They can’t all be pretty. The best thing to be said about that match is that Arsenal took home all three points with a 1-0 win and are in a commanding place in their Europa League group. The second best thing about that game is that mercifully, it’s over.
Calling the Gunners mediocre on the day might be generous. Arsenal were pretty poor, but pretty poor was enough to come away with the points and emerge seemingly injury-free, so it doesn’t really matter. Bukayo Saka was by far the best player on the pitch and scored the only goal of the match via a somewhat fortunate deflection off his own chest, although I think his initial shot was heading into the far corner but for the defender’s intervention.
Matt Turner was Arsenal’s second best player on the evening. Made the one stop he needed to, was off his line quickly and often to break up play, and hit several accurate long balls. Ben White, William Saliba, and Martin Ødegaard played well enough. But the rest were below average.
Eddie Nketiah, Sambi Lokonga, and Reiss Nelson all had nice moments but weren’t influential enough for my liking. Fabio Vieira was anonymous. I think a large part of why Arsenal were disjointed was that those four players, while doing nice things here and there on the ball, don’t dictate matches. Right now, they’re all secondary players, not primary ones. That’s not necessary a knock on any of them, either. They just aren’t ready to be the guy match-in, match-out.
To be fair, it’s tough to be consistently at the top of your game when you’re not getting regular minutes. Add to that the first-choice, second-choice lineup and unfamiliarity with the guys around you in game situations and things can look subpar. And I might be being a bit tough on Sambi, his football was easy on the eye, he was secure in possession, and his ball progression / distribution was on-point.
On top of all that, Bodø play on an artificial pitch, which to my eye, clearly affected Arsenal. The ball moves faster, rolls further, and bounces differently on turf, and it’s tough to adjust for one match. The Gunners overhit and miscontrolled a lot of balls today, which helped make the football less than scintillating. The home side were frisky in the second half and had the better of the play, but Arsenal’s defense did well enough to limit them to just one shot on target for the match.
A win is a win. Especially away from home against a Bodø side that had won 14 straight on their own ground. Arsenal are virtually guaranteed to advance from the group stage, and a win over PSV next week would all but clinch the top spot in the group.