Arsenal hosted French side Lens at the Emirates for their Champions League group stage clash. The Gunners emerged victorious by a huge margin as they scored six goals and maintained a clean sheet.
Arsenal were dominant right from the beginning and seemed like they simply could not stop scoring. They played some of the best football they displayed all season long, and this win secured their spot in the round of 16.
In the pre-match press conference, Mikel Arteta was asked if the team had something to prove in Europe after being on the outside looking for so long.
“For sure," Arteta said. "I think it is not that we have to prove; we had to come back into Europe being the club we want to be, have that presence and the results that tell them we are back in a strong way, we haven’t done that yet and it needs to be done.”
Well, prove something they did. Arsenal blew away RC Lens in a devastating 14-minute first-half spell that saw four games slammed in as the game was over as a contest and as such, progression into the knockout rounds was made.
And as far as Arteta's thoughts on his team's performance?
"It was a genuine dream," Arteta said. "We had a chance to qualify today, and we've done it in a really convincing way against a really good side. The team from the beginning showed a lot of aggression and determination to go for the game.”
While a mere qualification into the round of 16 does not prove much of a point, the display from the Arsenal side might prove to be a reminder to other teams that the Gunners are capable of total dominance.
But with Arsenal, aside from the hiccup against RC Lens, Arteta's side has been faultess in the group stage. Despite that, the boss isn't in the business of taking anything for granted.
“100 per cent not," Arteta said. "You have to sweat, dig in a lot and play well in games to deserve to win them. We are playing against really tough opponents.
“PSV have won all of their games in their league, they have only lost against us. Sevilla is a very tough place to go and tomorrow is going to be a really difficult game but hopefully, we can be better than them. I am enjoying it, is a great feeling. It makes you proud, it makes you feel that it is the level the club should be at and we are competing really well so let’s continue to do so."
Mikel Arteta said he has a point to prove and this result proves he is determined to do so. Following the win, the Gunners join the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and others as the teams who have qualified for the knockout stages.
This qualification will be a huge test for them. As they progress, the teams get tougher, and the list (of teams qualified for the round of 16) already looks like the level of competition will be high. Arteta has previously led the Gunners to a semi-final appearance in the Europa League during the 2020/21 season. However, they failed to make it through as they suffered a defeat to Spanish side Villarreal.
Since then, the north London side has had a lot more quality and depth added to their side and will hope they can carry these strong performances throughout the knockout stages.