Arsenal vs PSV: Europa League tie hands Gakpo chance to impress


When PSV lost their Champions League double header to Rangers, that was expected to spell the end of Cody Gakpo's time at the Philips Stadion. Leeds and Southampton were both linked with a move for the Dutchman over the summer, and while the pair couldn't offer European football, a number of the Premier League's elite sides were tipped to firm up their interest in Gakpo before the sumer window closed. 


Yet the Netherlands international elected to remain in Eindhoven, in what was a surprise decision all things considered. Gakpo had enjoyed an excellent 2021/22 campaign, and so it wasn't a shock to see teams show an interest in the forward. Indeed, he ended the season as one of three players to register double figures for both goals (12) and assists (13) in the Eredivisie and while caution must at times be applied when pursuing players thriving in the Netherlands given the sub-par displays of the likes of Afonso Alves, Vincent Janssen, Steven Bergwijn and former PSV man Memphis Depay, to name a few, Gakpo's fine start to 2022/23 has really seen the vultures start to circle. 


In just 10 league appearances, Gakpo has scored nine and registered seven assists for PSV. He has been directly in a goal in all but two league outings, and that includes a hat-trick of assists and a goal in PSV's 4-3 win over Feyenoord last month. Under the watchful eye of former goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy, fans have witnessed a more prolific Gakpo, with his conversion rate rising from 15% last season to 23.7%, that the ninth best in the Eredivisie this term, and now far more dangerous in front of goal, it's little wonder the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal have been credited with an interest in the PSV sensation. 


Gakpo will have the perfect chance to showcase his quality to the latter when Arsenal host PSV in their rearranged Europa League tie in midweek. The passing of the Queen meant their meeting in the capital last month was postponed as police resource was required elsewhere, which tees up a more interesting affair between the pair. 


The Gunners currently top Group A having won all three matches, while PSV are second with seven points from nine available. The pair meet twice in the space of the week in what will be a decisive double header between the Europa League heavyweights. With no other European action on Thursday evening, all eyes will be on the Emirates, and crucially; Gakpo. The Netherlands international's fine performances aren't limited to just the Eredivisie. Gakpo has three goals and one assist across his three Europa League outings this season to highlight how effective he can be in the final third outside of the Netherlands. 


That said, his toughest test of the season so far will come in north London in midweek and whether he is able to have the same impact at Arsenal as he has had elsewhere this season remains to be seen. Arsenal have won every home game this season, though have conceded in five of six, so they haven't been particularly solid at the Emirates even if they have been picking up maximum points along the way. 


Thursday's game will be a real acid test for Gakpo, though, and while it is hard to judge a player inside 90 minutes of game time, it will be interesting to see how he performs against an opponent he may well be playing for, or against, next season. The issue on top of that will be whether it would be worth spending big on a player who would likely be in direct competition with one of Arsenal's best players this season. 


Arsenal vs PSV: Europa League tie hands Gakpo chance to impress


Only Gabriel Jesus (7.60) and Bukayo Saka (7.44) have earned a better WhoScored rating than Gabriel Martinelli (7.41) in England's top tier this term and he looks to have put his injury issues behind him to play a starring role in their fine start to the campaign. While he hasn't been as prolific as Gakpo this season - Martinelli has scored four and provided two assists across 13 Premier Legaue and European appearances this season - when considering the Eredivisie is widely considered to be the weaker of the two leagues, the difference in output should be taken with a pinch of salt. 


Nevertheless, as the crunch head-to-head for Thursday's top-of-the-group Europa League tie, this is perhaps the most intriguing. Martinelli is first choice on the left for Arsenal, of that there is no doubt, so spending big on a direct competitor for the role in Gakpo, who has plenty of admirers, doesn't make a great deal of sense. Competition for spots is important, and both players are versatile enough to play other roles in attack, but Mikel Arteta already has a settled forward line and would risk wrecking the harmony of his youthful front quartet with the potential big money addition of Gakpo. A strong performance from the latter on Thursday, though, may well force Arsenal's hand in the New Year.

Arsenal vs PSV: Europa League tie hands Gakpo chance to impress