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Arsenal moved effortlessly through to the last 16 of the Champions League by thrashing Lens 6-0 and clinching top spot in our Champions League group. 

In scoring five in the first half we set two records with five separate scorers and by becoming the first English side to score five in the first half of a Champions League game. We also recorded our first CL victory over Lens who looked a shadow of the side who beat us in game 2 in France.

As, wrapped seasonally in plenty of layers, I departed for the game, a very cosy Mrs TTG, steaming mug of hot chocolate in hand, ginger cat on her lap and tv clicker in hand, gave me the look she so often does at this time of the year as I head off into the cold night air to attend football. It is somewhere between disbelief and pity.

What a treat she missed! 

I was touched by the club’s decision to wear black armbands to mark the death of that very special lady, Megs Wilson. Bob would have been very moved by this gesture even though I suspect the detail of this match would likely understandably  pass him by.

And detail there certainly was, much of it revolving around the involvement of Kai Havertz who for the first time began to resemble a top class attacking midfield player. As confidence flowed back into him we were treated to some exquisite ball skills (one piece of trickery by the left corner flag in the second half was superb). Kai had already missed narrowly with a header that bounced just wide before he latched onto a Jesús flick after 13 minutes and steered the ball beyond  Bamba in the Lens  goal. Bamba resembles a cut-price Onana which on tonight’s showing by the United man is very cheap indeed. 

Arsenal 1 Lens 0 – Havertz 13 mins 

The dour struggle predicted by our rather pessimistic previewer failed to materialise and the gap in class was very evident. A second goal materialised on 21 minutes when Saka fed Jesús who dummied one tackle and steered the ball wide of Onana, sorry Bambi!

Arsenal 2 Lens 0 – Jesus 21 mins 

This continued Jesús’ excellent scoring  form in the  Champions League. His work rate was prodigious and he continually came deep to receive the ball and to provide space for Saka, Martinelli and Havertz to exploit. 

If you thought my use of the name Bambi was another example of my Spillchucker in full flow our third goal proved the accuracy of his nickname. 

Martinelli was becoming a continual menace to the Lens right flank but he could scarcely have expected his less than fulminating shot to be palmed onto Saka with a gesture akin to Wayne Sleep hailing a taxi in a snowstorm and the ball rebounded into the net.

Arsenal 3 Lens 0 – Saka 24 mins 

A frozen version of pandemonium enveloped the stadium now and Martinelli increased it three minutes later cutting inside and leaving Bambi in a heap at the edge of the forest with a curling drive which was the best of our goals on the night.

Arsenal 4 Lens 0 – Martinelli 27 mins 

Or was our fifth goal on the stroke of halftime even better? Tomiyasu, wide on the right, floated an inviting cross to Ødegaard who slashed it home on the full volley. 

Arsenal 5 Lens 0 – Odegaard 45 mins 

Lens’ only response was from a set of idiot supporters who saw fit to light a series of flares some of which found their way into the upper reaches of the East Stand. The reaction of the police and stewards seemed from my vantage point to be pretty passive and would suggest to me that body searches in that part of the ground were perfunctory at best. 

The half ended with the game won and so euphoric was I that I invested in a pint of Camden Hells costing the GDP of a small Pacific island. 

Halftime – Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Inevitably the second half was an anti-climax but given the recent and upcoming demands of our programme Arteta (who never stopped cajoling the team on for ninety minutes) did exactly the right thing in bringing off Tomayisu, Zinchenko, Saka, Rice and Jesús and replacing them with White, Kiwior, Nelson, Jorginho and Nketiah. 

Amazingly, the ultimate possession stats showed us as having only 48% of the ball but we retained easy control in the second half and Raya had little to do of any consequence.

The referee  briefly  assumed centre stage having in my view been way too lenient on the Lens  defenders in their early treatment of Saka. Some time after a high ball appeared to possibly be handled (as Martinelli simultaneously received a forearm smash to the face), play was stopped at a throw in and a bilingual VAR warning appeared on the screen. The referee was sent to the screen and as always the case decided to award a penalty which Jorginho despatched to become our sixth individual scorer. 

Arsenal 6 Lens 0 – Jorginho pen 86 mins 

Further joy ensued when it was announced that the Lens supporters would be kept behind. They still danced like dervishes lit flares and had the opportunity to reflect on how comprehensively Arsenal had beaten them.

Full time – Arsenal 6 Lens 0 

Our home form has been sensational in the group with a collective aggregate of 12-0 in our three games in which the opposition scarcely ever looked like scoring. I can’t remember an easier set of home qualifying games in many years of watching the Champions League but this may be a disservice to a side who played perfectly judged European football, although I suspect that we did have a relatively weak group. We now have the luxury of playing a heavily rotated team in Eindhoven next week. I suspect that team may contain the rehabilitated Havertz so that he can further  develop a hot streak after finally looking at home for the first time in an Arsenal shirt.

A job well done even if the only French flare was of the explosive  type. 

20 Drinks to “Lens Cinq Without Trace in First Half Blitz”

  1. 1
    bt8 says:

    Cheers TTG but condolences on the loss of Megs Wilson who from everything I have heard was a very classy lady. Well done to Arsenal for the black armbands the players wore in her honour.

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    One thing I omitted from my report was that our bench contained the two young prodigies – Nwaneri and Lewis- Skelly- who must have had special dispensation to be up that late ! The reason I omitted it was that I was unaware of it . As far as I was aware the screen did not show the list of subs and none of my near neighbours knew who was on the bench .
    It could have been an opportunity to give them ten minutes but their Mums might have asked Arteta not to send them out in those temperatures!

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Got behind in my schedule so my errands pushed back my arrival in the bar to about the half hour mark when much to my shock I saw the score was 4-0. My Guinness had just about been ordered when the Saka-Tomi-Ode made it 5-0 which should teach me to be on time if anything will. A nice breather of a second half watch, the highlight being Big Gaby’s block and stoked reaction preserving the clean sheet in the dying moments. Would have like to see the two youngsters but you can’t have everything even though 6-0 may tempt one to think so.

  4. 4
    BtM says:

    You weren’t sporting your own, very stylish retro French flares, TTG? I’m surprised, they’ve given you some wonderful service over recent months and years.

    Fine report on a fine performance by the Arsenal. In particular I thoroughly enjoyed Martinelli’s performance. He was still moving like the Energiser Bunny right to the end and presented an excellent outlet and dangerous threat throughout.

    I thought too that their No 9 Wahi had an impressive game and, quite novelty, skinned Saliba twice and nutmegged White beautifully.

    The pyrotechnics in the visitors end brought back memories of the evening I was forcefully ejected by four orange clad heavies for having the temerity to suggest to a steward that there was real danger of escalation to a serious incident unless Arsenal got a grip. Last night’s search work looked to be very equally inadequate.

  5. 5
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG. Great stuff from you and from The Arsenal. It was indeed a cracking goal from Martinelli but personally I liked the 5th the best, gut-busting run, perfectly timed pass, perfect cross and a thumping finish – some of my favourite things 🙂

    The Athletic are currently running an Ask Ornstein session so i have asked him to update me on our January transfer window plans.

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    Thanks TTG – excellent work !
    A couple of things – firstly, as you wouldn’t have heard the TV commentary last night, our two young guns on the bench, Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly were both born after the Emirates stadium was completed; and secondly, the PSV game is the week after next on the 12th, and not next week. Next week is Luton Town on Tuesday evening. Just in case you were getting the thermals out again 😉

  7. 7
    Bathgooner says:

    Top report, sir.

    A most enjoyable match with our first choice front 5 playing together for the first time ever! While my prognosis of preparing yourself for the frustration of watching us try to break down a massed defence proved seriously wide of the mark (I always preferred to err on the side of caution when prognosticating – incautious optimism leads too often to disappointment, and lawsuits), I did observe that Lens needed something out of this game to see them qualify for the round of 16 (an opportunity now lost) and that I hoped that they might open up in an attempt to win the game buoyed by their away win at the weekend.

    That early goal by our opportunist German may have opened the gates but, in truth after Jesús added the second they completely lost their focus and only recovered their poise in the second half once the game was well and truly out of sight.

    No doubt it’ll be back to having to launch a frontal assault on massed ranks on Saturday. Hopefully it will emulate Bruce at Bannockburn rather than Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.

  8. 8
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent review of the actions, TTG!

    Effortless is always a somewhat paradoxical word to describe performances: it takes a lot of effort to appear effortless. The intensity and seriousness of the performance was most enjoyable. I actually didn’t think it was a supremely fluid performance, neither was it flawless on either end, but the collective intensity coupled with moments of individual qualities destroyed Lens, who especially in the first half just couldn’t raise their game so far above their regular level once more as they did back in France.

    Of all the goals my favourite was Ødegaard’s. Not just the beautiful yet venomous volley of the finish, but the combination play of Saka and Tomiyasu on the counter was an example of what we can do if given space, Tomiyasu’s initial run was more like that of a right sided midfielder planning to get into the penalty box with Saka making a winger’s run, and then the clever interchange of space to turn it into an overlap, precise pass from Saka and then a perfectly weighted cross from Tomiyasu and Martin’s delectable finish.

    An enjoyable return to the top tier of the CL. Hopefully we will be in fine form and fully fit once the knockout round starts.

  9. 9
    ClockEndRider says:

    Excellent and most enjoyable report, which confirms my view from the North Bank Lower. The Frenchies were there in numbers and even had the temerity to overrun the pre-match pub of choice – chosen for its off the beaten pathness and usually completely without away fans. How very dare they. The pre match beers provided the internal combustion juice to keep us warm during a cold night as did the first half performance.
    By the way, TTG : …” with a gesture akin to Wayne Sleep hailing a taxi in a snowstorm” – pure gold.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    I know some of you get The Athletic so just to let you know there’s a heartfelt piece about Megs Wilson today by Amy Lawrence.

  11. 11
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers TTG. Fluid and fun report of a ruthless performance. We really put them to the sword.

    Our XG was a lot lower than the six goals we scored. Whilst it would still have won us the game, especially with our miserly defence, its a reminder both that we need to continue to improve our chance creation, and that efficiency of finishing is an almost uniquely valuable attribute in top level football.

    Havertz was no better than a few of the other top performers, but he was right up there, and showed a much better understanding of how he can contribute to this team from that left 8 role. I hope and expect his output to grow from here.

    Tim Stillman on Arseblog has a good piece about our attack which touches on this, and there is another good piece (from the Athletic – about back post crosses) that he links in his article and which I recommend having a butchers at.

    The Spare Man

  12. 12
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’d like to add my condolences after the sad death of Megs Wilson. I’m glad the players wore the armband for her, especially on a night when they played so well.

    And I’ll join with OM in recommending Amy Lawrence’s simple, poignant piece about her in The Athletic.

  13. 13
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Also, well done on the title, TTG. Inspired effort.

  14. 14
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s a great article by Amy Lawrence.

    May Megs’ memory forever be a blessing.

  15. 15
    Countryman100 says:

    Thank you TTG for a fine report on a very relaxed and enjoyable game on a clear frosty night in North London. A number of the regulars around me in block seven were missing, but their replacements were far from tourists. I’d never seen the group of twenty somethings behind us but I’d say they were away day regulars because they knew every song and started most of them. Bravo! The Havertz song got the biggest airing I’ve heard at the Emirates as he turned in his best performance in the red and white. His confidence is soaring and apart from his second goal in two games, he showed some of his tricks including one run along the goal line that had the North Bank roaring. He is far from perfect, still losing the ball too much in midfield, but definitely

    I thought Jesus had a terrific, commited, highly skilled game. The way he took his goal was one for the connoisseur. I love that cut back where he sits the defender down. Rice, of course was magnificent again. I concur with BtM in being impressed by the Lens number 9, Wahi. He spun big Willy Saliba twice in the same move down the left touchline, a sight as rare as finding a Dodo in your back garden.

    Six goals, six goals scorers. Wow. Boring, boring Arsenal.

    As we got home around midnight the temperature in Cambridgeshire was showing -3.5C. Just time for a hot chocolate with a splash of brandy before bed. We go again Saturday.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Havertz definitely improving I meant to say.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Wahi – Wey Hey oops must go there’s a dodo in my Stumpery 😃
    I omitted him from the report . He was extremely quick and in a better side would really be a handful

  18. 18
    TTG says:

    Thanks to all who pointed out Amy’s article on Megs Wilson
    I was checking back on email today and saw her last note tone in the summer
    She had heard I was unwell and was counselling me to take it easy and wishing me well. Beautiful sentiments from a lady dying of a brain tumour but still vitally concerned for others

  19. 19
    ClockEndRider says:

    Both the article by Amy and the section of the Handbrake Off podcast set aside for her were fantastic. It was very cold in London today and both of these pieces warmed the cockles.

  20. 20
    scruzgooner says:

    great review, ttg.

    rest in peace, megs.