That was probably coming. On Thursday night, Arsenal took on Ruud van Nistelrooy’s PSV at the Philips Stadion. A rotated side that also featured starters such as Aaron Ramsdale, William Saliba, Granit Xhaka, and Gabriel Martinelli produced a limp performance. The intensity and assurance that had been an early hallmark of Mikel Arteta’s team was conspicuously absent. As a result, the home team comfortably defeated Arsenal 2-0. Below are two Hits and four Misses from a concerning display.
Though it wasn’t a particularly high bar on Thursday, Vieira was probably Arsenal’s best player on the night. Starting on the right wing, the Portuguese starlet looked like the Gunners’ main creative hub for much of the match. He had some good moments on the ball, such as when he beat two PSV players near the touchline in the first half. He also played some nice progressive passes to move attacks along. On a night when some of his teammates failed to show why they deserve starts, Vieira at least put in a respectable performance.
Tierney was perhaps the only other starter with a decent performance. The Scotsman covered a lot of ground on the left flank and also inverted pretty well when he needed to. He also got forward pretty energetically on occasion. However, the real reason he is a Hit here is because he was subbed off in the 74th minute. With Takehiro Tomiyasu having struggled at left back in the last couple weeks, the door is open for Tierney to reprise the role. Being taken off with time to spare and Zinchenko being unlikely to feature against Forest on Sunday suggest that Tierney will do just that.
The day is fast approaching when Holding will be surplus to requirements at Arsenal. On Thursday, he showed exactly why. The Englishman’s involvement requires his team to play in a different manner due to his lack of passing ability. Sambi dropped between the center backs regularly to help progress the ball, emptying the midfield and making things more difficult. Additionally, Holding was woeful for the first goal. He lunged for a ball he was never going to win off Luke de Jong, opening the defense up for PSV to score their first. He simply is not at the level Arsenal aspire to.
It might be time to sound the alarm on Sambi. The passivity of his play very much remains, and on Thursday he did not exhibit much bravery either. His passing was very safe, and rarely threatened the opponents. Off the ball he wasn’t great either; for PSV’s first goal, Sambi was content to jog behind Joey Veerman as the Dutchman made a late run into Arsenal’s box and scored. Arteta did not seem to think highly of the Belgian’s performance either, as the manager replaced him with Partey after just 57 minutes. Sambi has called for more minutes, but, whether it is on a temporary basis or permanently, he might need to get them elsewhere.
It is one thing to come on at the end of Premier League matches and be unable to make much of an impact. It is another thing entirely to be essentially anonymous for the full 90 in a Europa league game. But that is what Nketiah did on Thursday. He struggled to get the better of PSV’s defenders, did not contribute much in buildup, and hit his best chance of the night right at the keeper. He may be a backup, but the role he plays is an important one. Being Gabriel Jesus’ deputy still means he also needs to be a reliable goalscorer. And so far this season, Nketiah has failed to prove that.
The Brazilian’s 100th match for the club wasn’t a good one. Nothing really seemed to come for Martinelli on Thursday; he made uncharacteristically heavy touches when dribbling, delivered some disappointing crosses from open play, and did not do much better with his corner kicks. Perhaps his performance was best exemplified by him smashing the ball over the crossbar from close range, missing perhaps Arsenal’s best chance of the first half. As a cherry on top, his struggles put him in a foul mood and he lost his cool with opposing players. Hopefully Sunday presents a get-right opportunity for one of Arsenal’s best performers this season.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and technically once received an autograph from Paul Wall. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.