Given Arsenal’s less than stellar performances this season, I had a bit of trepidation heading into tonight’s match against Dundalk, especially when I saw the young lineup that Mikel Arteta had selected. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. The Gunners dominated the visitors, coasting to an easy 3-0 win. I’m not sure if Dundalk had an off night or if they just aren’t very good, but they were nowhere near Arsenal’s level on the evening.
To their credit, Dundalk kept Arsenal off the scoreboard for the opening 40 minutes of the match, but even at 0-0, the Gunners had all the action and the visitors offered next to no scoring threat. Arsenal broke through when Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers misjudged a corner that eventually fell for Eddie Nketiah to put home. Joe Willock added a second just two minutes later, rifling a blocked Nicolas Pepe shot into the top of the net. Then right on the other side of halftime, Nicolas Pepe found a bit of space just outside the 18’ and curled a right footed (?!) shot into the top corner.
A few notes:
- Per @Orbinho, Eddie Nketiah’s 10 goals for Arsenal have come from an average distance of just over 5 yards. People sometimes use the term “goal poacher” as a knock on players, but being in the right place at the right time is a skill, and Nketiah seems to have it.
- Joe Willock had a very good game. His forward runs from deeper midfield positions provide attacking options that nobody else at Arsenal provides. His goal came because he was streaking into Dundalk’s area. None of Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, or Thomas Partey does that. I’d expect Willock to get more Premier League time going forward.
- Reiss Nelson also stood out. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but was bright on the ball. He looked particularly quick with the ball at his feet and wasn’t afraid to take players on in the final third. I’d guess he also has earned himself more playing time.
- Nicolas Pepe’s match was another case-in-point of why he’s incredibly frustrating as a player. He flashes tremendous skill and scores a goal like that, but then is anonymous for long periods of matches.
- Props to Alex Runarsson for making his first Arsenal save. It was pretty much the only thing he had to do all match, and it came early in the match. I guess he also claimed a corner and a cross.
- Congrats to Folarin Balogun on his senior debut.
With Molde FK also on 6 points after they beat Rapid Wien 1-0 today, next week’s match at the Emirates is for control of the group. Arsenal face Manchester United on Sunday in the Premier League.