result: FC Zurich 1-2 Arsenal
Competition: European League
Date: September 8, 2022
Arsenal: Turner, Gabriel, Holding, Tomiyasu, Tierney, Xhaka (c), Sambi, Vieira, Marquinhos, Martinelli, Nketiah
Subs: Ramsdale, Heine, White, Saka, Odegaard, Jesus, Saliba, Zinchenko, Sirjan, Smith, Cozyr-Debery
Newcomer Eddie Nkeitia and newcomer Marquinhos helped themselves score and assist as Arsenal kicked off their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 victory over FC Zurich.
After making seven changes to the starting lineup that faced Manchester United, it was not entirely surprising that it took a few minutes off Arsenal. There was even an early fear of goalkeeper Matt Turner who, after receiving a pass from Gabriel, hesitated under pressure, ceded the ball and watched as Tosin hit the crossbar from outside.
The Gunners soon found their groove with Xhaka, Lokonga and Vieira dominating midfield as Tomiyasu and Tierney flipped differently and staggered to provide additional possession options. Zurich sat in a deep mass and showed little ambition to squeeze.
In 16 minutes we were able to pick the lock and the quality of Fabio Vieira was basic. The Portuguese, who plays as our No. 10 player, picked up the ball in the center of midfield, playing a superb pass down the wing for Nketiah who took one touch before Marquinhos’ two crosses to find the top corner on the first time. Tears of joy were running down the teenager’s face as he celebrated opening his Arsenal account. (Goal 1-0)
Arsenal were on the verge of doubling their lead in the 20th minute when Lokonga passed a ball over Vieira’s defense who threw a header over the advancing goalkeeper. Unfortunately, the voltage landed on the surface of the grid. Xhaka also tested the guard with a low drive to the near post.
While we had swathes of possession, we weren’t very organized in the final third and always felt like we might undo a ridiculous mistake. Tierney produced a superb ball to keep the tie before Zurich stumbled to equalize with a penalty kick.
Nketia was properly judged for a foul on Yeti after the Zurich defender’s legs were swept away while trying to hit the ball visibly. The referee did not hesitate to point to the penalty kick, and midfielder Crezio stepped up and sent Matt Turner in the wrong direction. (Objective 1-1)
the other half
In the first half, news broke of the death of Queen Elizabeth II meaning that both sides lined up for a minute’s silence before the match resumed.
Arsenal continued to dominate but lacked composure inside the penalty area – a common theme throughout the evening. Nketia hit twice, Martinelli twice and Tierney all hit the target but they weren’t worried about the Zurich goalkeeper.
In the end, said pressure. Marquinhos picked up the ball from the left, cut inside and played a good shot at the back post as Nketiah shot a header into the near post. (Goal 2-1)
With the match approaching the 70th minute, Arteta sent Zinchenko, Saka and Odegaard for Vieira, Tierney and Marquinhos. We obviously wanted to see things but the changes, which shortly after included Jesus for Nketia, definitely hampered our flow of attack.
Arteta was visibly frustrated that his team couldn’t score which would give them some breathing space. Saka was obstructed by a curler and Jesus was prevented from making a good stop by the feet of the Zurich goalkeeper.
There were tough moments for Arsenal in the closing stages. The offside flag denied the hosts a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, Turner showed clean hands to claim a header that was headed inside and another player hit his way.
If you were evaluating performance in general, you would probably give us a grade of B. We’ve been a lot better but we need to be more clinical.
In the other match, PSV Eindhoven could only draw with Bodeau/Glimt, so the Gunners already had a two-point advantage at the top of the first group. This is an added bonus before the Dutch team visit the Emirates next week.