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Arsenal turn on the style in six-goal rout of Lens

Martin Odegaard of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his side';s fifth goal during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and RC Lens at Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2023 in London, England
Martin Odegaard scored Arsenal's fifth just before half time - Getty Images/James Gill

Boring, boring Arsenal. That has been the accusation made against Mikel Arteta’s evolving side this season. At times it has been a fair criticism but this was an emphatic, glorious and pointed riposte from the Arsenal manager and his players.

Boring? How about five goals in the first half alone? How about every single forward player finding the net? How about the speed, invention and sheer joy of their attacking football, against an RC Lens side who suffered the most brutal of punishments?

It takes a brave team to come to Arsenal with an appetite for adventure. Lens tried it, pushing high up the pitch and leaving space in behind, and they were promptly obliterated within just half an hour of action. From the first minute, the Arsenal attackers were licking their lips like beasts who had not feasted for weeks.

There is a reason, after all, that almost every Premier League team arrives at the Emirates Stadium with the intention of setting up camp in their own penalty area. To give space to Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli is to effectively present your own chin, eyes closed, to a puncher of devastating power. Lens took hit after hit and, before long, they were stumbling cluelessly through a north London hell.

All three of those forwards scored and there were also goals for the attacking midfielders, Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard, before the break. It meant that Arsenal became the first team in Champions League history to have five different scorers in the first half of a match. “I did not even dream it like this,” said Arteta. “We were amazing,” said Jesus.

Truly, this was Arsenal unleashed. The fast Arsenal, the fun Arsenal. The Arsenal that their supporters had come to expect last season. A deeply enjoyable night for the home crowd, then, and a result that ensured Arsenal will finish top of their group. The knockout stages await, although one assumes that more challenging opponents are also on the horizon.

“Right from the beginning, the team showed a lot of aggression and determination,” said Arteta. “Everything happened in the right way.”

The party started early and it helped the atmosphere that Havertz was the man who struck first. His winner at Brentford last weekend felt like a springboard moment and, on this evidence, that is already proving to be the case. As Jesus jumped for a loose ball, it was Havertz who reacted quickest.

Two goals in two games for the German, and now the home crowd is starting to show some love. For the first time since he swapped Chelsea blue for Arsenal red, Havertz’s name echoed around north London. “£60 million down the drain,” they sang. “Kai Havertz scores again.”

Arsenal's Kai Havertz scores their first goal past RC Lens' Brice Samba
Kai Havertz got Arsenal up and running tonight with their first goal of the night - Matthew Childs/Reuters

Arsenal soon scored again, too, as Jesus produced his latest masterpiece in this season’s Champions League. The Brazilian has been enjoying himself throughout this European campaign and this strike, converted after he had sat down a hapless Lens defender, was yet another demonstration of his class.

You would not have thought it, given the obvious gulf in quality, but Lens came into this match unbeaten in three Champions League matches against Arsenal. That record was a source of concern before kick-off, but quickly became more like a punchline.

The next to score was Saka, who bundled the ball into the empty net after Martinelli’s shot had been saved by Brice Samba. Then it was Martinelli’s turn, as he curled a gorgeous effort into the far corner for Arsenal’s third goal in the space of six minutes. At which point, the Lens bench would not have been blamed for trying to stop the fight. Pummellings like this are not supposed to happen at the highest level.

Arsenal play with five attacking players and all five of them scored before half-time. It was Odegaard who completed the set, volleying home with venom after Takehiro Tomiyasu had galloped into that space behind the Lens defence.

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring his side's fifth goal of the night
Martin Odegaard's volleyed strike made it 5-0 to Arsenal at the break - Andy Rain/Shutterstock

Such was Arsenal’s dominance, Arteta felt able to do something unusual: rest Saka. The England winger was removed after 66 minutes and he was soon joined by Declan Rice, another player who usually has a long-distance relationship with the bench.

Jorginho sends Brice Samba the wrong way and slots home the penalty
Jorginho's penalty late on sealed a dominant victory for Arsenal to send them through to the knockout stages - Ian Kington/Getty Images

Clearly, the contest was over. But Arsenal still wanted more and they struck the sixth in the final minutes, when Abdukodir Khusanov’s handball was spotted by the Var. Odegaard, ever the captain, handed the ball to Jorginho and the Italy international calmly rolled his penalty into the corner. Six-nil, to the Arsenal.


Arsenal vs Lens: As it happened . . .


10:32 PM GMT

Jesus enjoying himself


10:25 PM GMT

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to TNT Sports


10:21 PM GMT

Our very own Sam Dean


10:20 PM GMT

Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka speaking to TNT Sports

“Everyone is really happy. It’s our first time back in the Champions League for a while and we’ve qualified with a game to go. When we first looked at our group we wanted to finish top. We’ve done that so can be proud.

“The boss is already reminding us to just enjoy a little bit and then focus on Wolves on Saturday. I try to be myself but when you cross the white line, it’s you against your opponent. I try my best to be better than him. Whatever I have to do to win, I do it.

“Not really [happy at coming off], I wanted to play 90 minutes. I understand his decision. Now I’m focused on Wolves, I want to do my best in that game. I’ll never forget that day [his debut five years ago]. It was a cold day like this. I’ve gone through a lot on and off the pitch since then.”


10:10 PM GMT

Landmark win for Arsenal


10:05 PM GMT

Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus speaking to TNT Sports


09:59 PM GMT

Paul Merson on Sky Sports

“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.”

Arsenal's Kai Havertz celebrates first goal during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and RC Lens at Emirates Stadium
Kai Havertz got Arsenal up and running with their first goal - Nigel French/Getty Images

09:57 PM GMT

Arsenal through to the knockout stages


09:53 PM GMT

Full time

That is that at the Emirates and Arsenal are through to the knockout stages as group winners with a game to spare after a dominant 6-0 win.


09:51 PM GMT

90 minutes: Arsenal 6 Lens 0

There are three minutes of added time at the end of this one-sided match.


09:47 PM GMT

GOAL! 6-0

Jorginho sends the goalkeeper the wrong way and slots it home to make it 6-0. Only a few minutes left in the 90.

Arsenal's Jorginho scores their sixth goal from the penalty spot past RC Lens' Brice Samba
Jorginho's late penalty makes it 6-0 to Arsenal - Matthew Childs/Reuters

09:46 PM GMT

Penalty given

The referee was sent to the screen and he then points to the spot. Not sure that is a penalty. That was not a deliberate handball but anyway it is given. Jorginho to take...


09:45 PM GMT

VAR check

There is a potential penalty being checked by VAR inside the Lens area. Martinelli went down holding his face claiming he had been elbowed which was rather pathetic. They are also checking for handball...


09:42 PM GMT

81 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Into the final 10 minutes and Arsenal are heading into the knockout stages as winners of Group B. They have a corner which is met by White inside the six-yard box but his header goes just over the bar.

Arsenal’s final change of the night sees Nketiah come on for Jesus.


09:36 PM GMT

76 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Arsenal will have another corner but before that Rice is replaced by Jorginho. Lens also make a change as Pereira da Costa replaces Mendy. Lens manage to clear their lines.


09:34 PM GMT

74 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Odegaard takes aim from just outside the box but the shot is blocked and rolls behind for a corner. Nothing comes from it.


09:28 PM GMT

67 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Havertz pulls off a slick piece of skill in the corner and drives down the byline. He cuts it back to Odegaard whose shot is saved by Samba.


09:26 PM GMT

66 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Mikel Arteta is making a change now as Saka is replaced by Nelson. Arsenal fans will be relieved to see him go off and be rested for the final 25 minutes of this game.

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka with manager Mikel Arteta after being substituted
Mikel Arteta was able to bring off Bukayo Saka with 25 minutes to go - Matthew Childs/Reuters

09:24 PM GMT

64 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Haidara is now into the book after a foul on Odegaard.

Martin Odegaard of Arsenal is fouled by Massadio Haidara of RC Lens during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and RC Lens at Emirates Stadium
Haidara is booked after a bad challenge on Odegaard - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

09:23 PM GMT

63 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Lens have a sniff of a chance but Machado cannot quite get on the end of a ball and it rolls out for a goal-kick.

Gradit comes off for Khusanov for the visitors. And almost immediately he is booked. Not the entrance he would have wanted!


09:20 PM GMT

60 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

It is very comfortable for Arsenal at the moment, which is no surprise when you are 5-0 up, and they have certainly taken their foot off the gas in this second half.


09:13 PM GMT

54 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

Lens have actually had slightly more possession than Arsenal but the most important statistic is the scoreline and that is not in Lens’ favour.


09:11 PM GMT

52 minutes: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

With the game wrapped up already what will the energy and intensity levels be like from Arsenal in this second half? Will the Arsenal players look after themselves to make sure that they do not pick up any injuries?


09:05 PM GMT

Second half

We are back under way at the Emirates. Unless Lens score six unanswered goals in the second half Arsenal are through and if they win, which you imagine they will do, they will go through as group winners from Group B.

Arsenal are making a double change and Lens are making three. The three Lens changes; El Aynaoui replaces Samed, Machado comes on for Medina and Thomasson replaces Sotoka.

For Arsenal Kiwior replaces Zinchenko and White comes on for Tomiyasu.


09:00 PM GMT

Fairly decent first half for Arsenal!


08:49 PM GMT

HT: Arsenal 5 Lens 0

The half-time whistle is blown and Arsenal have demolished Lens in that first half.


08:48 PM GMT

GOAL! Odegaard makes it 5-0

5-0 just before the break. Arsenal break through Saka who has Tomiyasu making an overlapping run. The Japanese defender stands up a ball into the area and Odegaard smashes home into the far corner on the volley. Completely dominant half from Arsenal and they will be going through tonight as group winners with a game to spare.


08:46 PM GMT

45 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Selfish from Martinelli. Saka feeds the ball into him and instead of crossing for Jesus who probably would have had a simple tap-in he goes for goal and smashes it into the side-netting.

Two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.


08:44 PM GMT

43 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Lens are causing Arsenal some real problems but they have a rather big issue; they are already 4-0 down and the game is gone.

Fulgini has a shot from distance but Raya saves.


08:43 PM GMT

42 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

That was a nasty challenge from the former Leicester man Mendy, who is booked for a bad tackle on Jesus.


08:42 PM GMT

41 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Lens strike the post. Medina takes aim from distance and is so unlucky as his strike comes back off the post. Lens look like they have woken up but it is way too late.


08:41 PM GMT

39 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Lens are awarded a free-kick in a good area on the right after an Havertz foul. The ball is whipped into a dangerous area and it looks like Raya clatters into a Lens player but no penalty is given and Arsenal clear. It looked like in real time that Raya completely took out the Lens player. The replays show as Raya tries to punch the ball away he just ends up punching the player’s head, not the ball. How was that not given a penalty?


08:37 PM GMT

35 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Lens want a penalty for handball. It struck Havertz’s knee and then flicks up onto his arm. VAR checks for a possible penalty but they stick with the original decision of no penalty.


08:32 PM GMT

31 minutes: Arsenal 4 Lens 0

Saka was down momentarily but he is back on his feet.


08:30 PM GMT

GOAL! Martinelli scores fourth as Arsenal run riot

Arsenal are destroying Lens. Tomiyasu’s ball finds Martinelli on the left-hand touchline. He drives into the Lens penalty area and he curls one into the far corner to make it 4-0 inside 30 minutes.


08:26 PM GMT

GOAL! Saka makes it 3-0

Arsenal are cruising towards the knockout stages. Havertz finds Martinelli in the left channel and the Brazilian forward drives into the box. His shot is saved by Samba but it goes straight to Saka. It hits his chest and rolls into the empty net.


08:23 PM GMT

GOAL! Jesus doubles Arsenal's advantage

Just past the 20-minute mark and Arsenal are now 2-0 ahead. The goal stems from Saka coming inside from the right and dribbling towards the box. Arsenal are fortunate that the ball takes a few deflections on its path through to Jesus but he takes it nicely and puts it past Samba, the former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper.


08:15 PM GMT

Goal stands

VAR confirms the goal and Arsenal lead.


08:15 PM GMT

VAR review

Or are Arsenal ahead? VAR are checking for offside in the build-up...


08:15 PM GMT

GOAL! Havertz gives Arsenal the lead

He does not miss this time. Tomiyasu’s cross is a poor one but Abdul Samed’s header goes straight up in the air. Jesus wins the subsequent header and Havertz beats the goalkeeper to it and finishes to give Arsenal the lead.


08:13 PM GMT

11 minutes: Arsenal 0 Lens 0

Chance for Havertz. Nice interplay between Saka and Tomiyasu gives the latter a chance to put a ball into the box. The cross finds Havertz but the man who scored the winner for Arsenal at Brentford on the weekend heads wide.


08:12 PM GMT

10 minutes: Arsenal 0 Lens 0

Havertz is little bit lucky to not get a yellow card there. Lens break and Mendy, formerly of Leicester, starts driving forward. Havertz cynically takes him down and you cannot help but think had that foul been committed 20 minutes later he would have been booked.


08:09 PM GMT

7 minutes: Arsenal 0 Lens 0

Zinchenko, instead of shooting from outside the box, finds Jesus at the back post but his effort on the volley does not trouble the goal. That was Arsenal’s first real chance of the game.


08:07 PM GMT

5 minutes: Arsenal 0 Lens 0

It has been a quiet start to the game. Lens look like they are setting up with five at the back out of possession. No shots or chances yet for either side.


08:01 PM GMT

Kick-off

We are under way at the Emirates. Arsenal know a point will secure qualification for the knockout stages and a win will guarantee top spot in Group B.


07:58 PM GMT

Players emerge

Both sides have made their way out from the tunnel and are out on the pitch as the Champions League anthem rings around the Emirates Stadium.


07:53 PM GMT

Reminder of the team news

Arsenal: Raya; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Rice, Havertz; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli

Subs: Ramsdale, Hein, Nketiah, White, Kiwior, Cedric, Trossard, Jorginho, Nelson, Elneny, Lewis-Skelly, Nwaneri

Lens: Samba; Gradit, Danso, Medina; Frankowski, Samed, Mendy, Haidara; Sotoca, Fulgini; Wahl

Subs: Leca, Pandor, Aguilar, Machado, Da Costa, Diouf, Maouassa, Said, El Aynaoui, Khusanov, Thomasson


07:51 PM GMT

Kick-off 10 minutes away


07:46 PM GMT

All over in Seville

What a turnaround in Seville! PSV were 2-0 down but have come back to win 3-2 away at Sevilla. They are now on eight points, one point behind Arsenal, who need a point to secure qualification and a win would guarantee top spot with a game to spare.


07:37 PM GMT

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to TNT Sports


07:34 PM GMT

PSV equalise

They were 2-0 down but PSV have brought it back to 2-2 away at Sevilla with just a few minutes remaining.


07:32 PM GMT

Lens fans in north London


07:26 PM GMT

Over in Seville

The other game in Group B kicked off at 5.45pm with Sevilla taking on PSV. Sevilla currently lead 2-1 with 10 minutes to go, although they are down to 10 men after Lucas Ocampos was sent off.


07:25 PM GMT

Inside the home dressing room


07:20 PM GMT

Special day for Arsenal academy duo

It is a special night for Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, who are in a Champions League squad for the first time tonight.


07:10 PM GMT

Fancy a bet?

Having a bet on today’s match? First take a look at these free bets and betting offers.


07:09 PM GMT

Full team news

Arsenal make two changes to their starting XI from Saturday’s 1-0 win at Brentford. Kai Havertz, who scored the only goal of the game, starts replacing Leandro Trossard. David Raya returns in goal having been ineligible to play against Brentford.

Arsenal: Raya; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Rice, Havertz; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli

Subs: Ramsdale, Hein, Nketiah, White, Kiwior, Cedric, Trossard, Jorginho, Nelson, Elneny, Lewis-Skelly, Nwaneri

Lens: Samba; Gradit, Danso, Medina; Frankowski, Samed, Mendy, Haidara; Sotoca, Fulgini; Wahl

Subs: Leca, Pandor, Aguilar, Machado, Da Costa, Diouf, Maouassa, Said, El Aynaoui, Khusanov, Thomasson


07:02 PM GMT

Lens team news


07:00 PM GMT

Arsenal team news


06:58 PM GMT

Match preview

Arsenal sit top of Group B going into matchday five tonight where they host Lens at the Emirates Stadium. A point tonight would see them through to the knockout stages whilst a win would result in them finishing top of the group with a game to spare. Sevilla are currently taking on PSV, which kicked off at 5.45pm.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta feels he has something to prove.

“For sure. I think it is not that we have to prove, we had to come back into Europe being the club we want to be, have that presence and the results that tell them we are back in a strong way, we haven’t done that yet and it needs to be done.”

In the reverse fixture back in October Arsenal lost away at Lens despite having taken the lead through Gabriel Jesus.

Arteta has confirmed that Fabio Vieira will be out for a number of weeks after a groin operation on Monday.

“Yeah we’ve got a problem with Fabio. He’s been having some discomfort and we tried to have conservative treatment with him.  He wasn’t improving so we sent him to see a specialist and the advice was to get an operation done on his groin.

“We did that on Monday and we expect him to be out for weeks now. We don’t expect him [back this side of the winter break].”

Team news to follow shortly.

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