The Gunners fought a hard battle at the Emirates against their Swiss opponents, who were fighting to earn a UEFA European Conference League spot. A moment of brilliance from Kieran Tierney in the 17th minute was all it eventually took for Arsenal to seal top spot and for Zurich to get knocked out of Europe for the season.
PSV Eindhoven could have sealed the top spot after their 2 – 1 win at Norwegian side Bodø/Glimt but desperate defending from the Gunners meant that Tierney’s strike was enough to help them avoid the rigours of a playoff round with the teams who dropped down from the UEFA Champions League.
The match started tensely as Arsenal, who had won 12 straight matches at the Emirates this season, and were confident of sealing another win in front of the home support, were pegged back by a resolute Zurich. They had the first chance of the game; a corner which led to a shot off target. The attack was eventually ruled out for offside, but it kept Arsenal on their toes.
Tierney scored after a scrappy build up led to two of Fabio Vieira’s shots getting blocked. The second block found its way to the Scottish left back whose shot whizzed past everyone into the bottom left corner. The goal woke up the Emirates, who cheered their team on vivaciously.
Arsenal began to pressure their visitors, forcing a save and a block in the minutes that followed. The rest of the first half went by without much Zurich pressure but Arsenal were strongly denied by the visiting defence and goalkeeper. The second half, however, was uneventful for both sides as Arteta prioritised seeing the game off over any risks that could lead to them conceding a goal and ruining their chances of finishing as table toppers.
The North London side will now turn their attention to Chelsea, who they visit at the weekend as they intend to continue their fine form in the Premier League.
Match winner Tierney, who has been in and out of the Arsenal squad since his injury and the eventual come up of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu, spoke to BT Sport after the game.
“I want to play every single chance I can get,” he told the journalist from BT Sport. “But I’m going to keep working hard. The manager knows I’ll give 100 per cent every single day, whether I’m starting or not – I’ll support the team from the bench. If I need to come on, or if I start, I’ll give everything.”
Arteta also praised his left back after the game. “I think he was really good,” Arteta said post-match. “Kieran is showing a lot of maturity. He has respected a lot of decisions that we have taken. He’s played a lot of minutes as well.
“He’s done really well. Today he scored a great goal that has helped us win the game – and that’s what we demand of the players, that they’re ready when the team needs them to make a difference.”