Arsenal’s Joe Willock gives Arteta positive selection headache following impressive showing vs Dundalk


Arsenal vs Dundalk

Arsenal returned to European action a short time ago.

The Gunners have been drawn in Group B of the 2020/21 Europa League along with Molde, Dundalk and Rapid Wien.

It would the latter of that trio who Arsenal faced last week, seeing off the Austrian outfit in a not overly convincing 2-1 victory.

This game week saw the north Londoners welcome Irish outfit Dundalk to the Emirates.

Dundalk began their Europa League group stage journey with a 2-1 loss and Mikel Arteta’s side were quite clearly favourites on Thursday.

And when all was said and done in England, an Arsenal victory was exactly what transpired.

The Gunners would put out a fairly weak starting eleven, with a number of heavy-hitters left on the bench.

But they were still able to pick up a comfortable win.

Arsenal dominate

Arsenal, unsurprisingly, began the tie dominating possession with their no.2 Alex Runarsson basically playing as a centre-back when the Gunners had the ball.

It would be Dundalk who managed the first effort of the tie, though, with Runarsson saving well from a long-range strike.

As for the home side, wayward efforts from Cedric and Nicolas Pepe were their only real half-chances early on.

In truth, despite the clear gulf in quality between the two sides, the Gunners were rather lacklustre with Reiss Nelson one of the few bright sparks inside the opening 20 minutes.

And it would be Nelson who had Arsenal’s first decent chance of the game, firing his effort just wide of the Dundalk post 23 minutes in.

Arsenal would eventually register a shot on target 33 minutes in when Sead Kolasinac headed straight at the Dundalk keeper from a decent Joe Willock cross.

Eddie Nketiah then really should have put Mikel Arteta’s side 1-0 up just before the break when the ball fell to him about four yards out. But the youngster somehow managed to direct his effort wide.

Nketiah would atone for his error just moments later, though, tapping into an empty net after Dundalk’s no.1 missed the ball after coming for a corner and was left in no mans land.

The floodgates then seemed to open after Nketiah’s strike, with Joe Willock doubling the home outfits advantage 43 minutes in after picking up a loose ball from a deflected Pepe effort.

The first 45 drew to a close with Arsenal boasting perhaps a slightly undeserved 2-0 lead.

Willock shines

After a pretty slow first half, the second 45 began in much the opposite fashion, with Nicolas Pepe’s curling effort from the edge of the box making it 3-0 less than a minute after the interval.

The Gunners were unable to add a 4th, though, with the final blowing with the score at 3-0.

In truth, there weren’t too many positives to take away from Thursday’s tie from an Arsenal perspective.

Yes, they won the game comfortably, but the Premier League outfit were expected to do so anyway.

And though they did eventually net three, the fact it took the Gunners nearly 45 minutes to open the scoring against such average opposition will no doubt worry Arteta – especially given his side’s attacking threat hasn’t been superb of late anyway.

One of the few bright sparks for Arsenal on Thursday, however, was the display of Joe Willock.

The 21-year-old has been on the fringes of the Londoners’ first team this season and is yet to make a single Premier League appearance.

But after such a bright display in Europe, which saw him score one and assist one, the Englishman must surely at least be considered by the Spaniard for a starting berth at the weekend.

Also, Arteta does look to be trying to switch to a three-man midfield and Wilcock, whose ability to drive forward from midfield was on clear display this evening, could well become a key member of that trio, playing as the more advanced option in a midfield comprised of Thomas Partey and then one of Granit Xhaka or Dani Ceballos.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Everton FC 6 5 13
2 Liverpool FC 6 1 13
3 Aston Villa FC 5 7 12
4 Leicester City FC 6 5 12
5 Tottenham Hotspur FC 6 8 11
6 Leeds United 6 3 10
7 Southampton FC 6 1 10
8 Crystal Palace FC 6 -1 10
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 6 -2 10
10 Chelsea FC 6 4 9
11 Arsenal FC 6 1 9
12 West Ham United FC 6 4 8
13 Manchester City FC 5 0 8
14 Newcastle United FC 6 -2 8
15 Manchester United FC 5 -3 7
16 Brighton & Hove Albion FC 6 -2 5
17 West Bromwich Albion 6 -8 3
18 Sheffield United FC 6 -6 1
19 Burnley FC 5 -6 1
20 Fulham FC 6 -9 1
Player Team Goals
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 8
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 7
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 6
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 6
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 6
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 5
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 5
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 4
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 4
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 4
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 4
Jimenez, Raul Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 4
Rodriguez, James Everton FC 3
Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 3
Jorginho Chelsea FC 3
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 3
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 3
Antonio, Michail West Ham United FC 3
Lacazette, Alexandre Arsenal FC 3
Bowen, Jarrod West Ham United FC 3