Arsenal 3-0 Dundalk: Gunners prove too good for the valiant Irish minnows as Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Nicolas Pepe strike to ease Mikel Arteta’s men to victory at the Emirates
That’s the warm-up done with. Now on to Manchester United.
Mikel Arteta got through an evening at the Emirates Stadium without any drama, defeating Irish minnows Dundalk ahead of the sterner test that awaits them at Old Trafford on Sunday.
There was no need to call on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette as an SOS from the substitutes’ bench because once his team got one goal, the floodgates opened.
Eddie Nketiah scored as Arsenal continued their European form with a 3-0 win over Dundalk
Nketiah (left) broke the deadlock for Arsenal after an error from Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers
Joe Willock (left) added a second with a breakaway goal just before the half-time whistle
Nicolas Pepe curled in a third just seconds into the second-half to seal the three points
There was a special strike by Nicolas Pepe, while Arteta even experimented to the extent that midfielders Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny were his centre-back pairing in the second half.
Arteta’s only real complaint could be that it took them until the 42nd minute to score.
‘You have to react with a win, with this attitude,’ Arteta said of bouncing back from their league loss to Leicester last weekend. ‘Let’s get ready. We go to Old Trafford to try to win again.’
Dundalk can be proud of their first-half efforts. They defended well with two banks of four, and only conceded after an error by goalkeeper Gary Rogers. But there was no fairytale for them here.
It was a difficult evening for Dunalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli – who was allowed in the dugout
They can at least take home the fair play award, because they committed zero fouls here.
‘Too polite,’ their manager Filippo Giovagnoli said when told that statistic afterwards. ‘Our players are gentlemen.’
Dundalk did not think their manager would be allowed in the dugout for this match. Giovagnoli – the 49-year-old Italian head coach who, as of two months ago, had never managed a club – was apparently supposed to sit in the stands because of his lack of UEFA Pro Licence.
Arsenal did not need to use Alex Lacazette (left) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) at all
Perhaps UEFA felt kind, because Giovagnoli was indeed on the touchline, and he liked what he was seeing in the opening exchanges. After 20 minutes, only one team had managed a shot on target, and it wasn’t Arsenal.
Yet it all unravelled for the visitors before the break. In the 42nd minute, Reiss Nelson’s corner asked questions of Gary Rogers. The Dundalk goalkeeper had previously fumbled a header from Sead Kolasinac and this time he miscued his punch, with Eddie Nketiah pouncing.
Two minutes later it was 2-0, with Pepe’s shot deflecting into the path of Joe Willock, who beat Rogers. Finally Arteta could manage a smile.
Mikel Arteta’s side have two wins from two in Europe and face Manchester United on Sunday
Just 31 seconds into the start of the second half, it was 3-0, with Pepe planting a shot into the top-right corner. Sometimes supporters wonder whether he is worth £72million. Then he does something like this – with his weaker foot.
Pepe was replaced by Willian after an hour. This was a good run-out for the 25-year-old winger, regardless of whether it was against inferior opposition. The same goes for Folarin Balogun, the highly-rated academy kid who made his debut.
On whether his fringe players impressed him enough to upset his line-up at Old Trafford, Arteta said: ‘They are always in the frame to play.’ A good win for Arsenal. Now for United.
See below for the minute-by-minute blog from the Emirates by Sportsmail’s SPENCER MORGAN