Arsenal hit Lens for six to book CL last-16 spot as group winners

Arsenal cruised through to the Champions League last-16 as group winners after a breathtaking first half saw them beat Lens 6-0 at the Emirates.

The pressure had been turned back on the Gunners by PSV, whose late comeback win against Sevilla in the early kick-off meant Arsenal needed a point to qualify for the knockout rounds.

And they answered the call emphatically. In fact, it took just 13 minutes in the first half for Arsenal to dismantle their opponents, who had beaten them 2-1 in the reverse fixture in October.

Kai Havertz (13) began the glut, scoring in his second successive game, before Gabriel Jesus (21) doubled. Bukayo Saka (23) – continuing his fine form in the Champions League this season – bundled home the next, but the best came from a fine, solo effort from Gabriel Martinelli (27).

His effort was perhaps matched by Martin Odegaard’s (45+1) brilliant strike on the stroke of half-time, whipping home a thunderous volley. Jorginho (86) then rounded off a statement Arsenal performance from the penalty spot after European debutant Abduqodir Khusanov was penalised for handball.

The result sees the Gunners through as Group B winners with 12 points, with PSV joining them in the knockout rounds. They face each other in the final group game in a fortnight’s time. Lens, meanwhile, have been knocked out of the Champions League.

Brilliant Bukayo

  • Bukayo Saka is the third player on record (2003-04 onwards) to both score and assist in three consecutive home games in the UEFA Champions League, after Karim Benzema (4 in 2011-12) and Luis Suárez (3 in 2015-16).
  • Bukayo Saka is the first Premier League player, and second across Europe’s big-five leagues (also Florian Wirtz), to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season.
  • Bukayo Saka is the first English player to assist three or more goals in a single Champions League season for Arsenal.

How Arsenal blew Lens away

Martin Odegaard scored a fine goal late in the first half
Martin Odegaard scored a fine goal late in the first half

A 13-minute blitz at the start of the first half saw Arsenal into an unassailable lead. Takehiro Tomiyasu had already sent a number of fine crosses into the area, and the Lens defence almost dealt with this one.

But the looping ball was instead nodded down by Jesus, with Havertz incoming to rifle home past Brice Samba. There was a brief VAR check for offside, but the goal stood.

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Paul Merson reacts after Gabriel Martinelli put Arsenal 4-0 up inside 28 minutes against Lens in the Champions League

For the second, Bukayo Saka was the creator. He cut in from the right, with the Lens defence needing two attempts to muscle him off the ball. But after the second, the ball rolled into Jesus’ path. He dummied two defenders before sweeping home.

Team news headlines

  • Arsenal made two changes from the weekend’s win at Brentford.
  • David Raya came in for Aaron Ramsdale, while Kai Havertz replaced Leandro Trossard.

Three minutes later and Saka was on the scoresheet himself, marking the fifth anniversary of his Arsenal debut. Havertz’s initial shot was well-saved by Samba, but the 22-year-old was in the right spot to see the ball hit him on the legs and into the back of the net.

Martinelli was not to be left out on the scoring frenzy, adding Arsenal’s fourth in the 27th minute. It was a sensational solo goal, initially picking up a raking pass from Tomiyasu on the left wing, before driving into the area and firing home.

Player ratings

Arsenal: Raya (6), Tomiyasu (8), Saliba (7), Gabriel (7), Zinchenko (7), Odegaard (8), Rice (8), Havertz (8), Saka (8), Jesus (8), Martinelli (8).

Subs used: White (7), Kiwior (7), Nelson (7), Jorginho (7), Nketiah (n/a).

Lens: Samba (5), Gradit (6), Danso (6), Medina (6), Frankoweki (6), Mendy (6), Samed (6), Haidara (5), Sotoca (5), Fulgini (6), Wahi (6).

Subs used: Machado (5), Thomasson (5), El Anyaoui (5), Khusanov (4), Pereira Da Costa (5).

Player of the match: Bukayo Saka.

Lens began to find their feet between goals four and five – with the latter coming on the stroke of half-time. It was a lightening quick break from Saka, who fed Tomiyasu on the overlap. It was another fine cross into the area from the Japan international, with Odegaard incoming to volley home a superb effort to round off an equally as brilliant first half.

The second half was an exercise in game management for Arsenal, which they executed to perfection. Lens registered no shots on target after the break as the Gunners came away with a clean sheet intact.

Jorginho added a late sixth from the penalty spot
Jorginho added a late sixth from the penalty spot

But there was a sixth goal, which came after a fairly lengthy VAR review for a penalty. It initially appeared to be focused on Khusanov’s unintentional elbow into Martinelli, but it was in fact the ball hitting the Lens defender’s arm as he held it across the Arsenal forward’s chest that was penalised for handball.

Jorginho lined the spot kick up for Arsenal, coolly sending the goalkeeper the wrong way as the Gunners cruised into the last-16 with a game to spare.

Merson: Arsenal will be feared in the Champions League

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson on Soccer Special:

“I said at the start I thought they are big players in this tournament. No one will want to play them.

“They clicked tonight – and when they start well they’re hard to beat. They will go a long way in this tournament and they’ll be right up there in the Premier League title race.

“Havertz is a confidence player and he’s playing with confidence right now. I thought he was the best player on the pitch tonight. He was elegant, he picked the right passes and made the right decisions. He’s a top player. I don’t think he’s playing in the right position but he’s still a top player.”

Jesus: We went full gas!

Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus to TNT Sports:

“From the start we were amazing. We go full gas.

“The team performance was top – now we have to keep going because on Saturday we have another big one.

“Playing at home, our fans’ support is always amazing and they push us. Qualifying first is important, so congratulations to the whole team.”

Opta stats –

  • Arsenal’s 6-0 win is the biggest ever victory by an English team against a French opponent in European competition.
  • Arsenal’s 4-0 lead within 27 minutes was the joint-fastest an English side has ever scored four in a UEFA Champions League game, along with Manchester United v Brøndby IF in November 1998 (who went on to win the competition that season).
  • Arsenal became the first side in UEFA Champions League history to have as many as five different scorers (excl. own goals) in the first half of a match in the competition.
  • Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus became the first player to score in each of his first four UEFA Champions League appearances for an English team (four goals).

What’s next?

Arsenal host Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday; kick-off 3pm. The Gunners complete their Champions League group stage campaign away at PSV on Tuesday December 12; kick off 5.45pm.

Lens host Lyon at 4pm on Saturday in Ligue 1 while they host Sevilla in the Champions League on December 12; kick off 5.45pm.

Carra: Arsenal can’t win Premier League playing like this

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher says Arsenal are becoming over-reliant on winning games by finite margins and that could derail their title chase later in the season.

The Gunners currently sit top of the Premier League table, a point better off than second-placed Manchester City, having secured five of their nine victories by single-goal margins.

That includes a 1-0 win over City in early October, as well as a 1-0 triumph in their latest league outing against Brentford, where Kai Havertz found an 89th-minute winner.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League clash between Brentford and Arsenal.

Carragher believes Arsenal will ultimately come unstuck in their challenge for a first league title since 2003-04 if they are not able to win games more convincingly – highlighting a particular drop-off in attacking productivity.

“We’re still only a third of the way through the season, but I think if Arsenal continue how they are, if this is the Arsenal we’re going to see this season, I don’t think they can win the league,” Carragher said on Monday Night Football.


“I think so many games are going to the wire and sometimes that can go against you – you think of the [Aaron] Ramsdale mistake and the big chance Brentford had in the second half at the weekend.

“Those games that finish 1-0 can easily go 1-0 the other way.”

Aaron Ramsdale missed his chance to stake a claim for the Arsenal No 1 jersey in a nervous showing during their win at Brentford
Aaron Ramsdale delivered a nervous showing during Arsenal’s narrow win at Brentford

Carra says Arsenal are lacking the kind of fluidity and energy that made them so dangerous last season, with attacking output from key players not yet hitting the same heights.

“For me, when we’re talking about a different Arsenal – we can see it with the stats, but everyone can see with their eyes.

“It’s not the same fluidity, the same pace, energy and creating chances – you can see that.

Arsenal’s fine margins

  • Aug 12: Arsenal 2-1 Nottm Forest
  • Aug 21: Crystal Palace 0-1 Arsenal
  • Sept 17: Everton 0-1 Arsenal
  • Oct 8: Arsenal 1-0 Man City
  • Nov 25: Brentford 0-1 Arsenal

“The reason I don’t think they are as fluid is that individually, the attacking players have been average this season, whereas they were on absolute fire last season in terms of [Gabriel] Martinelli, [Bukayo] Saka and [Gabriel] Jesus.

“[Martin] Odegaard for me last season was up there alongside Kevin De Bruyne, but I know he’s had a few injury problems.”

Monday Night Football guest, and former Arsenal forward Freddie Ljungberg, believes Arsenal are equipped to challenge Man City for Premier League honours but need to focus on rediscovering their attacking impetus.


“I think definitely they’re ready to challenge for the title,” he said, “but the stats here are quite telling to be honest and I don’t think that will work in their favour.

“If I look at City, you almost have to be 10 points in front of them at Christmas, because they’re always so strong in the spring.

“One thing I would take into consideration is that other teams now have respect for Arsenal – the same way they approach a game against City.

“Teams approach with the same game plan, it’s to destroy what Arsenal are doing, and that makes it harder for them in open play to score as many goals.”

Arteta reveals manager solidarity on ref rant

Mikel Arteta revealed that many Premier League managers had been in contact with him after the Arsenal boss was charged by the Football Association for comments after the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat at Newcastle earlier this month.

Arteta branded the officials’ decision not to overturn Anthony Gordon’s goal “an absolute disgrace” and waits to see the extent of his punishment.

And Arteta highlighted that he and his manager colleagues were “all in this together” when it came to making improvements regarding officiating in the Premier League.

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta slams the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s goal to stand in Newcastle’s 1-0 win over the Gunners in the Premier League

“I have been in contact with many of them, I know most of them for many years and we are all in this together,” Arteta said.

“We compete with each other but we understand our roles and understand our responsibility and we want to fulfil that to our best.

“So everything we do has to be properly thought with good process in place and make sure we contribute to make it better.

“We do meetings (with the officials) but sometimes individually. A lot of things happen.”

Arsenal faced criticism after a public statement supporting Arteta’s comments was released earlier this month.

But the Gunners manager defended his views, putting his reaction down to emotions after it was suggested his comments would set the wrong example as to how to treat referees.

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta states he will carry on ‘being authentic’ as he is charged by the FA for his comments following his side’s controversial match against Newcastle

“I have given hundreds of opinions but you want to isolate one moment when I talked about something I believed and used it in a different way, I don’t think that’s fair”, Arteta said to a reporter.

“We live the game with emotion. I react when a player scores a goal. I react when a player gives the ball away. We are constantly reacting – this is the game.

“We live a game which is passionate and you play to win and so this has to happen and we have to react.

“Let’s sit down here like a theatre and be on mute and see if this league and game will be interesting, it won’t. And that’s what makes it special.”

Poch wants managers ‘involved in decisions’ around referee reform

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Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino gives injury updates on Levi Colwill, Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia and shared his excitement surrounding Wesley Fofana’s return to the training pitch

Mauricio Pochettino believes Premier League managers should be invited to play a more active role in helping shape refereeing guidelines.

Chelsea have been involved in a number of controversial fixtures this season, most notably the frenetic 4-1 win away at Tottenham earlier in November in which Spurs had two players sent off, five goals were disallowed and VAR made nine interventions across a match that lasted over 110 minutes.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea

Pochettino has previously complained that the league’s request to meet with coaches in the week before the beginning of the season to discuss changes allowed little room for constructive input from managers and their clubs.

The current campaign has seen a barrage of complaints directed at on-field and VAR officials, with referees coming under almost unprecedented scrutiny following a string of errors, particularly relating to the influence of the video referee on the decision-making process.

“We all have full respect for the referees, we understand perfectly that their job is really tough,” said Pochettino, whose team face Newcastle at St James’s Park on Saturday.

“But the problem is you get frustrated sometimes during the game because of the VAR. The referee is not responsible sometimes. You cannot complain to the VAR. That is a problem.

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Listen to the full four minute VAR check of Anthony Gordon’s controversial goal for Newcastle against Arsenal, with PGMOL chief Howard Webb discussing the process of awarding the goal

“I’m going to try and control more my emotions. I think all the coaches respect the referees because they’re in a really difficult situation.

“I think sometimes we are frustrated. I think coaches need to be more involved in the decisions, and to work together during the season.

“It is not (ideal) to arrive the week before the start of the Premier League season and say, ‘OK, the new rules are this. What do you think?’. Nothing, because you have already made the decision. Like the rule that there can only be one coach (in the technical area). Why?

“England was always different about the relationship with the referee. You can talk, you can (previously) have four people in the dugout. Which way do we want to evolve in the Premier League?

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Former Premier League referee Mike Dean discusses the current state of VAR and how it affects referees on today’s Soccer Saturday

“England is different. Not only because you drive on the right (of the car), but because of the relationship in football. It is the gentleman’s game.”

Despite those frustrations, and the ongoing confusion surrounding the proper implementation of VAR and its interpretation of the game’s rules, Pochettino acknowledged that the emotional side of football is ultimately what props up the business side of the sport.

“I think people look at football and understand that it is a big business,” he said. “The sport is very honest, with rules. But around that it is a business that we cannot stop.

“If the sport doesn’t produce that emotion it is producing, it is difficult to talk about it in this way, to have the chance to have good salaries, to give also to society.

“Football provides people with happiness and that is the most important thing. We are all part of this business.”

Havertz nets late header at Brentford to send Arsenal top

Kai Havertz came off the bench to score a late header and send Arsenal top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Brentford.

Aaron Ramsdale initially made a shaky return on his first start since September due to David Raya being ineligible to face his parent club and was spared by a superb goal-line clearance from Declan Rice in the first half after making an error.

Arsenal thought they had taken the lead when Leandro Trossard nodded in before the break but he was ruled offside following a VAR check.

Brentford pushed for a winner in the second half as Arsenal stuttered. The Gunners had Oleksandr Zinchenko to thank for making a goal-line block to deny substitute Neal Maupay before snatching victory in the final minute when Havertz headed in from Bukayo Saka’s cross.

Player ratings:

Brentford: Flekken (6), Pinnock (7), Norgaard (6), Wissa (6), Ghoddos (6), Onyeka (6), Mee (7), Mbeumo (6), Ajer (6), Janelt (7), Yarmoliuk (6).

Subs: Maupay (6), Baptiste (6), Lewis-Potter (n/a), Jorgensen (n/a)

Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), Tomiyasu (7), Gabriel (7), Saliba (7), Zinchenko (7); Rice (7), Odegaard (6), Trossard (6); Saka (7), Jesus (6), Martinelli (6).

Subs: Nketiah (6), Havertz (7), Jorginho (n/a), White (n/a)

Player of the Match: Oleksandr Zinchenko

How Arsenal beat Brentford

Bryan Mbeumo fails to capitalise on Aaron Ramsdale's error
Bryan Mbeumo almost punished Aaron Ramsdale’s error in the first half

Ramsdale was taunted by the Brentford fans with every touch and he nearly gifted them the lead in the 14th minute.

The goalkeeper dallied in the six-yard box and was tackled by Yoane Wissa, the ball breaking for Bryan Mbeumo, whose shot was superbly blocked on the line by Rice with Wissa unable to turn home the rebound.

Team news:

  • Saman Ghoddos, Frank Onyeka and Yehor Yarmoliuk came into the Brentford starting XI.
  • Nathan Collins, Mads Roerslev and Mathias Jensen all drop out and none of them were on the bench.
  • Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus both returned from injury to start for Arsenal.
  • Aaron Ramsdale came in for goalkeeper David Raya, who was ineligible to face his parent club.

Ramsdale then had his head in his shirt after his attempt to throw the ball out bounced just yards in front of him and straight to Brentford.

At the other end, Arsenal were composed, probing the opposition’s defence with patient attacks. Mark Flekken had denied a deflected Gabriel Jesus shot moments before Arsenal thought they had taken the lead.

Leandro Trossard heads the ball into the Brentford net only for his effort to be ruled out by VAR for offside
Leandro Trossard heads the ball into the Brentford net only for his effort to be ruled out by VAR for offside

Trossard pounced to nod in from close range but the VAR ruled the goal out as the forward was offside from Jesus’ initial header which had been parried into the air by Flekken.

Brentford had the better of the second half without creating many clear chances. Maupay’s close-range header was brilliantly kept out by Zinchenko which galvanised the Gunners.

Rice drove them forward, seeing a deflected shot go narrowly wide before Havertz made the telling impact. Saka cut in from the right and sent a cross to the back post where Havertz’ stooping header crept past Flekken.

Arteta on Havertz: That’s what big players do

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta:

“I’m so happy with the team, with the way they performed, we got the clean sheet and I’m so happy with how everybody played.

“We should’ve scored earlier than that, but this is a really tough place to come.

“Credit to Brentford for what they do to every team. We showed a lot of resilience and belief.

“I’m delighted for Kai. You only have to see the reaction of everyone, how much they love him, and what he brings to the team. It’s what he needs to do.

“We believed he could change the game with the way they were defending, and it was the perfect timing, perfect execution. He won the game for us – that’s what big players do.”

Frank: It was a completely even game

Brentford manager Thomas Frank:

“We did so many things right. It was a very even game. They had more on the ball which is no surprise. But it was completely even.

“Two chances to each team and unfortunately they scored one of them and we didn’t. It should have been a draw but games that tight can be decided by one margin going the wrong way or one quality action.

“I’m pleased with the performance and the effort of the players. That was game number 13 and we have performed well in 12 of them. We have performed to get more points than we have got so far. I still think that’s a good sign. Hopefully, we can continue the good performances going forward so we can get more points.”

Opta Stats: Arteta wins on 200th game

  • Arsenal finish the day top of the Premier League table for the first time this season. With the top two (Man City and Liverpool) drawing 1-1 earlier, this is now the second time in Premier League history that the top two have met but neither have finished the day top, after 28th November 2015 (Leicester 1-1 Manchester United, Man City finished the day top).
  • Brentford have lost their first Premier League London derby in 15 such matches (W8 D6), since a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in this exact fixture last season, while the Gunners extend their run to 17 games unbeaten in London derbies in the competition (W12 D5).
  • Mikel Arteta has won 116 of his 200 games in charge of Arsenal in all competitions, the most wins of any manager in their first 200 games in charge of the club (previously Arsene Wenger, 111).
  • Arsenal have had 10 goals scored via substitutes this season in all competitions, the joint most of any Premier League side (Brighton also 10).

Fantasy Premier League stats

FPL stats: Brentford 0-1 Arsenal

Goals Havertz
Assists Saka
Bonus points Zinchenko (3pts), Saka (2pts), Tomiyasu (1pt)

Play Fantasy Premier League and see more stats here

What’s next?

Brentford host Luton in the Premier League on Saturday December 3; kick-off 3pm.

Meanwhile, Arsenal are in Champions League action on Wednesday when they host RC Lens; kick-off 8pm.

They then host Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday December 2; kick-off 3pm.