We look at the three things we learnt as Arsenal kicked off their 2022/23 Europa League campaign with a 2-1 win over FC Zurich. The Gunners are back in the secondary UEFA competition following a year without European football. They must also battle PSV Eindhoven and FK Bodo-Glimt in a testing group.
Mikel Arteta’s side entered the contest aiming to bounce back from a 3-1 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford, which ended their perfect start in the Premier League.
Marquinhos's game by numbers vs Zurich:
89% passing acc. in final third
4 chances created
1 shot on goal
An Arsenal debut he'll never forget.
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 8, 2022
1. Fabio Vieira Seems To Be A Steal
Arsenal’s summer signing made his full debut in Switzerland, giving fans a glimpse of what to expect from him. The Portuguese midfielder played a perfectly weighted pass to release Nketiah down the left wing who squared it to Marquinhos, leading to the visitors’ first goal.
With his confidence growing, Vieira seemed to grow into the game, looking for the ball more often as the 1st half progressed. His fitness was still not up to the mark with some tired passes creeping into his game, conceding possession too easily for his liking. Mikel Arteta replaced Vieira with Martin Odegaard in the 69th minute.
The fans will be excited to see what the Portuguese midfielder can do when he is up to speed in Arteta’s system. The Spanish manager has revealed that he was set on signing Fabio Vieira “straight away” after witnessing him in action, as the Gunners made the 22-year-old one of their first signings of the window this summer in a £34 million deal from FC Porto.
The midfielder recorded 7 goals and 16 assists in all competitions for Porto last season, and Arteta claims those sort of game-changing displays – as well as Vieira’s versatility – were huge reasons which led to Arsenal splashing the cash to secure his services.
2. The Gunners Struggle Against Low-block Teams
The Gunners played with their own identity and produced some lovely football to back it up while dominating the game. After the early Marquinhos goal, Arsenal took hold of the game, barely allowing FC Zurich out of their defensive third. But while the visitors looked comfortable in possession, they struggled to break down Zurich’s low block due to a lack of penetration in the final third.
Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga looked to pass sideways across the pitch frequently to keep hold of possession but did not look to take any risks when moving the ball. Nketiah looked to drop deep to receive the ball, while Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu moved into central areas in an attempt to overload Zurich’s midfield.
With the form Arsenal are in this season, more teams would prefer sitting back and attacking on the counter. Their 2-1 victory arguably should have been a more emphatic one, with large spells of the game being barren of any attack and more game management being employed. The Spaniard will be hoping to see his side move the ball with more urgency to break these sides down.
3. FC Zurich And Arsenal Will Meet On Last Matchday Hoping Both Teams Have Sealed Their Fate By Then
FC Zurich do not face Arsenal at the Emirates until match-day six of their Europa League campaign. PSV Eindhoven and Bodo/Glimt played out a 1-1 draw in Eindhoven, meaning both FC Zurich and Arsenal will leave the game satisfied and confident of their chances of making it to the knockouts.
Players and fans of both teams alike will be hoping to have their fate in their own hands before the trip to North London for the last group-stage game. With three tough away trips for Zurich, it will be hard for the Swiss side to advance without taking six points from their remaining home matches.
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It should have been easier for the North London side considering their dominance from start to finish, but they got the job done in the end. FC Zurich stuck to their task as best they could but Arsenal showed their superiority for the majority of the game.
The result takes the Gunners top of Group A on opening night in the Europa League while the Swiss side, unsurprisingly, find themselves at the bottom of the pile. Mikel Arteta’s side face PSV Eindhoven in their second Europa League game next Thursday.
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