Thursday nights have become something of a long-waited reprieve for Arsenal fans at the moment. With the disappointing results that seem to be plaguing the team in the league, Thursday nights have offered Arsenal fans solace and the chance to be able to see the next crop of Arsenal youngsters strut their stuff.
Arsenal’s final Europa League group stage match against Dundalk was already a dead rubber. Both teams were already guaranteed their final positions int he group and neither would be too concerned about the result. It is this perhaps that prompted Mikel Arteta to name a totally revamped side for the match.
No fewer than eleven changes were made to the team with Calum Chambers and Emile Smith-Rowe starting their first matches of the season in tow.
The game started well for Arsenal and they soon forund themselves in front. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was perhaps a little too over-confident with his flicked through ball to Eddie Nketiah, but the England U21 record goalscorer found some fortune in the resultant clearance and was clean through on goal and produced a cute little finish over Goalkeeper Gary Rodgers, to give Arsenal the lead in Dundalk.
Arsenal continued to dominate from there as well and after some quick work from Smith-Rowe, Mohamed Elneny picked the ball up and managed to fire home an absolutely stupendous effort from long-range to double Arsenal’s lead.
The half didn’t go entirely to plan for Arsenal though; Jordan Flores soon found himself loose in the penalty area after some good work from Dundalk and he rifled home an impressive response from the home side.
The second-half saw even more signs of prolonged Arsenal dominance and it came as no surprise when Joe Willock added Arsenal’s third. Good work from substitute Folarian Balogun, who held the ball up impressively in the penalty area, allowed Willock to take a touch and then fire the ball into the net, though Rodgers still managed to get a hand to it.
Arsenal showed no signs of letting up despite their two goal cushion and a beautiful through ball from Nicolas Pépé (who’s Premier League suspension lifts after Sunday’s forthcoming match against Burnley) into Balogun’s path allowed the youngster to finish into the far corner, a goal that Thierry Henry would have been proud.
Though Dundalk still managed to pull another back, an impressive header from Sean Hoare, it was only a consolation and Arsenal welcomed the final whistle as they finished with maximum points.
It’s fair to say that Arsenal have been more impressive in the Europa League than the Premier League. Though the Europa League does not boast the same level of quality that the Premier League does, nor does it contain too many monopolistic clubs taking advantage of their owner’s superior wealth, six wins and only five goals conceded (one goal for every four scored) is still impressive however you chalk it up.
Last night was a particularly good advert for Hale End as well with 75% of Arsenal’s goalscorers last night graduating from the academy. There were impressive debuts from Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azzeez and youngster Folarian Balogun, who is currently in the midst of prolonged contract negotiations with the club, grabbed yet another goal for the club as well.
The competition has also been a chance for players such as Cédric Soares, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolašinac (the latter of which, was injured last night), who are usually on the fringes of the first-team, to recieve a regular run-out. Under usual circumstances, European competitions are played every two weeks, however, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the later starts in the various major leagues, both the Champions League and the Europa League have been played every week,w hich has also provided players with a sense of rhythm as well.
Arsenal’s attention will obviously now be turning to Burnley on Sunday as they search for their first win in the league since the beginning of November, but there will also be a watchful eye on the Round of 32 draw in the Europa League as well, with Arsenal avoiding RB Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympiacos, Ajax, Krasnodar, Manchester United, Club Brugge and Dynamo Kyiv because of their high group finish, however, the Gunners will still be hoping for an easier route into the Round of 16.
|🏴 Arsenal (Q) 🏆||6||6||0||0||20||5||+15||18|
|🇳🇴 Molde FK (Q)||6||3||1||2||9||11||-2||10|
|🇦🇹 SK Rapid Wien||6||2||1||3||11||13||-2||7|
|🇮🇪 Dundalk FC||6||0||0||6||8||19||-11||0|
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
21.) Calum Chambers
20.) Shkodran Mustafi (c)
22.) Pablo Marí
17.) Cédric Soares
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny (Ceballos 62′)
28.) Joe Willock (Azeez 82′)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
32.) Emile Smith-Rowe (Cottrell 77′)
30.) Eddie Nketiah (Balogun 62′)
33.) Matt Macey
44.) Karl Jakob Hein
16.) Rob Holding
66.) Miguel Azeez
8.) Dani Ceballos
41.) Ben Cottrell
7.) Bukayo Saka
38.) Folarian Balogun
1.) Gary Rodgers
4.) Sean Hoare
44.) Andy Boyle (Gartland 45′)
21.) Daniel Cleary
2.) Seán Gannon (Mountney 54′)
5.) Chris Shields (c)
6.) Jordan Flores
15.) Darragh Leahy
11.) Patrick McEleney (Čolović 77′)
7.) Michael Duffy (Wynne 77′)
29.) David McMillan (Kelly 54′)
20.) Aaron McCarey
30.) Jimmy Corocran
3.) Brian Gartland
8.) John Mountney
10.) Gregory Sloggett
22.) Stefan Čolović
23.) Cameron Dummigan
24.) Jamie Wynne
27.) Daniel Kelly