3 talking points from Arsenal's Champions League draw with PSV

  • Eddie Nketiah scored his first Champions League goal in forgettable draw
  • Core first teamers deployed as second-half subs
  • Emile Smith Rowe returns from knee injury

Mikel Arteta came in for some criticism for his team selection against PSV
Mikel Arteta came in for some criticism for his team selection against PSV / Fantasista/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

Arsenal's 1-1 draw with PSV Eindhoven was not one for the memory books, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss!

Given the situation of the two sides in Group B, a rather flat and forgetful showing was very much expected. Mikel Arteta and Peter Bosz both would've been content with the final outcome, which was a fair reflection of proceedings at the Philips Stadion.

The Gunners drew first blood at the end of the first half through Eddie Nketiah before the hosts equalised at the start of the second half via a fine Yorbe Vertessen equaliser. A winner was sought late on, but both teams proved profligate in front of goal.

So, before the contest is totally dashed from our sub-conscious, let's dive into some talking points from Tuesday night's game.


3 talking points from Arsenal's Champions League draw with PSV

1. Hale Enders impress under the bright lights

Eddie Nketiah
Eddie Nketiah scored a fine opener for the Gunners / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Eddie Nketiah has rightfully come under criticism for his fairly lacklustre recent cameo appearances off the bench, but Gabriel Jesus' deputy so often delivers for the Gunners when given a starting berth.

His spot in the depth chart is understandable given Jesus' importance, but Nketiah once again showed on Tuesday night why he's worth keeping around amid rumours of a move away in January. The striker didn't produce a dominant display, far from it, but he took his goal superbly. It was a finish right out of the top drawer.

Teeing Nketiah's strike up was fellow Hale Ender Reiss Nelson. Making his first start of the campaign, the winger was Arsenal's brightest performer on the night. He injected pace into his side's attacks, and even combined effectively with Cedric Soares down the right flank.

Nelson's an intelligent footballer with an impressive sense of timing and a sharp burst. He deserves more minutes.


2. Mikel, why no youth?

Ethan Nwaneri
Ethan Nwaneri was one of three teenagers to travel to Eindhoven / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

There were very few reasons for tuning in and enjoying Tuesday night's game given the context, but the possibility of Arsenal's youth being involved intrigued many supporters.

After Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly were unused substitutes in the 6-0 thrashing of RC Lens, Nwaneri travelled with the team to Eindhoven alongside fellow teenagers Reuell Walters and Lino Sousa.

Their absences from the starting XI weren't a major surprise, but many were left aghast that the kids were left on the bench while five of Arteta's core players made substitute appearances in the second half. With nothing on the line and only momentum to play for, was it really worth giving Gabriel Jesus five minutes over Nwaneri?

Explaining his decision post-match, the boss said: "I don't think it was the right context, making eight changes already to throw them in there against a team that hasn't lost here almost in two years, I didn't think it was the right moment.

"I went on to wait to see how the game developed, but it was too much for them and as well we have three little issues, we had to make the subs and then we had no room because we really wanted to play a game as well," he added.

While I don't believe there's reason for outcry, the absence of youth on Tuesday was undoubtedly a disappointment.


3. Emile Smith Rowe is back!

Emile Smith Rowe
Smith Rowe has been out since October with a knee injury / Fantasista/GettyImages

Arteta had initially hinted at a January return for Smith Rowe, but the crafty midfielder was back in action on Tuesday night.

The Englishman had gathered some positive momentum at the start of the campaign after a tough 2022/23 season, but he's been sidelined since October with a knee injury.

Arteta, though, has been impressed with his recovery and while I doubt that ESR will ever re-emerge as a protagonist in north London, the creator is a more than handy depth piece for Arteta to boast.

With Fabio Vieira out until January and the club's midfield options relatively thin with Thomas Partey still absent, we could see Smith Rowe earn some important minutes over the festive period.