Arsenal vs Dundalk FC – 3-0
Arsenal side: Runarsson; Cedric, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles; Willock, Elneny, Xhaka; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson
The team sheet suggested that Mikel Arteta had adopted a slightly kamikaze approach to the Arsenal vs Dundalk game by putting Mustafi and Kolasinac together as central defenders. It’s generally recognised that the pair are about as solid as a blancmange on the bonnet of a speeding pizza delivery van and one could assume from this move that either Dundalk were expected to roll over at some point or that all the other Arsenal defenders were suffering from some long term illness.
There was an outing for Pepe, Willock, and Maitland-Niles in midfield with Nelson and Nketiah upfront. The Ivorian striker had much to prove, he hadn’t quite convinced in his role as the expensive third striker coming in off the flank. Arsenal were plodding in parts, to say the least, providing more evidence that they lack penetrative creativity, but at least Nelson sizzled in this contest as Dundalk made a fist of it for 42 minutes.
The deadlock was finally broken by Eddie Nketiah after a howler by Dundalk’s hapless keeper Gary Rogers. From there on in, it was expected that the floodgates would open, and just over a minute on, Willock had stretched the roof of the net after some nifty work by Nketiah and Pepe.
Pepe then finished the Arsenal vs Dundalk game just after the restart, with a sublime effort that showcased his talent and went some way to justifying Arsenal’s belief in the hefty price tag. Willock, who still needs to find some form of consistency, rolled the ball to Pepe on the edge of the area, he took a touch to give himself some room and smashed it into the roof of the net. Sublime!
On a negative note, it was clear that Arsenal lacked the killer touch after the third goal but it was also noticeable that natural creativity via naturally creative players was also hard to come by. Willock looked like he could eventually mature into that player that goes box to box and brings last-minute menace to a game, but we’ve been saying that for a while.
Some slick eye-catching moves lacked an end product and Arsenal will need to go up several gears if they are to progress in this competition. The youngsters from the academy faired well but this wasn’t Manchester United and the worry is that the Gunners couldn’t find a way through the Dundalk defence until just before half-time.
After the Pepe goal, the Gunners seemed to settle for what they had and approached the Arsenal vs Dundalk game with variable intensity. Nketiah assumed the role, normally reserved for Lacazette, of fluffing his lines in front of goal but on the plus side, Willock and Nelson looked good.
Pepe either needs a decent run in the side, a stable position, or a slightly more central role to squeeze out his talent. He has competition by the bucket load with Willian and Nelson breathing down his neck, but he still can’t pull the trigger. Many have said that he is a one-footed player and is, therefore, is unsuitable for the Premier League but in my opinion, he hasn’t had a decent run in the side this season, and perhaps, he hasn’t found his niche in Arteta’s formation.
In the end, it was an expected and comfortable win which facilitated a run out for some players, but it’s unlikely that Arsenal will include many players from this team against Manchester United at the weekend but Nelson may have done enough.