Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Dundalk in their Europa League clash to sit atop of their group with two wins from two games.
The first 30 odd minutes were reasonably poor, to say the least as Dundalk defended stoutly and Arsenal not creating too many clear-cut chances for all the possession they had. That all changed in the 42nd minute when Eddie Nketiah pounced on a loose ball to fire Arsenal in front. Two minutes later Joe Willock doubled the lead with a nicely taken goal. Nicolas Pepe put the game to bed if it was not already just minutes after half time with a splendid strike on the edge of the box to make it 3-0.
It was a game that we simply had to have after the Leicester defeat. It was a game where we could not gain anything but confidence but if we pull a Tottenham and lose the world would have caved in around us. Thankfully, the result was never in any doubt as we cruised to a comfortable win.
For the entirety of the match Arsenal barely got out of first gear as we confidently knocked the ball around. Runar Runarrson was good in goal even if he had little to do, but of what he had to do it was assured and confident and he would be happy with a debut clean sheet too.
Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were two of the best players on the pitch for me. Both were positive and created chances at will. In total Arsenal had 25 shots on goal with only 6 hitting the target to Dundalk’s 4 shots and 1 on target and we held a lot of the possession too, 63% to Dundalk’s 37%, however watching the game it did feel a lot more lob sided than that.
My takeaways from tonight’s clash
Reiss Nelson deserves some first-team minutes
Man of the match for me and it is not even close. He was lively from the outset as he terrorised the Dundalk defence. Superb skill and making darting runs in behind were a feature of his game. The only thing missing from his performance was a goal. He deserves to play some part at Old Trafford next up. 10/10 for me, an impressive performance.
Joe Willock could be the creative force we need
Now I am not saying that he is the answer to our creative problems, but he does provide us with something different going forward. Like Nelson, he was among the best on the pitch for me with his power on the ball and silky feet he put in a superb performance. After his output tonight, he should, like Nelson feature in some capacity against Manchester United.
The perfect game leading into Manchester United
As I mentioned before this was just the tonic we needed heading to Old Trafford. A confident and assured performance with goals, good build-up play, and a clean sheet. We were never in any danger and it was good to see some of the fringe players get a chance to stake their claim and they did just that. Willian getting some important minutes on the pitch after coming back from injury was valuable too.
Xhaka in the centre of defence?
Honestly, he fitted in seamlessly and it suited him, although our opponents tonight made it easy for him, he did what he had to do. He was the architect playing out from the back, spraying balls all over the pitch and lead the team brilliantly tonight. There will be tougher tests, but it was an assured performance from the Swiss international.
Both Runnarrson and Florin Balogun made their debuts tonight in what was a well-rounded performance tonight as we sit on top of our group. Our backline troubles were highlighted when after the 61st minute we played with no recognised centre back as Mustafi was substituted so it will be interesting to see how we line up at Old Trafford.
All in all, a good night for Arsenal, a win, players getting minutes, a clean sheet, and three goals. Up next is a trip to face Manchester United and it shapes as a defining match in our young season.