saka had a curler blocked and Jesus was denied by a decent stop by the Zurich keeper’s feet.
There were nervous moments for the Gunners in the closing stages. The offside flag denied the home side a free-kick on the edge of the box, Turner showed clean hands to claim a header that was heading in and some other lad fired way over.
If you were rating the performance overall, you’d probably give us a B. We were by far the better side but we need to be more clinical.
In the other game, PSV Eindhoven could only draw with Bodo/Glimt so the Gunners already have a two point advantage at the top of Group A. That’s an added bonus before the Dutch side visit the Emirates next week.