Arsenal win over PSV sends Gakpo warning after Premier League audition

Mikel Arteta ahead on the PSV game

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Arsenal’s Europa League clash against PSV Eindhoven handed Mikel Arteta the perfect opportunity to see Cody Gakpo in the flesh as the in-form winger played Premier League opposition for the first time. The Dutch star was handed a chance to prove Arteta wrong after failing to seal a move to the club in the summer, but it turned out to be a frustrating evening for the youngster as Granit Xhaka’s strike handed the hosts a 1-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

Gakpo has lit up Europe this season with some incredible goalscoring and creative displays, scoring 16 goals and registering eight assists in all competitions. Only Erling Haaland has contributed to more goals this season.

The 23-year-old was closely tracked by Arsenal, Manchester United, Leeds and Southampton, with Leeds thought to have agreed a £35million deal with PSV before the player turned down the move. There was a consensus, however, that it may only be another year until Gakpo sets foot in the English top-flight.

Having starred in the Europa League with three goals and two assists in his three appearances so far, facing Arsenal would prove to be the best litmus test for his ability in competing against the top teams in Europe, with Arteta’s side currently top of the Premier League after 10 matches.

And if this was a genuine audition to take one of the leading roles in Arteta’s Arsenal production in the future, Gakpo may have not have done enough to earn the part based on this game alone. If anything, it raised doubts about his ability to produce the goods in matches of high magnitude after a peripheral display in north London.

In the early stages of the match, he showed that his confidence is sky high with some neat touches and comfort in possession. But when it came to finding opportunities to breach the Arsenal backline, Gakpo was left with scraps to feed off and struggled to influence the game as he normally would, with Arsenal taking charge of proceedings.

There were some flashes of his excellence which pointed to why he has been tracked by several Premier League teams. He used the outside of his right boot to play in Philipp Max with a perfectly-weighted pass but the German’s cross was blocked. He was clear about his role on the left flank, hugging the touchline and waiting patiently for the right pass or time to push forward and tracked back on occasion to help Max contain the threat of Bukayo Saka.

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But in attack, it was mainly a case of being blocked off by the improving Takehiro Tomiyasu, who stifled the winger’s movements in the left channel and forced him back on several occasions. He completed zero dribbles and did not attempt a single shot on goal.

As former Arsenal defender Martin Keown analysed at the interval, Gakpo had been frustrated by the Japanese full-back. “It was a good match-up but Tomiyasu has been their strongest defender, he’s had his number so far,” Keown said to BT Sport at half time.

“They’re doubling up on him and they have dealt with Gakpo really well and they had to do, because they know what he can do. I think they’ve done a really good job on him.”

It was much of the same after the break as well as Arsenal moved into the ascendancy, with PSV forced to defend for long periods of the second half. And when they did attack, it was on the right flank with Joey Veerman and Xavi Simons providing the biggest threat.

Gakpo was perhaps fortunate to survive PSV coach Ruud van Nistelrooy’s double change after electing to bring off Guus Til and Max, sending on Noni Madueke and Jordan Teze instead in like-for-like swaps. But clearly, the ex-Manchester United striker knew what Gakpo could do at any moment in the match and gambled that he could produce a moment of magic.

However, it seemed to backfire when Gakpo was guilty of deserting his defensive duties, jogging back when Tomiyasu overlapped and provided the cross for Xhaka to slam past the goalkeeper.

The picture could be not be more different at Arsenal, with Arteta demanding full effort from all of his players. And on this evidence, it seems that Gakpo – while a player with obvious ability – has some way to go before he can cut it with the rest of the Gunners stars in the Premier League.

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