With Christmas not far off, I hope Santa brings our manager a warmer coat. A less black and certainly a less shiny one. But boy doesn’t he always look crisp, sharp.
The game was certainly not easy. Molde worked tirelessly in defence, especially in the first half. Arsenal certainly struggled a bit. Pepe was having a tough old time yet again but he wasn’t alone. We bossed the possession stats as expected but just lacked the final ball or an end product. Nketiah came close but a fingertip save from their keeper kept shot from creeping inside the post.
Molde would have shocked the home fans had any been in the stadium, when a wicked strike from distance beat Leno. A long ball clearance by our German, encouraged by Xhaka, soon found itself back in our half with a disorganised defensive unit left exposed. That’s perhaps why we play out from the back. Expecting Nketiah to win the ariel challenge when up against a tall centre back was foolhardy. I’m sure Leno won’t do that again in a hurry, especially after his team-mates hung him out to dry seconds later.
Arsenal thought they’d equalised. They did but the offside flag went up to deny Nketiah a legitimate goal. Eddie had done everything right. He looked left, waited, made his short run to meet Pepe’s cross and tapped the ball home. No VAR, no overturning of what looked a wrong decision.
Next up came a couple of owns goal for the away team. Rotten luck for them perhaps but credit has to go to Arsenal for forcing the mistakes. Credit has to go to Joe Willock for his part in both. The first was a great goal. A perfect counter attack which involved Willian, Xhaka, Nketiah and finally Willock. Oh, and a Molde defender. Our second came from a Xhaka chip into the box towards Willock, he fought hard to win the ball, fizzed a cross in front of the goal and their defender nudged it into the back of the net with his knee.
Sandwiched in between us equalising and taking the lead, Kolasinac missed a sitter. Right foot or left foot, he should have buried it.
Then along came our third thanks to Saka and Pepe. A lovely pass from one, a fine finish by our winger. Pepe really can be lethal with his left foot in and around the box. Is his talent wasted on the wing?
An offside flag denied Nketiah again before Willock, who once more had a very good night, made it 4-1. The perfect end to the game for him and for Arsenal who sit comfortably at the top of their group.
Mikel Arteta’s substitutions in the second half really made a difference. Molde had already been worked over, not literally of course but the energy had slowly been sapped out of their legs. By the time Saka and Elneny came on, they’d been worn down. Saka’s pass to Pepe for his goal was perfect, the ball from Elneny which began the move for Willock to score, a peach. Simple yet precise. They made the difference.
Much is being said about Joe Willock right and understandably so. He’s taken to Europa League football like fish to water. He’s enthusiastic, he has a great work ethic and he never gives up chasing the ball down. He’s scoring goals too. He really is performing well. The BT Sports pundits were suggesting that he might need a loan, the interviewer asked the player himself if he’s planning on having a talk with Mikel Arteta about being in the first team. Seriously, I wish these people would stick to the football played and not try and make out they know best. I’m sure Mikel Arteta will know when Willock is ready for the first team and when he is, he’ll get his chance.
What’s more important now for Willock and the club is he carries on doing what he’s doing. Playing with a smile, working hard and helping Arsenal win football matches. His day in the Arsenal first team will come. I’m sure he knows that as no doubt does Mikel Arteta. A loan Mr Keown? I don’t think so…
Back to the Premier League on Sunday as Emi Martinez and his Aston Villa team-mates travel to The Emirates.
See you in the comments.