LONDON: Mikel Arteta hailed Arsenal's “beautiful” return to the Champions League as Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard inspired a 4-0 demolition of PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday.
Back in Europe's elite club competition for the first time in six years, Arsenal swept aside the overwhelmed Dutch league leaders to prove they can cope with the step up in class.
Arteta's side ran riot in the first half at the Emirates Stadium, with Saka scoring his first goal in the competition before setting up Trossard to double the lead.
Trossard also went from scorer to provider as he laid on the third goal for Gabriel Jesus, with Martin Odegaard completing the rout after the break.
“It was a beautiful night after such a long time. It was great to see the atmosphere, the Champions League music. It was emotional before the game,“ Arteta said.
“We have to ride that energy. I was really excited but I wanted to control my emotions. We have to enjoy these nights. It’s one to remember.”
Arsenal's previous game in the competition was in March 2017, when Bayern Munich completed a humiliating 10-2 aggregate victory in the last 16.
The Gunners are a far more formidable force now, despite their lack of Champions League experience, and should cruise through Group B, which also features Sevilla and Lens.
Arsenal are unbeaten with four wins from five in the Premier League as they aim to make amends for last season's collapse in the title race.
But the chance to advance to the latter stages of the Champions League -- a competition they have never won -- is also a major incentive for Arteta's men and they look up to the task on this evidence.
“We were excellent in both boxes, that was the difference. When you see this team running and full of pace, it is a joy to watch. The finishing was top-class,“ Arteta said.
“To score four goals against a team that had won every game this season is exceptional, but there were still things have could have been much better.”
In his first match as a boss in the Champions League, Arteta was rewarded with another clean-sheet from David Raya, who kept his place after the on-loan Brentford keeper replaced Aaron Ramsdale for Sunday's Premier League win at Everton.
The air of anticipation around the Emirates Stadium was palpable before kick-off.
Even the torrential rain couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of Arsenal fans, who were so caught up in the occasion that they greeted the Champions League anthem with an ear-splitting roar.
The incessant noise from the stands reached fever pitch after just eight minutes when Saka put Arsenal ahead.
Odegaard's shot from the edge of the area was weakly pushed out by PSV keeper Walter Benitez and Saka alertly followed up to finish clinically from close-range.
It was raining goals in the downpour and the dynamic Saka's incisive pass picked out Trossard, who dispatched a fine first-time finish past Benitez from the edge of the area in the 20th minute.
Having revealed this week that he often skipped school to watch Champions League matches on television as a child, Jesus's boyhood passion for the tournament clearly hasn't dimmed as he tore through the PSV defence time and again.
Jesus scored 14 times in 22 Champions League appearances for Manchester City and he added to his tally after 38 minutes.
Trossard's pin-point cross found Jesus, who punished PSV's woeful marking as he slammed his shot into the far corner from eight yards.
It was the first time Arsenal had scored three goals in the first half of a Champions League tie since 2014 against Galatasaray.
With Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham in mind, Arteta made a raft of second half substitutions to protect his key players.
Encapsulating Arsenal's perfect evening, Odegaard ensured the atmosphere didn't go flat as he rifled a superb 20-yard strike past Benitez in the 70th minute. - AFP