Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson impressed while Nicolas Pepe produced an improved display as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Dundalk at home on Thursday.
Right from the word go, Arsenal were in control of the proceedings, with Dundalk happy to absorb the pressure from the hosts. However, it was the visiting team that produced the first chance of the game, with Patrick McEleney testing debutant Runar Alex Runarsson from range.
Thereafter, the Arsenal goalkeeper was hardly called into action, with the Gunners having the lion’s share of the possession, albeit without doing much in terms of chance creation. Then came the game defining four-minute period, wherein Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Nicolas Pepe scored to put the game beyond Dundalk’s reach.
Following Pepe’s goal, Arsenal continued to dominate, but chances came few and far between, as the north Londoners completed a 3-0 win to consolidate their place atop Group B of the UEFA Europa League. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Runar Alex Runarsson: 7/10
Arsenal have kept a home clean sheet for the first time across all competitions since July 1st (vs. Norwich), ending a six-game run without one.
The Runar Runarsson effect. 😉 pic.twitter.com/JiHeTQtJs7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 29, 2020
Making his Arsenal debut at long last, Runarsson enjoyed one of the easiest outings of his career on Thursday. The Icelandic goalkeeper was called into action early by Patrick McEleney, but he was equal to that effort and made the save without much of a fuss. Thereafter, though, Runarsson was not called into action. Kept things simple with the ball at his feet.
Shkodran Mustafi: 6/10
Making his first start of the season, Mustafi had the responsibility of keeping the Dundalk attack quiet on Thursday. However, the German was not put under any sort of pressure, with Granit Xhaka, along with the midfielders in front of him, keeping a check on the visitors. A good way to ease back into the thick of the things ahead of the big game against Manchester United on Sunday.
Granit Xhaka: 7/10
Deployed in defence, as Arteta chose to hand Gabriel Magalhaes a rest, Xhaka was in fine touch, keeping the backline and midfield organised by being vocal all throughout. His primary task against Dundalk was, thus, to play the ball smartly, which is exactly what he did while losing possession just twice.
Sead Kolasinac: 6.5/10
Another player making his return to the starting lineup, Kolasinac played in the three-man central defensive unit. The Bosnian was more solid than usual and won a couple of duels. Given the chance to overlap, Kolasinac saw a lot of the ball and linked up well with Reiss Nelson.
Cedric Soares: 6/10
With Hector Bellerin given a breather, this was Cedric’s chance to impress. However, with Dundalk putting men in behind the ball, the Portuguese wing-back struggled to penetrate the opposition defence with his deliveries, with only 3 of his 11 long passes reaching their target. Hardly called into action defensively.
Mohamed Elneny: 7/10
Handed the duty of restricting the flow of the moves through the middle from Dundalk, Elneny was the rock in midfield for Arsenal. The Egyptian was in brilliant touch, completing every pass that he attempted while also creating a chance. Never really overrun in the game either in what was a fine display.
Joe Willock: 8/10
A player who would have wanted to use this game to impress Arteta and stake claim for a regular berth in the Premier League, Willock did just that on Thursday. Stationed in the middle of the park, the youngster was incredibly precise with the ball at his feet (51/56 passes completed) and created 3 chances as well.
Willock also ended the game with a definitive goal involvement, scoring the second goal before assisting Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal’s third of the game. A huge confidence booster, this, for young Willock.
Joe Willock's game by numbers vs. Dundalk:
88% passing accuracy
17 touches in opp. box
7 ball recoveries
3 take-ons completed
3 chances created
2 shots on target
Staking a claim for a PL start. pic.twitter.com/kIRctJFaZu
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 29, 2020
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 6/10
Starting as the left wing-back, Maitland-Niles often veered infield to allow Kolasinac to overlap. This role meant that the English international was not always visible in the game and he was perhaps the least involved of all the Arsenal players. Still, played in a key pass and completed 2 interceptions.
Nicolas Pepe: 7/10
Back into the side, Pepe was a busy customer in the final third, aiming 5 shots on goal on the night. One of these ended with his goal, a peach of a finish from his weaker foot. That strike would do his confidence a world of good and Pepe would now be eager to continue building momentum.
Eddie Nketiah: 7/10
The nature of the game meant Nketiah did not see a lot of the ball. But, the young striker used his movement to create minor pockets of space, especially with Dundalk aiming to remain compact. This helped the likes of Willock, Pepe and Nelson to create overloads centrally whenever there was an opportunity. Scored the opening goal of the game, a fine close range finish.
Reiss Nelson: 8/10
He might not have a goal or an assist to show for his efforts. However, Nelson is a major reason why the scoreline appears as gleaming as it is. A bright spark all throughout the game, Nelson was often seen leaving the Dundalk defenders back-pedaling, which enabled Pepe and Willock to express themselves better. If his end product improves, we might be seeing much more of Nelson.
How impressed were you with Reiss Nelson tonight? pic.twitter.com/9WdgdJ6kjk
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) October 29, 2020
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
On for Mustafi, Ceballos kept things simple, completing each of his 38 attempted passes while also creating a couple of chances. Will need to be on top of his game on Sunday against Manchester United.
Back from an injury, the last half hour of the game were precious for Willian to get some rhythm, especially with the Manchester United game in sight.
Kieran Tierney: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes, Tierney helped see the game out, all while completing each of his passes and 2 interceptions.
Folarin Balogun: N/A
Introduced along with Tierney, Balogun did not play enough to make an impact, touching the ball just 6 times.