Arsenal saw some of their Champions League margin for error evaporate by losing at Lens, so tonight’s away game at Sevilla is not one they can take lightly.
Mikel Arteta’s team’s chances of progressing comfortably from the group hinge on this fixture. Win, and consecutive home matches against Sevilla and Lens will give them the chance to reach 12 points with a game to spare, a tally which would surely see them through. Lose, and Arsenal will need to win their three remaining games to reach that total, including a matchday six away game against PSV Eindhoven. Arsenal could do without that being a nervy, high stakes encounter in December, a time of year when every opportunity to rotate can be precious.
Arsenal should have enough strength and quality to navigate their way to a result this evening, but there is a question mark over their European record under Arteta (and indeed, historically). They failed to reach the Europa League final in three attempts under him, a competition in which they were considered one of the two or three best teams. Those campaigns included some ignominious exits to Olympiacos, Unai Emery’s Villarreal and Sporting CP. This is their first Champions League campaign since 2016-17, so despite their upward trajectory over the last two years Arsenal have it all to prove on this stage.
They will be facing a Sevilla side buoyed by a draw with Real Madrid at the weekend in Diego Alonso’s first game in charge as head coach. He switched away from their usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, with Boubakary Soumaré offering midfield solidity. Old stagers Sergio Ramos and Ivan Rakitic are still going strong, and Sevilla revel in the chance to be underdogs in European competition. Arsenal have a full complement of players to choose from bar long-term absentee Jurrien Timber, but there is a sense they are yet to click this season despite their unbeaten domestic record. Tonight would be an opportune moment to find another gear.
Full team news on the way shortly.