Arsenal and Mikel Arteta faced a challenging evening in France, losing not only their unbeaten record but also star player Bukayo Saka to injury. The Gunners initially took the lead courtesy of Gabriel Jesus, but Lens, buoyed by an electric crowd in France, mounted a comeback and scored twice, with Elye Wahi netting the winning goal on a historic night for the Ligue 1 club.
Gabriel Jesus continued his fine scoring run in the UEFA Champions League but Arsenal’s night turned sour as Bukayo Saka was forced off early in a 2-1 reversal at Lens that marked the Gunners’ first defeat of the season.
Mikel Arteta’s side weathered a vibrant start from the hosts before taking the lead on 14 minutes when Saka won possession high up the pitch and set up Jesus to fire a superb 18-yard strike into the far corner.
Lens responded and Adrien Thomasson guided a delightful first-time effort into the far corner 11 minutes later after a poor kick from goalkeeper David Raya.
Arsenal almost regained the lead when Takehiro Tomiyasu was magnificently denied by Brice Samba in the second period before the French side won it 21 minutes from time when Elye Wahi guided a wonderful first-time shot into the far corner.
The Gunners pushed late on but Samba came to the rescue again right at the death to ensure Lens’ first match at home in the Champions League in over 20 years ended with a famous victory.
The result means the French side top Group B with four points. Arsenal are second on three points with Sevilla on two and PSV on one.
Arsenal will now switch focus to a huge match at the summit of the Premier League at home to Man City on Sunday. Meanwhile, Lens host Lille in Ligue 1.
Will Arsenal be left sweating on Saka’s fitness for Sunday?
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown claimed ‘it couldn’t have gone much worse’ for The Gunners when offering his post-match verdict on TNT Sports.
Not only did Arsenal let a lead slip in a tough away match and lose their unbeaten start to the campaign, but they also relinquished control of the group and saw key man Saka limp off.
Indeed, the 22-year-old has been forced off early in his last three matches for the club and fans and pundits alike have already been suggesting Arteta should probably rest the youngster.
His choice to include the forward in the starting lineup against Lens could potentially have negative consequences, especially considering that the latest injury concern arises just ahead of a crucial clash with Manchester City. This upcoming match will be viewed as a significant indicator of where the Londoners stand in this season’s Premier League title race.