Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying



By Tony Attwood

There is a lovely quote from Mikel Arteta about the change in the way Arsenal play this season, which is to be found in the Telegraph:

“It is not going to be as fluent, it is not going to be as hectic, because there is no space to run. When you’re sitting in traffic I want to go 100 miles an hour but I have three buses and 55 taxis and motorbikes around me, so it’s tricky.”  

Which coincidentally by and large sums up my journey from the northern border of Northamptonshire to north London for each home game.

How much of that change we will see against Lens is difficult to say.   They currently sit sixth in the French league, and with the number of places available for the league in Europe next season, still uncertain, their future in the competitions is something they wish to securer by doing well this campaign. 

And in fact they have not been beaten in any competition since losing 0-1 to Metz on 16 September. 

Indeed this really has been a down-and-up season for Lens as they didn’t win any of their six opening league games, which is why despite this very positive run at the moment they are still only sixth in the league.  (For the complete league table see here).


French Ligue 1 2023/24
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Paris Saint-Germain 13 9 3 1 34 11 23 30
2 Nice 13 8 5 0 14 4 10 29
3 Monaco 13 7 3 3 27 19 8 24
4 Lille 13 6 5 2 17 11 6 23
5 Reims 13 6 2 5 18 18 0 20
6 RC Lens 13 5 4 4 16 13 3 19


But even so, comparing Lens record with Arsenal’s this season is interesting…


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 13 9 3 1 27 10 17 30
6 RC Lens 13 5 4 4 16 13 3 19


It is not just a case that Arsenal have won more and lost fewer games but also that Arsenal has scored 11 more goals and conceded three fewer, which should give the home side quite a benefit.  Although the current run of form by Lens can’t be ignored.

Here’s the table….


UEFA Champions League – Group B 2023/24
Club P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 4 3 0 1 9 3 6 9
2 PSV Eindhoven 4 1 2 1 4 7 -3 5
3 RC Lens 4 1 2 1 4 4 0 5
4 Sevilla 4 0 2 2 4 7 -3 2

As ever the top two go through with the benefit to the top team of playing a runner-up in the first knockout round in the new year.  This means that in theory any of the four teams can qualify for the knock outs from this group, although for Sevilla to progress that would mean a dramatic change of fortune at this moment.

Here are Arsenal’s games so far in the Champions League this season…


Date Match Res Score
20 Sep 2023 Arsenal v PSV Eindhoven W 4-0
03 Oct 2023 RC Lens v Arsenal L 2-1
24 Oct 2023 Sevilla v Arsenal W 1-2
08 Nov 2023 Arsenal v Sevilla W 2-0


... and of course revenge is required against the only team in Europe to beat us in this campaign.  Such a win would give Arsenal 12 points and that would of course take the club through as group winners, so that’s obviously what everyone is after.

Lens have been in good form of late beating Nantes 4-0 and Marseille 1-0 at home, and Clermont 0-3 away, while drawing away with Lorient, and losing just one of the last five games, that being a 1-0 defeat to PSV.

However although an Arsenal win would put the club through as winners, PSV away might be a tough game at the end of the group stages.  They are at the top of the Dutch league having played 13 and won 13 games.  Ajax we might note in passing have now recovered themselves slightly and are eighth in the 18-team league.

This will be game number six against RC Lens.  Previously two have been lost, one drawn and two have been won (those two both in 2000 in the Uefa Cup.  In the Champions League Arsenal are yet to beat Lens, so new ground should be broken tonight.

More on the game anon, but meanwhile here’s our record against tonight’s visitors.


Date Match Res Score Competition
16 Sep 1998 RC Lens v Arsenal D 1-1 Champions League
25 Nov 1998 Arsenal v RC Lens L 0-1 Champions League
06 Apr 2000 Arsenal v RC Lens W 1-0 UEFA Cup
20 Apr 2000 RC Lens v Arsenal W 1-2 UEFA Cup
03 Oct 2023 RC Lens v Arsenal L 2-1 Champions League


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