58 min Arsenal’s pressing has been very good tonight, particularly from Jesus, Havertz, Odegaard and Rice. A fit, in-form Gabriel Jesus really elevates this team.
56 min Given the scoreline, both teams are playing with impressive speed and purpose. The second half may eventually become a non-event but that hasn’t happened yet.
53 min Lens have had more of the ball tonight, 53 per cent to Arsenal’s 47. Much of that was between the fourth and fifth goals, when Arsenal took a round off, but it’s still an interesting statistic given, you know, the 5-0 scoreline.
51 min The intensity of Lens’ performance since half-time suggests they don’t concur with Marsellus Wallace’s views on pride. That’s all they have to play for tonight.
49 min Jude Bellingham’s scored again.
48 min The camera cuts to the Lens bench, where the coaching staff are giving a masterclass in the body language of the folded arms.
47 min Arsenal’s biggest victory in Europe is 7-0: away to Standard Liege in 1993 (just after four consecutive 0-0 draws in the Premier League, and we all know which gave George Graham more pleasure) and at home to Slavia Prague in 2007.
46 min Peep peep! Lens begin the most futile 45 minutes of their season.
Half-time substitutions galore
Arsenal Ben White and Jakub Kiwior for Takehiro Tomiyasu and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Lens Deiver Machado, Adrien Thomasson and Neil El Ayanoui for Florian Sotoca, Facundo Medina and Salis Abdul Samed.
A question When were Arsenal serious contenders to win the Champions League? 2008-09? 2010-11? Easy to forget how much of a scare they gave an awesome Barcelona that year.
Here’s our Champions League roundup, which includes the other five-goal game in this group.
And here’s how the Group B table will look at full-time.
Arsenal P5 Pts12
PSV P5 Pts8
Lens P5 Pts5
Sevilla P5 Pts 2
Arsenal are swaggering into the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners. They blew Lens away with four goals in 15 exhilarating, so last season minutes, then added a fifth on the stroke of half-time.
There were five different goalscorers and, crucially, all five needed a goal: Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard will all feel a whole lot better about life as they stroll down the tunnel for their Gatorade chasers.
Saka led a counter-attack, running 60 yards while waiting for support. He came infield to work the angle for a reverse pass to release Tomiyasu, who stood up a fine cross to the far post. Odegaard watched it onto his left foot and battered a volley past Samba. Lovely stuff.
A gem of a team goal on the stroke of half-time.
45 min Saka plays in the underlapping Martinelli, who indulgently crashes a shot into the side netting. A low cross would have given Gabriel Jesus an open goal.
44 min Fuchini shoots straight at Raya from 20 yards. Arsenal are hanging on their 4-0 lead here.
43 min Wahi roasts Saliba down the left and flashes another ball across the face. It’s hard to know whether Arsenal have stopped playing, Lens have started, or both. Whatever the reason, Lens have been well on top since going, er, 4-0 down.
42 min Mendy is booked for a foul on Jesus.
41 min: Medina hits the post! If only Lens had started like this. Medina pings a sweet left-footed shot from 25 yards that veers away from Raya and thumps off the post. The ball rebounds to Wahi, who is offside, but the original shot would have counted. I think.
40 min I did Raya a disservice. He punched the ball first and then followed through to flatten ‘player’ with a stiff right.
Update: ‘player’ is Facundo Medina.
39 min Lens are having a good and entirely futile spell. Raya comes for Fulgini’s free-kick, misses and seems to punch somebody in the face. Play continues and the aforementioned, not easily identificable ‘player’ gets to his feet.
37 min Wahi runs onto a through ball in the inside-left channel and whacks a cross shot from a very tight angle that flashes across the face. At first I thought Raya got a touch but the reaction of the players – and the graphic saying Lens have had no shots on target – would suggest otherwise.
36 min: No penalty! The referee signals that it ricocheted off Havertz’s leg onto his arm. Imagine how many remotes have just been flung across living rooms in the vicinity of St James’ Park.
35 min: VAR check Lens appeal for a penalty when a free-kick hits the outstretched arm of Havertz. I think this will be given.
33 min The two attacking Gabriels, Martinelli and Jesus, look particularly sharp tonight. They’ve only scored one Premier League goal apiece this season, but a first half like this should do so much for their confidence.
31 min Haidara leaves one on Saka, who gets gingerly to his feet and looks pleadingly at the referee. Marco van Basten used to look at referees like that.
30 min Winning the group means Arsenal will almost certainly avoid Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the last 16. Long way to go, etc, but toughest available draw might be something like PSG or Inter Milan.
They almost get a fifth when Jesus send a defender to the wrong fire and slides a through pass that Martinelli can’t take in his stride. Had he done so, he’d have been through.
All three forwards have scored, which is exactly what Arsenal needed ahead of a tough run of fixtures. Tomiyasu’s clearance turned into a great pass from Martinelli on the far side. He moved into the area from the left, twisted Frankowski this way and that and slapped a lovely shot into the far corner.
If only Arsenal could find the attacking fluency of last season.
25 min Apologies for the radio silence between goals one and two – we had a few technical problems.
Havertz collected a loose ball 40 yards from goal and played it through to Martinelli. He cut inside Gradit and whacked a shot that was beaten away by Samba, flying to his left – but he could only slam it straight at Saka, following up six yards out. The ball hit him on the chest and bounced slowly into the net.
Well this is going well.
Bukayo Saka slalomed dangerously infield and, though he was eventually challenged on the edge of the area, he managed to force the loose ball square to Gabriel Jesus. He calmly sat Danso down and reversed the ball past Samba. That’s such a classy finish, his fourth of the season in this competition.
Arsenal are strolling into the last 16 as group winners.
14 min There was a VAR check for offside/handball/anything but the goal stands.
Tomiyasu’s angled cross was headed up in the air by Abdul Samed at the far post. Jesus got above Danso to nod back across goal and Havertz, ghosting into space in familiar style, flicked the bouncing ball through Samba from close range. There’s oodles of goodwill for Havertz at the Emirates, and the Arsenal fans loved that.
Kai Havertz gets his second goal in five days!
11 min: Just wide from Havertz! Rice cracks a pass out to Saka, who plays in the overlapping Tomiyasu. He floats a cross towards the penalty spot, where the backpedalling Havertz strains his neck muscles to head powerfully back across goal. The ball drifts just wide, though Samba probably had it covered.
9 min A slower game suits Lens, certainly at this stage, and they calm things down by keeping the ball for the best part of a minute.
7 min Zinchenko moves infield and floats a very deep cross towards Jesus. He tries to cushion a volley back across goal but slices it behind for a goalkick. Arsenal’s tempo has been so last season.
5 min Loads of early possession for Arsenal, though it’s all been in front of the Lens defence.
4 min There’s an excellent atmosphere at the Emirates, which is one of the reasons Arsenal have become so hard to beat here in the last couple of years. I think they’ve had only three defeats in the last 36; something like that.
2 min Meanwhile, here’s Will Unwin’s report on a bonkers game in Turkey.
1 min Peep peep! Arsenal, specifically Gabriel Jesus, kick off from left to right as we watch.
The players line up for the usual pre-match formalities, a few of them shivering quietly. It looks an, a-hem, slightly brisk night in north London.
That PSV result does put a bit of pressure on Arsenal, though it puts far more on Lens. If they lose tonight, they’re out. Arsenal have two chances.
This is how Group B looks after that mighty victory for PSV Eindhoven, who were 2-0 down when Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos was sent off in the 66th minute.
Arsenal P4 Pts9
PSV P5 Pts8
Lens P4 Pts5
Sevilla P5 Pts 2
Arsenal will qualify with a draw and win the group if they beat Lens, who themselves need at least a draw because of their inferior head-to-head record against PSV Eindhoven. Sevilla can only make the Europa League if Lens lose tonight. Confused? Splendid, now all I need are the three digits on the back of the card.
My word, PSV – who were 2-0 down after an hour – are going to win in Seville. The American Ricardo Pepi has completed a spectacular comeback, which means Arsenal need a draw tonight to ensure qualification – and avoid a potentially hairy trip to Eindhoven in a fortnight.
GOAL! Sevilla 2-2 PSV (Vertessen 81) An own goal from Nemanja Gudelj has brought PSV Eindhoven level in Seville. That’s a big goal for them and a mildly inconvient one for Arsenal, who won’t officially qualify before kick-off if it stays like this.
GOAL! Sevilla 2-1 PSV (Saibari 68) PSV have pulled one back in Seville – and the home side are down to 10 men.
Meanwhile, Galatasaray v Man Utd has turned into a basketball match.
The new pragmatism
GOAL! Sevilla 2-0 PSV (En-Nesyri 47) Youssef En-Nesyri has doubled Sevilla’s lead, and it looks like Arsenal will go through to the last 16 before kicking a ball.
Mikel Arteta makes a couple of changes from the win at Brentford on Saturday. Kai Havertz, who came off the bench to score the winner, replaces Leandro Trossard in midfield, and David Raya returns in goal. He was ineligible on Saturday.
Lens, who beat Clerment Foot 3-0 on Saturday, bring in Kevin Danso, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Nampalys Mendy and Florian Sotoca for Abdukodir Khusanov, Ruben Aguilar, Neil El Aynaoui and Adrien Thomasson.
Arsenal (4-1-2-3) Raya; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Rice; Odegaard, Havertz; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli.
Substitutes: Ramsdale, Hein, White, Nketiah, Kiwior, Cedric, Trossard, Jorginho, Nelson, Elneny, Lewis-Skelly, Nwaneri.
Lens (3-4-2-1) Samba; Gradit, Danso, Medina; Frankowski, N Mendy, Abdul Samed, Haidara; Sotoca, Fulgini; Wahi.
Substitutes: Leca, Pandor, Aguilar, Machado, Pereira Da Costa, Diouf, Maouassa, Said, El Aynaoui, Khusanov, Thomassoi.
Referee Artur Dias (Portugal).
Good evening. Like hope and the humble mullet, progress comes in many forms. On this day three years ago, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers. The game is remembered for Raul Jimenez suffering a fractured skull, a shocking incident that almost killed him. It was also Arsenal’s fifth defeat in 10 Premier League games, a run they soon extended to eight in 14. At Christmas they were 15th, and many people expected Arteta’s stocking to contain a P45.
Three years on, Arteta’s Arsenal are again being criticised – but this time it’s polite, qualified criticism about a team who are top of both the Premier League and their Champions League group. You don’t need a degree in xG to know that Arsenal haven’t been as dynamic or exhilarating as they were in the first half of last season, yet that may well be a positive.
If Arsenal get anywhere near their attacking play of 2022-23 while retaining the £105m worth of solidity they added in the summer – and there’s no tactical reason why they can’t – their 20-year wait for one of the two big prizes may come to an end.
Arsenal play Lens at the Emirates tonight knowing that a win would ensure qualification and top spot, which almost certainly means a kinder draw in the last 16. They could qualify before kick off, depending on the result in the early game between Sevilla and PSV. As things stand, with Sevilla 1-0 up through Sergio Ramos, Arsenal are in the last 16.
They’ll want to win regardless, especially as they owe Lens one after a 2-1 defeat in the return fixture. All things being equal, it’ll be a comfortable night for Arsenal. And even if it isn’t, they will enter December in infinitely better shape than they did three years ago.
Kick off 8pm.