Football News

Arsenal create Champions League history and echo Man Utd’s class of 1999 in Lens rout

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 21:50, 29 November 2023

Arsenal resoundingly booked their place in the Champions League round of 16 with a ruthless 6-0 win over Lens at the Emirates Stadium this evening.

Mikel Arteta’s side also secured top spot with one game to spare. PSV, after winning on the road at Sevilla earlier, will join the Gunners in the knockout phase as Group B runner-up.

Understandably following their 2-1 loss on matchday two at Stade Bollaert-Delelis no one was looking past Lens but it soon became apparent this wasn’t the side which finished second in Ligue 1 last season.

If anything, they lie in a modest sixth coming into this week’s game and to say Franck Haise’s men were blown away would be an understatement. In the span of 14 minutes Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli breached Brice Samba’s goal.

An unbelievable start. In fact, their 4-0 lead within 27 minutes is the joint-fastest an English side has ever scored four in a Champions League game, along with Manchester United against Brøndby IF in November 1998, and it’s worth remembering Alex Ferguson’s team were en route to winning the competition that season.

Each goal had a story behind it. Havertz scored in consecutive games in all club competitions, having gone 31 games without a non-penalty goal prior to this run. Jesus is the first player to score in each of his first four Champions League appearances for an English team (four goals).

Saka is the first Premier League player, and second across Europe’s big-five leagues (also Florian Wirtz), to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season. Furthermore, he follows Karim Benzema (4 in 2011-12) and Luis Suárez (3 in 2015-16) to both score and assist in three consecutive home Champions League games since the 2003/04 season onwards.

Martin Ødegaard made it 5-0 just before the break. Arsenal subsequently became the first English team ever to lead by five goals at half-time of a Champions League game as well as the first regardless of nationality to have as many as five different scorers (excl. own goals) in the first half of a match in competition history. Jorginho came on to make it six from the spot four minutes from time.

Bigger tests understandably lie ahead but Arteta’s young guns must not be underestimated as they seek to end the club’s 18-year wait to play in a European Cup final.