A beautiful first-time finish from Granit Xhaka has seen Arsenal qualify for the Europa League knockout stages on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over PSV at the Emirates. It seemed like Arsenal's domination wouldn't lead to a reward as they had to wait until the 72nd minute to get the job done, but the PSV defense lost Xhaka in the box and Takehiro Tomiyasu played a great cross into the box to find him. The result sees Arsenal maintain their perfect record in Europa League with 12 points in four matches while PSV will stay on seven points.
After being stripped of the captaincy back in 2019, Xhaka has undergone a 180 and is enjoying his best season in an Arsenal shirt under Mikel Arteta. Because of that, it was poetic that he scored the winner in Europa League while sporting the captain's armband as Martin Odegaard started the match on the bench. It was a great goal from Xhaka lulling the defense to sleep before making them pay with a right-footed strike.
Here are takeaways:
A winning mentality in London
Already leading the Premier League, it's matches like this one that shows how far Arsenal have come this season. In the first half, they had nine shots with none testing the keeper despite holding 65% possession. It would've been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the halftime team talk as the second half saw Arsenal score a goal while also taking 16 shots and putting eight on target. The second half did see Odegaard, Thomas Partey, and Gabriel Martinelli come into the match but it's the type of bearing down that's needed in a long season to compete on multiple fronts.
If Arsenal can keep up their intensity for 90-plus minutes each match, the sky is the limit for what they can accomplish, and doing it while only allowing four shots to a free-flowing PSV team also shows that they can defend while attacking at the same time. These are performances that show that Arsenal can win the competition.
Xavi Simons will be something special
While PSV had trouble creating chances against Arsenal, the few that they did create came from the feet of Xavi Simons. The Dutch midfielder was electric while dribbling but his shots went over the bar, not testing Matt Turner in net. But the former PSG man was sharp on the ball. He took three of PSV's four shots during the match, while also winning a tackle and making five recoveries. Simons only has one goal in Europa League play compared to eight in the Eredivisie but matches like this one against Arsenal show that things may be clicking which could see PSV make quite an advance into the later stages of the tournament.