Football Features

Bukayo Saka x Leandro Trossard: Arsenal’s budding partnership combines again as Gunners edge closer to Champions League last 16

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:09, 8 November 2023

Arsenal’s newest partnership struck again as they beat Sevilla 2-0 to put them on the brink of the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Gunners were rocked slightly in gameweek two with the defeat to Lens but they have put things firmly back on track with consecutive wins over Sevilla. The first came in Spain last time out, a 2-1 victory secured, while this one was equally as tight.

It took Arsenal half an hour to make the most of their early dominance and it was a familiar link up bringing the goal.

The move was started with a wonderful pass from Jorginho inside the defence to Bukayo Saka, who had made his way around the full-back. With his first touch Saka played the ball across the box for Leandro Trossard, who finished under pressure from the goalkeeper.

It was Trossard’s fifth goal of the season, with the Belgian proving Mikel Arteta had made the right decision to start him through the midfield in the absence of Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah. Two of Trossard’s five goals this season have come as a substitute and there was some danger of him falling into the super sub role.

However, his budding partnership with Saka has gone some way to helping Trossard make a case to be a starter. All six of Trossard’s goals for Arsenal have been assisted by Saka, including five the season — the most assists by one Premier League player for another in 2023/24 so far.

And five of Trossard’s six goals for Arsenal have either been the opening goal of the game (three) or the equaliser (two) too.

The partnership started last season with Trossard’s first Arsenal goal in the 1-1 draw against Brentford, set up by Saka’s cross midway through the second half. This season opened with Saka setting up Trossard’s late equaliser against Manchester City in the Community Shield, which Arsenal would go on to win on penalties — Trossard and Saka both scored in the shootout.

Since then, Saka has set up Trossard against PSV, Everton, Chelsea and, of course, Sevilla, with Arsenal winning three of those four games.

This is a pretty one-sided partnership, however. Trossard has recorded 11 assists for Arsenal across all competitions since he signed from Brighton in January, but only one has been for Saka, in the 5-0 win over Wolves on the final day of the 2022/23 season.

“When I saw Jorgi on the ball, I just knew he would put it in behind for B and I had to be there in front of goal,” he told TNT Sport.

“B put it on a plate for me and I had to score it, so it’s a great team goal and it set us off for the rest of the game.”

Of his own performance, Trossard added: “I think my biggest quality is that I can go on both feet, so it’s easier for me if I play inside or on the wing, it doesn’t really matter for me.

“I’ve always played in multiple positions during my career so it helps me a lot.”

Rio Ferdinand quipped: “I’d be wanting every single one of my dinners and desserts delivered by Trossard if I was Saka. ‘Come on, I’m setting you up on the pitch, I want setting up off it’.”

Saka got Arsenal’s second on the night, finishing coolly having just about beat the high offside line from Gabriel Martinelli’s good pass. It was the Englishman’s sixth goal of the season and fifth direct goal involvement in the Champions League, not a bad start to life in the competition.

Having also recorded a goal and assist in the win over PSV to start the group, Saka is the first Arsenal player to score and assist in consecutive home games in the Champions League since Cesc Fabregas against Sevilla and Slavia Prague in 2007/08.

PSV’s win over Lens means that Arsenal’s aren’t quite in the last 16, but they only need to avoid defeat in their next game against the French side to return to knockout Champions League football.