A heavily-rotated Arsenal team beat Molde at the Emirates Stadium thanks to two own goals by the visitors and strikes by Nicolas Pepe and Joe Willock.
Bernd Leno and Willian were the only players to keep their places in the starting XI from the 1-0 win at Manchester United at the weekend, while the hosts fell behind in the 22nd minute against the run of play.
Martin Ellingsen curled into the far corner from outside the area after Arsenal’s midfield was carved open by just two passes in the build-up.
But the Gunners hit back through an own goal on the stroke of time, with Eddie Nketiah’s cross diverted into the net by Kristoffer Haugen.
Another own goal handed Arsenal the lead after the hour mark, as Joe Willock’s good work in the box and cross led Sheriff Sinyan to head in.
And Nicolas Pepe sealed the victory with a well-taken strike from Bukayo Saka’s pull-back, before Joe Willock added a fourth in the closing minutes to ensure Arsenal maintain their winning start to the Europa League group-stage campaign.
Here are five talking points from the Emirates.
1. Spirited visitors downed by own goals
It’s fair to say the scoreline flattered Arsenal on an evening where neither side showed much quality.
Martin Ellingsen took his chance wonderfully for the visitors, but Molde’s performance relied on their steadfast defence keeping Arsenal at bay.
And keep them at bay it did – until two own goals undid all their hard work.
It’s difficult to cast judgment on which own goal was more unfortunate and which was more unavoidable, as both Kristoffer Haugen and Sheriff Sinyan diverted crosses into their own net.
But what’s for certain is the Norwegian club was unable to rally after the unfortunate blunders, while they only served to boost Arsenal’s confidence.
Nicolas Pepe added Arsenal’s third seven minutes after the second goal and the Gunners looked far more dangerous once Molde’s heads dropped as the second half went on.
2. Xhaka and Ceballos make case… for Elneny
Take nothing away from Martin Ellingsen’s wonderful, curling strike – but it was simply far too easy for Molde to scythe Arsenal open to opening the scoring.
The build-up to the goal contained just two passes: the first a powerful upfield header after Bernd Leno’s goal kick; the second a one-touch flick round the corner by Magnus Eikrem.
From there, Ellingsen was allowed the time to pick his spot and bend into the far post beyond Leno’s reach, while Arsenal’s midfield duo of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos watched on.
The pair showed exactly why Mikel Arteta turned to Mohamed Elneny to pair Thomas Partey in the 1-0 win at Manchester United last weekend.
He may not be the flashiest midfielder in Arsenal’s squad, but the Egyptian showed the defensive discipline Xhaka and Ceballos lack in the gritty Old Trafford victory.
At the Emirates, Eikrem took multiple players out of the game with his clever ball round the corner because Arsenal’s central midfielders were dragged out of position and towards the ball.
It would be no surprise to see Elneny line up alongside Partey against Aston Villa on Sunday.
3. Pepe capitalises on opportunity
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If he is to work his way into Mikel Arteta’s first-XI reckoning, Nicolas Pepe has to capitalise on each start he is given.
The Ivorian did just that against Molde, scoring Arsenal’s third goal of the night after what had been, at times, a frustrating performance.
Molde were alert to the threat Pepe poses and shifted him onto his right foot at every opportunity, but the 25-year-old was able to latch on to Bukayo Saka’s pull-back to fire home with his stronger left foot.
Elsewhere, Pepe was a constant outlet but his dribbling sometimes let him down. It was a display which epitomised his Arsenal career so far and perhaps explained why he finds himself outside of Arteta’s starting XIs.
Pepe has started just one of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season – the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City – and was an unused substitute in the win over Manchester United.
But he continues to capitalise on the starts he is given and followed up his goal against Dundalk and assist against Rapid Vienna with further goal involvements.
He also contributed the assist for Joe Willock’s late strike and, alongside the 21-year-old, Pepe was one of Arsenal’s standout performers on the night.
4. Perfect start a boost for youngsters
Victory over Molde means Arsenal have won each of their three Europa League matches so far.
Though a group of Rapid Vienna, Dundalk and Molde was not expected to cause them much trouble, the 100 per cent start hands Mikel Arteta an advantage heading into the second half of the group-stage campaign.
The Spaniard will be free to continue to rotate heavily in the coming games and save his first-team stars for Premier League action.
This will also come as a boost to Arsenal’s youngsters, who continue to impress when given chances in the cup competitions.
Joe Willock was the pick of the bunch against Molde but Ainsley Maitland-Niles produced an energetic display from right-back and Bukayo Saka showed good vision to assist Nicolas Pepe’s strike.
5. Arteta’s endgame
What is Mikel Arteta’s stylistic vision for Arsenal?
The Gunners boss has forged a reputation for making his side hard to break down, which has at the expense of creativity and free-flowing attacking football.
But there is a sense he would one day like to leave behind the three-man defence which dominated Manchester United in favour of a four-at-the-back formation.
The signing of Thomas Partey may prove vital to that end, as the Ghana star has the defensive and technical ability to operate as the holding midfielder in a 4-3-3.
In his absence – and for all their possession on the night – Arsenal looked vulnerable at times. Meanwhile, they were set on the course for victory by two own goals rather than their own cutting edge.
Arteta’s gradual shift to a back four remains a work in progress.
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