European football is back after a short break and North London has shown their hand in the Europa League.
While Tottenham have already had to take part in three different qualifying games but their fixture on Thursday night was the first in the tournament proper and Jose Mourinho named a relatively strong side. Matt Doherty, Davinson Sanchez, Sergio Reguilon, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura all started the fixture as Spurs romped to a comfortable 3-0 win on the night.
Goals from Lucas and substitute Heung-Min Son along with an own goal saw Jose Mourinho’s side start the tournament really well, with back-up goalkeeper Joe Hart keeping a clean sheet and key players like Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld able to completely rest.
Arsenal also kicked off their tournament with a win, away to Rapid Vienna. Mikel Arteta also started a relatively strong side, with Bernd Leno, David Luiz, Gabriel, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette all starting.
Arsenal’s performance wasn’t nearly as encouraging though, as they created next to nothing in the first half despite having the lion’s share of possession before falling behind in the second half after an error from goalkeeper Leno.
The German international attempted to pass the ball through the lines to Thomas Partey but it was intercepted and striker Fountas tapped into an empty net. Arteta responded with a double change, bringing on Hector Bellerin and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in place of Cedric Soares and Eddie Nketiah.
It took just nine minutes for the change to take effect as David Luiz headed in from a corner to equalise and then four minutes later, Mohamed Elneny split the defence with a perfect pass to Bellerin who squared across goal for Aubameyang to tap in the winner.
Despite the very differing performances, the results gave both teams the perfect start. But what I took from the game more than that was that both sides are going to be taking this tournament very seriously this season.
With fixtures coming thick and fast right now, it may be a way for both managers to get some more minutes and fitness into their squads. For Spurs more than Arsenal though, I believe the manager sees it as the best way to bring silverware to the club.
With Tottenham trophyless since 2008, Jose Mourinho has made it his personal mission to bring them some success during his tenure. Last season he insisted that they would challenge for the Europa League following their qualification and he’s keeping his word as it stands.
Arsenal now will look to continue the momentum generated through their win when they take on Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium. After a decent start to their campaign, they lost to Manchester City last weekend but with Aubameyang scoring his first goal since signing his new contract they will be hopeful he can go on a streak now.
Liverpool will be without Virgil Van Dijk for the rest of the campaign while Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have been less than convincing so far during the season too. The top four positions will be up for grabs with Everton joining the ‘Big 6’ fighting for them, so Arsenal and Spurs are seemingly looking to use the Europa League as a potential insurance policy should they need it.