Arsenal blasted their way into the last 16 of the Champions League on a freezing night at The Emirates as they swept RC Lens off the park to secure all three points. Mikel Arteta’s side needed one point to be sure of their place in Europe’s biggest club competition but having already secured the top spot in Group B; they made no mistake as Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Martinelli netted inside the first 27 minutes. The Gunners were also the first English team to lead by five goals at halftime, and with Martin Odegaard adding a fifth late on, it was a performance to behold.
Havertz scored in the 13th minute with a scrappy finish after Takehiro Tomiyasu’s corner rolled into his path. Then, just eight minutes later, Jesus doubled the advantage after collecting a pass on the edge of the box from Saka with his left foot and sending two defenders the wrong way before burying the shot.
Lens coach Franck Haise had admitted that his side would have a challenging task overcoming Arsenal’s superiority, and they struggled to get into any attacking groove. Elye Wahi came closest to a Lens goal when his long-range strike thudded against the left upright, but it was only a matter of time before Arsenal added more.
Saka drove home a fourth from close range after being picked out by a low cross from the left, and Martin Odegaard added a fifth in stoppage time as he smashed home a volley after a counter-attack involving Tomiyasu and Saka. Odegaard’s goal was his first for the club and was a fitting end to a remarkable night in north London.
The result means that the Gunners have won all four games and can now look forward to a home tie against CSKA Moscow in the next round. They are three points clear of second-placed PSV Eindhoven, who were held to a goalless draw by Sevilla.
As group winners, Arsenal are assured of a home quarter-final and will likely be paired with Manchester City or Bayern Munich based on their head-to-head record. But, with players of the caliber of Havertz, Jesus, and Odegaard firing on all cylinders, there is no reason to believe that the north Londoners will not be able to rise even higher.