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Opinion

Gunners end Europa League group stage on a high

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11th December, 2020
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The Gunners continued on their unbeaten run in the Europa League with a 4-2 victory over Dundalk on Friday morning (AEDT).

After the loss to Tottenham at the weekend, Mikel Arteta was expected to ring the changes for this one and as expected, there was a youthful look to our side. Calum Chambers was given a rare start, as was Ainsley Maitland-Niles and promising youngster Emile Smith Rowe.

Arsenal controlled the match from the outset, and they were rewarded just 12 minutes in when Eddie Nketiah pounced on a loose ball and then ran into the box and cleverly clipped his shot over the Dundalk keeper to give Arsenal a deserved lead.

Just six minutes later, Mohamed Elneny had a moment to remember as it seems he only scores screamers. He picked the ball up outside the box, took a touch and hammered his shot into the top corner, and gave us a 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes gone.

Dundalk managed to get a goal back when Jordan Flores smashed his shot past Alex Runarsson and his side grew into the game. They nearly took the lead before halftime, however, luckily for us, Calum Chambers got in the way of the shot.

The second half was rather placid until the 77th minute when substitute Florin Balogun was involved with great hold-up play as he laid off a neat pass to Joe Willock who again found the net in Europe to give us a 3-1 lead.

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With 10 minutes remaining, Balogun was again involved. Nicolas Pepe slid through a nice pass to Balogun who hit his shot first time and it nestled into the far corner to put a stamp on his impressive performance.

Arsenal recruit Nicolas Pepe.

Arsenal broke their club record transfer fee to recruit Nicolas Pepe from Lille. (Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Dundalk managed to get their second goal five minutes from time when Sean Hoare saw his header go past Runarsson, but it was mere consolation for the Irish side.

So Arsenal finish the group stage with a perfect six wins from six games and cruise into the next stage of the competition.

Takeaways

The Maitland-Niles and Smith Rowe combination is a joy to watch
Both operating on the same side, they showed their ability to get in behind the Dundalk defence with neat one-touch passes. Maitland-Niles should be extremely close to breaking into the first team for EPL games.

Smith Rowe had a decent night with his first start of the season. He was quick and decisive with the ball and gave us something different in the final third.

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Cedric was solid in defence
He rarely gets a chance at Premier League level, however, he has played most of our Europa League games, and tonight he put in another good shift. His crossing was a feature as he regularly got forward and put dangerous balls into the box.

Florin Balogun impresses again
Another great substitute performance from the young striker. He only played half an hour, but he impressed with a well-taken goal and a neat assist for Joe Willock. Not quite ready for the Premier League but he is sure putting pressure on Eddie Nketiah with these types of performances.

Elneny gives our midfield something different
Now I am not saying he is the answer, however, he does give us something different in the middle of the park. He does the simple things well and always looks for a forward pass, something that can not be said for others.

He did his chances of getting more game time no harm with another solid outing in the Gunners midfield against Dundalk.

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It was a relatively easy night for Arsenal, however, they did not have it all their way as Dundalk found the back of the net twice.

Up next is Burnley in the Premier League and it is shaping up as a huge match in Arsenal’s season.

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