Arsenal 3 – 0 Dundalk
Well that was a refreshing game to watch. The Railwaymen of Dundalk lacked the power and imagination in midfield to really worry The Gunners, but they parked their carriages rather effectively in front of their semi-ancient goalkeeper and the boys had a job to do.
- Pepe was unchained in a much freer role and played with a smile on his face. His goal with his porcelain right foot was a beauty: a little Irish dance of a left-foot-right-foot with the ball and then he posted the stamp in the top right corner. But it was Nico’s overall involvement, movement and presence that really surprised me; and, as with him, it put a smile on my face.
- Runarsson started and this game will have done him good. We did not see him much in action so it is hard to have a first impression, but I liked his distribution and energy.
- Joe Willock was majestic throughout the game. He danced with and without the ball, mastered it in the tightest of spaces and added total unpredictability to our game. His goal was classy and composed and I liked his presence on the pitch. Here was not just a player who was prepared to do his tasks for the night, but one who took the bull by its horns. And that’s what had been missing for a while. Joe is a technical athlete with good vision and leadership, and last night we saw the proof of it.
- It was Reiss & Roll for Nelson who, like Pepe and Willock, felt like dancing with the ball last night. We spoke about the need for movement of our attackers as to worry defences and find the holes and opportunities, over the last few days; and Reiss was keen to make things happen alright. I loved his dribbles and team play, and he needs a few more games like this to get to his best form… and then the assists and goals will come too.
- Eddie scored the all important first goal and Laca will have been proud of him. He pounced on a half-opportunity and breached the Fortdalk in a flash. It was not pretty but just what was needed, as Dundalk had defended valiantly until then and strong aggression was required by the Gunners. Nketiah scored a very mature goal. He had more opportunities and will know that he should have added to his tally, but, just as with Laca in many a game, if a CF works hard for the team all game long they will sometimes be too tired or unfocused to take good chances.
- The wingbacks/fullbacks, Soares and Kola, were involved but did not overly impress. Kola tried hard and I always appreciate effort, but he is well below Tierney in terms of effectiveness. Soares seems to be a man of a few moments in every game and I would like to see more full-blooded performances from him. The right wingback position is there for the taking for him.
- I predicted Elneny to play in defence but Arteta surprised by putting Granit at the back. It was very effective and he didn’t have to break too much sweat, so well done to the Maestro(s). Elneny, supported by AMN and Mustafi, kept it tidy and organised in midfield and allowed the boys in front of him to play all night long.
- The last observation is on Arteta’s game plan, and I will use two quotes from fellow bloggers. First is from Allezkev: “I think that Arteta got just about everything right this evening all the way down from his initial selections, his tactics and down to his substitutions and taking guys off that he might need at Old Toilet this Sunday. I’m glad that he seems to be finally getting the hang of making subs, tonight was, according to Martin Keown, his 39th match as a manager so good for him… Second is from Highbury Harmony: “It’s nice to know that Arteta’s game plans are good and have attacking intent, it just took players who have been at the club for a while that know how to play the Arsenal way to execute it. I get that the level of the opponent makes a difference, but it was nice to see a total performance.”