It would be difficult to imagine a match more fraught with anticipation than Wednesday’s clash with PSV Eindhoven. Yes, they’re not quite continental giants. However, they did defeat us the last time we faced off, and it’s been quite some time since we got to hear that epic Champions League anthem at the Emirates. This could have been a banana-peel of the worst sort, but, instead, we came away with quite a few take-aways.
There were no over-awed jitters
The lads came out and went straight for the jugular. It would have been easy to have played it safe, to have come out cautiously for fear of getting caught out, but there was none of that. Saka’s eighth-minute goal came through an incisive pass from Rice to Ødegaard that led to Saka pouncing on the spilled shot. The early goal surely settled any early jangled nerves—keep in mind that only Jesus, Havertz, and Zinchenko had ever played a Champions League match before—and, from there, we took to the Champions League like fish to water. If Sevilla’s struggle at home to RC Lens is any indication, we shouldn’t have any trouble winning the group.
Havertz on the rise
While he has still to register an official goal or assist, Havertz showed signs of starting to settle in. He’s endured three seasons of chaos and will need some time to recalibrate. The early signs from this match were encouraging. He was getting himself into dangerous positions, finding open positions between the lines, doing a lot of donkey work, and making himself available even if the ball wasn’t finding him. Like the early buds of spring, it feels like he’s on the cusp of a breakthrough. It’s a shame that he couldn’t find the back of the net against such an open opponent, but it does feel like the dam will break sooner rather than later.
Ødegaard? More like Oh My God
Remind me again how we convinced this gem of a player to commit himself to a club that was in meltdown mode? Nevermind. We have on our hands a Bergkamp in the making, a blond, one-footed genius who can play the inch-perfect pass, bamboozle his would-be marker, and put the ball in the back of the net. He’s everywhere. and he’ll give you just enough of flair to put defenders on notice—nothing flashy or over the top, mind you—just enough to remind you that the ball is essentially glue to that left boot, and he’ll release when and how he sees fit, and to lethal effect at that.
Should Ramsdale be droppped for Raya?
This one’s a tough call. While Ramsdale form has been less than stellar, he didn’t do anything to deserve being dropped. It’s not as if he’s faced 12 shots and conceded nine goals (that’s an Onana reference for the uncultured Philistines). By contrast, Raya hasn’t had much to do since supplanting Ramsdale, but his distribution has been superior. He’s made a save or two, but neither Everton nor PSV really tested him in a way that would give Arteta clear evidence for or against Raya starting on Sunday in the NLD. If there’s any slim margin on which to make a decision, it might give an edge to Ramsdale, who’s played in a few such derbies and understands the stakes.
Finally, a fluid, swashbuckling result
We’ve endured a stutter-stop start to the season, stumbling our way through five uneven results even if we’ve taken 13 points from 15 available. Even our most-recent win over Man U looks a little less impressive week by week. To have gone into a tetchy match in which all of the pressure was on us to perform on a stage on which very few players had performed and to have come away with such a confident performance has got to give us just a touch of momentum. PSV Eindhoven may not have Barcelona’s pedigree, but they’re hardly Bodø/Glimt either. We’ve been needing a dominant, domineering performance to kick-start our season, and this may have been just the result we’ve needed to work through the lofty expectations generated by last season’s surprising over-achievements and this summer’s ambitious spending.
We should caution ourselves against reading too much into this one result even if PSV dented our ambitions during last season’s Europa League group stage. It’s not as if we defied expectations; we merely held serve. That said, by Arsène’s own calculations, ten points should be enough to earn a spot in the knockout stage. With Sevilla staggering to a draw at home to RC Lens, arguably the easiest fixture in this group stage, our path forward has gotten just a touch easier.
Let’s hope then that this result isn’t just a one-off. There’s enough evidence in it to remind us of this squad’s quality and its growing confidence. Tottenham may have the advantage of a few day’s rest ahead of Sunday’s North London Derby, but I wonder if that confidence and that momentum might just be a bit more…momentous.