LONDON – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted that the job is not done yet, even as the Gunners qualified for the Europa League knockout stage with two group games to spare after Granit Xhaka’s goal secured a 1-0 home win over PSV Eindhoven on Thursday.
Victory in the rescheduled Group A match, postponed in September following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, means Arsenal will finish in the top two in the group having maintained their perfect start after four games.
The group winners secure an automatic last-16 spot while the runners-up face one of the third-place teams dropping down from the Champions League in a two-legged play-off tie in February.
“We had really good moments where we dominated against a really good side. We lacked that final pass or shot but we’re happy to win the game and we are qualified, which is the first step,” said Arteta, whose side have now won 13 of their 14 matches in all competitions this season.
“The difference between finishing first and second is big and we want to get the job done (next week).”
Arsenal visit PSV next Thursday in the reverse fixture needing a point to guarantee top spot in the group. They then host FC Zurich in their final game.
The hosts endured a frustrating first half as they dominated, and had nine shots to PSV’s one, but struggled to create clear opportunities and did not trouble goalkeeper Walter Benitez.
Arsenal also made a slow start to the second half before Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus all came close to breaking the deadlock, with Xhaka finally giving them a deserved lead in the 71st minute.
Substitute Martin Odegaard played the ball wide right to Takehiro Tomiyasu, who found an unmarked Xhaka and the Swiss midfielder swung a half-volley past Benitez for his third goal of the season in all competitions.
Arsenal sit top with 12 points, five more than second-placed PSV, with the win leaving them on the cusp of sealing top spot.
“We had chance after chance and we didn’t have the luck to score earlier but we had the passion to keep the ball, keep creating the chances and I think we deserved the win,” Xhaka said.
“It gives us confidence. Everything is going well at the moment but for us, it is not a surprise, we’re doing a lot of work... We wanted to go through and are very happy.”
Arsenal, who are four points clear of champions Manchester City, return to Premier League action on Sunday with a visit to Southampton, who are 14th in the table. REUTERS, AFP