Mikel Arteta played down the significance of David Raya’s selection over Aaron Rasmdale in the aftermath of Arsenal’s 4-0 Champions League win over PSV Eindhoven.
The Gunners ran out clear and deserving winners in north London, overwhelming their Dutch opponents thanks to a first-half goal blitz from Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus.
Martin Odegaard added gloss to the scoreline with a fourth goal 20 minutes from time, sealing all three points for Arsenal in their first Group B game, and they top the table after matchday one following Lens’ 1-1 draw with Sevilla.
Much of the talk before the game was focused on Arteta’s selection of Raya for Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday – the Spaniard drafted in for his first start at the expense of long-time number one Ramsdale.
There was uncertainty over who would be between the sticks for Arsenal’s European voyage, and it was Raya who got the nod when the starting lineups were confirmed. The former Brentford stopper kept a second consecutive sheet, but Arteta was keen to play down the reasons for his selection during his post-match press conference.
“It’s a belief that I had in the team I wanted to play against the expected opponent,” Arteta said of his decision to pick Raya. “Not only that, I made the other changes for the same reason.
“Obviously every opponent brings different challenges,” Arteta continued when asked about playing a PSV side more willing to play on the front foot. “When you score early in the game that helps and that hasn’t been the case too much this season. That’s why we’ve had to face teams in other ways as well. But certainly when you see this team running and being full of pace and being vertical, it’s a joy to watch.”
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It was a night of heightened emotion at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal returned to Champions League action for the first time in six years, and the magnitude of the occasion wasn’t lost on Arteta, who spoke of his emotion at leading the club back into the top tier of European football.
“It was a beautiful night after such a long time,” he continued. “We wanted to produce the right performance to win the game. It was great to see the atmosphere and the Champions League music. Everyone was getting a bit emotional before it. We showed in both boxes today I think we were exceptional. That was the difference today I think.
“I was [emotional] yeah. I was really excited about it. I wanted to control and not show that too much, but I was really excited. The journey started last year when we earned the right to be in this competition which is where we have to be as a club. Now we have to produce what we have to produce to stay at this level.”
Arteta also reserved praise for the much-maligned Kai Havertz, who returned to the starting lineup after dropping to the bench at Goodison Park. He said of the German’s performance: “He was really connected today in the game.
“It’s true I asked him to play two different roles in regards to the behaviors of the opponents and he’s so intelligent that he does it. It’s just finishing one or two actions that we had but it’s coming in and he’s so willing to do it.”
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