Lens 2-1 Arsenal: Report from Stade Bollaert-Delelis

The first game of October resulted in Arsenal’s first defeat of the season, slumping to a miserable 2-1 loss in northern France.

Everything was going to plan when, 14 minutes in, Gabriel Jesus broke the deadlock, following some very sharp play between the Brazilian striker and Bukayo Saka.

However, it was all downhill after that, most notable in the 34th minute when Saka, for the third game in succession, hobbled down the tunnel injured, much to the concern of the traveling contingent of traveling Gooners.

Even before that, Lens had enjoyed their big moment.

The hosts equalised when David Raya’s kick was, in fairness, brilliantly intercepted by Deiver Machado, who crossed for Elye Wahi before the ball was stunningly stroked home by Adrien Thomasson.

At that moment, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, built 90 years ago and located in a small town in Northern France, was literally shaking, as les Sang et Or supporters rejoiced, having witnessed their first Champions League goal at home for 7,644 days.

But it would get better even further for the home side mid-way through the second half when Przemysław Frankowski’s pull back was cushioned into the far corner by Wahi, sparking even wilder celebrations.

Yes Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe did force Brice Samba into impressive second half stops, but Mikel Arteta’s team certainly did not do enough, and cannot have any complaints about the result.

So, after matchday two, Lens sit proudly at the top of Group B, as their fans were eager to tell anyone and everyone who may or may no want to listen come full time.

For the Gunners, this leave them with work to do in the Champions League, and is a massive confidence hit ahead of Sunday’s visit from treble winners Manchester City.

Elsewhere, the other two teams in this group played out a 2-2 draw in Eindhoven, as Jordan Teze snatched a 95th minute equaliser for PSV.

That’s probably a good result for Arsenal, who face a double-header against Sevilla next, traveling to Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán on 24 October.

Despite dropping down to second, the Gunners are still odds-on favourites to qualify for the round of 16, priced at 1/7.

They are also still favourites to top the section, and rightly so, although this was never going to come easily, and Mikel Arteta’s team probably cannot afford another slip-up in Spain in three weeks time.

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Despite this being their first appearance in the Champions League for seven seasons, Arsenal are fourth favourites to be featuring in June’s final at Wembley, behind only holders Man City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Honestly, this is sort of baffling, given that the Gunners’ away record in Europe under Mikel Arteta continues to underwhelm.

Lens, currently one place above Ligue 1′s relegation zone, are not an elite-level team, and Arsenal seemingly turned up assuming they would to cruise to victory, with Jesus’ early goal only furthering this.

However, once the home side equalised not long after, Arteta’s team froze and were unable to gain any semblance control of both the game and the occasions, engulfed by the party atmosphere generated by the exuberant Lens supporters.

When Arsenal had a free-kick deep into stoppage time, the whistling from all four corners of the stadium was honestly defining and, in line with what had come before, the usually reliable Martin Ødegaard scooped the ball straight out of play.

So, if you’re feeling ultra-optimistic and truly believe Arsenal will get all the way to the final, now is probably the time to back them, priced at 9/2, as the odds may never be highr, following Tuesday’s dismal display.

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Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".