Gabriel Jesus continued his rich vein of form in Champions League as Arsenal cruised into last 16 by thrashing Lens… and keeping the striker fit will be key to their hopes of Euro glory
- Arsenal 6-0 Lens: Gunners steamroll French side with FIVE first-half goals
- Gabriel Jesus has scored in all four CL games he has played in this season
- Jeremy Doku had Trent Alexander-Arnold on toast for most of the game, how COULD Gary Neville make him man of the match? Listen to It’s All Kicking Off
Once Arsenal had sealed Champions League football after a six-year absence, there was a question quickly tumbling its way in September.
Yes, it is an achievement to be back on a stage so sought after. But: just how far can the Gunners go in this competition?
Very far, it turns out, if they follow in the same vein as the three displays at home in Europe this season.
Against PSV, Sevilla and Lens at the Emirates, Mikel Arteta has gone with a high line each time, to devastating effect.
The Dutch outfit were blown away 4-0 after three first-half goals, the Spanish side succumbed to two, and their French opponents on Wednesday night were annihilated 6-0.
Arsenal thrashed Lens 6-0 on Wednesday night to top their Champions League group
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It was four goals in the space of 14 minutes against Lens which leaves the Gunners with a dream. A dream of reaching the quarter-finals and more, with their opponents for the last-16 to be one of the eight groups’ second-placed teams having secured top spot with this victory.
Therefore an easier draw, on paper anyway.
It is deserved but goes back to this high line. Teams in the Premier League and Europe are wary as to what the Gunners bring to the table having come so close to usurping Manchester City to the title last season.
Many opponents are often happy to field much of their men behind the ball to spring counter-attacks where possible. But a high line helps nullify this and, when deployed effectively, works to devastating effect as seen tonight.
The main tool of choice for Arteta in Europe has been Gabriel Jesus. The striker has scored in all four Arsenal Champions League group matches he has played in, missing Sevilla at home through injury.
Gabriel Jesus has scored in all four Champions League games he has played in this season
A remarkable goal tally of 24 goals in 42 competition appearances, paired with five Champions League campaigns for Man City, makes him a vital proposition.
Here, he scored the team’s second after 21 minutes, cutting to the right, leaving a defender on their backside, and slotting into a corner. That was after setting up the first goal for Kai Havertz.
The striker looked sprightly throughout, eager to add more to his goal record. There is something about playing in Europe that brings out a childlike element within Jesus; an eagerness to run and run, and an enthusiasm that ignores a hefty scoreline.
The Brazilian gave a window into this connection ahead of their first match in September against PSV, opening up about bunking off school to watch such matches.
He said: ‘I remember the times I watched at home, the times I missed school to watch and my mum (would be) crazy.
‘It was different to hear the music, to see the best clubs. All the best clubs go. I think this helps a lot, it is a different game, a different competition.’
Gabriel Jesus swept home to take his tally to 24 goals in 42 appearances in Champions League
It must be mentioned that away from home in this competition, Arsenal have at times looked overawed.
That could be seen in the away leg to Lens, where they lost 2-1. Before the match, an upset could be smelt through the pillows of smoke and banging noise reverberating around the Estadio Bollaert-Delelis.
It was some cauldron and a crucial learning experience.
But if Jesus can stay fit — a big question having undergone two knee surgeries in a year — Arsenal’s European hopes can be lofty indeed.
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