With one eye on the weekend clash at Old Trafford, Arteta made a host of changes to the starting line up for the Europa League tie against Dundalk at the Emirates.
It included the debut in goal for Runar Alex Runarsson who was signed from Dijon this summer as a replacement for Emi Martinez. Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Cedric and Kolasinac all started the game. Strangely, Xhaka played as a centre-half for most of the game.
Young Academy graduate Folarin Balogun also made his debut from the bench as he replaced Eddie Nketiah for the final 15 minutes of the game.
Let us look at the biggest learning from the game.
- Goals galore – Arsenal had drawn blanks in their previous two PL games against Leicester and Man City. Three goals in the span of five minutes either side of half-time have added confidence, even though it was not the full first-choice team playing. Taking note of this performance, the senior players will be driven to fire against United at the weekend.
- The Pepe phenomenon – Nicolas Pepe’s story has been one of ice and fire. He has produced some flashes of brilliance under a veil of mediocrity. This game was Pepe’s Arsenal career in a microcosm. He lost possession countless times while trying to dribble past defenders, but produced a stunning right-footed curler into the top corner for the third Arsenal goal. If Arteta can bring a much-needed consistency to his game, Pepe could finally be unleashed.
- Runarsson could be a bargain – It’s not fair to judge a player based only on his debut, but Runarsson looked an assured figure behind a make-shift defence. The number of crosses and corners he collected confidently will be reassuring to Arsenal fans. He only cost 1 million pounds.
- All rested and ready for United – Most of the senior players including Aubameyang, Bellerin, Lacazette and Gabriel didn’t participate in the game. Ceballos, Willian and Tierney played only a few minutes. This means the Gunners should be fresh and firing against United – a game Arsenal cannot afford to lose in the current circumstances.
Author: Kshitiz Choudhary
Photo Credit: Kieran Clarke