By Chris Harris at St. Jakob-Park
Unbeaten Champions League group winners.
That’s what we can call ourselves after a dream night in both Switzerland and France booked us top spot in Group A.
Ludogorets did us an almighty favour by holding Paris Saint-Germain to a draw - and we oozed class against Basel.
Lucas poached his first Arsenal hat-trick, becoming the sixth man to score a treble for us in the Champions League. The others? Thierry Henry, Nicklas Bendtner, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil.
Kieran Gibbs gets an honourable mention for playing a leading role in each of Lucas’ goals, while Ozil was the architect of Alex Iwobi’s strike.
Seydou Doumbia scored a consolation for Basel but, while the hosts battled gamely, they were well beaten.
Arsene Wenger has marked his 200th European game at the helm by overseeing an unbeaten group stage for the first time since 2005/06.
That season ended with our solitary appearance in the final. This time events in Paris have gone rather better.
SETTING THE SCENE
Whatever happened in Basel, the mood of the two teams would be dictated by events in France.
We had to better PSG’s result against Ludogorets to finish first instead of second; Basel had to better Ludogorets’ result against PSG to finish third instead of fourth.
Wenger was realistic, rating our chances of topping the group at 10 per cent. Despite the odds he decided not to break up his confident squad, simply replacing the suspended Francis Coquelin with fit-again Giroud.
There were six changes to the team though, with Rob Holding handed his Champions League debut and David Ospina, Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Iwobi and Lucas all returning.
Granit Xhaka started against his former club, lining up against his older brother Taulent.
While we overpowered West Ham on Saturday, Basel slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Young Boys. Nonetheless, the Swiss champions had previous against English opposition on this ground - winning their last three.
The plan was straightforward enough: win and hope for the best. So we set about keeping our end of the bargain.
Basel had plenty to play for but, frankly, they couldn’t live with us in the first half. The passing was crisp, the movement was clever, the workrate was high - it was one of those times when everything clicks.
The first goal was a classic.
Alexis and Ozil’s slick interchange in the middle of the park left the Chilean in space 20 yards out. He clipped the ball over the last defender into the path of Gibbs, who had the composure and presence of mind to pick out Lucas at the back post. He committed the defender and nonchalantly lifted the ball into the net.
Matias Delgado forced a fine save from Ospina as Basel retorted, but the flag was up well before the loose ball was tucked away.
The hosts were trying to come out of their shells but they were cowed once more by our cutting edge in the final third.
This time Ozil cut Basel apart with an exquisite through-ball and Gibbs, again in an advanced position, took aim. Tomas Vaclik did well to parry, but Lucas was on hand to score his second from close range.
Adama Traore almost halved our lead with a fizzing low drive that had Ospina beaten but flew inches wide.
Ospina was called into action before the break though, plunging to his right to keep out Renato Steffen’s shot and recovering to beat Marc Janko to the rebound.
It’s not unusual to have a storm to weather when your opponent emerges after a poor first half. Basel did have a go at us, but within two minutes of the restart they were three behind.
Once again Gibbs was at the heart of it; once again Lucas was on the end of it.
Gibbs advanced on the left and played a ball into Alexis with plenty of force. He diverted it into the path of Lucas and the striker found the bottom corner.
Janko flicked a header wide for Basel but all the ruthlessness was at the other end. Goal No 4 duly arrived courtesy of Alexis’ curving ball into Ozil’s path and the German’s unselfish pass across goal for Iwobi to tap in.
This was some performance. And with Ludogorets leading, then drawing, then leading in Paris, it all looked rosy.
Alexis crashed a free-kick against the bar and then made way for Giroud. Mohamed Elneny came on for Ramsey to face his former club.
Ozil almost set Giroud up for a fifth before going off, and then Basel did pull one back when Doumbia bulldozed his way through to beat Ospina.
But by now all eyes were on Paris.
PSG grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser but our new best friends held on. Thanks, Ludogorets.
Referee: Jorge Sousa
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