Arsenal were hoping to secure qualification from Group B as they hosted Lens at the Emirates on matchday 5 of the UEFA Champions League. However, Lens arrived full of confidence after making the Gunners misfire in the reverse fixture with a historic 2-1 win. A win wouldn’t be enough to take Lens to second in the group due to their head-to-head record with PSV.
Havertz had the first big chance of the game for Arsenal after some great work from Tomiyasu with an overlapping run. Saka released the ball to the Japanese international who managed to pick out the former Chelsea man in the area but his header was narrowly wide of Samba’s goal.
The German would soon have a second chance to give Arsenal the lead and he took it. Gabriel Jesus managed to nod on a Tomiyasu ball into the area to leave Havertz unmarked in the area with an easy tap-in beyond Samba who was helpless. The Gunners gained a deserved lead after a dominant opening 15 minutes.
Arsenal continued their dominance and soon doubled their lead. Bukayo Saka did brilliantly to cut inside and drive into the penalty area. Danso failed to dispossess the England international and with Gradit joining the pursuit this allowed Saka to pick out Jesus who feinted well before putting the ball into the back of the net. It would be a quickfire double for Arsenal to make it 3-0 with Saka this time turning from provider to goalscorer. A major stroke of luck saw Samba parry Martinelli’s shot onto his chest who unknowingly put the ball home to make it three.
Lens’ defence was all over the place and Tomiyasu continued to influence the game finding Gabriel Martinelli with a stunning pass. This allowed the Brazilian to cut inside and stand up Frankowski before bending the ball superbly beyond Samba in the Lens goal. Arsenal had their 4th goal in the opening 30 minutes.
After establishing such a comfortable lead, Mikel Arteta’s side allowed Lens to dominate possession and were more than happy to sit back. Facundo Medina had the best opportunity of this spell. The Argentine centre-back let one fly from a distance with only the post keeping the ball out of Raya’s goal.
Despite a more positive spell in the game, Lens were unable to beat Raya and Arsenal punished Les Sang et Or on the counter-attack in stoppage time. Tomiyasu got forward impressively again and managed to pick out the onrushing Ødegaard. The Arsenal captain met the ball on the volley and finished excellently to leave Samba with no chance. Arteta’s side went into the break five goals to the good.
The opening stages of the second half were rather balanced with neither team managing to take control of the game considering the result was all but confirmed. Arsenal nor Lens showed any intention of committing too many players forward and risking leaving themselves vulnerable at the back. This was evident with the lack of chances both sides created.
Ben White had a great opportunity when heading at the near post from a corner but his attempt was just too high and caused no problem for Brice Samba as it sailed over the bar. In the final ten minutes, VAR checked for a potential penalty as substitute Khusanov hit Martinelli in the neck and then handballed. After review, a penalty was awarded. Jorginho made no mistake with his trademark technique from the spot to beat Samba. The Gunners had a 6-goal lead.
Wahi was fed through brilliantly in the closing stages of the game but Gabriel threw himself in front of the shot to keep Arsenal’s clean sheet intact. A record victory in European competition confirms Arsenal’s place in the knockout stages as group winners. However, Lens can now only qualify for the Europa League due to their head-to-head record with PSV.
Arsenal player ratings:
David Raya – 6
Takehiro Tomiyasu – 8, The Japanese international pressed home Arsenal’s dominance from minute one with high intensity and impressive vision in his choice of passes and balls into the box. His assists for Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard were of supreme quality.
Gabriel – 6
William Saliba – 6
Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6
Martin Odegaard – 7
Declan Rice – 7
Kai Havertz – 7, The German continued his goalscoring form with the opener. In the early stages, the attacking midfielder caused several problems with his late runs into the box which found himself constantly unmarked.
Bukayo Saka – 8, The England international was as influential as ever with a goal and assist in what was a decisive victory for his boyhood club. His partnership and understanding with Tomiyasu in the first half was impressive.
Gabriel Jesus – 8
Gabriel Martinelli – 7
Lens player ratings:
Brice Samba – 5
Jonathan Gradit – 4
Kevin Danso – 4, The Austrian defender was a shadow of his usual self in the defence as Lens struggled massively as a defensive unit amid the onslaught from the Arsenal attack in the first half. Jesus easily fooled the centre-back when feinting for his goal.
Facundo Medina – 5
Przemysław Frankowski – 4
Salis Abdul Samed – 5
Nampalys Mendy – 6
Massaido Haïdara – 4
Angelo Fulgini – 5
Florian Sotoca – 5
Elye Wahi – 5, The French striker lacked the service to have any real impact on the game despite trying his best to work the channels and make things happen in wide areas. It was a frustrating night for the France U21 international.