Willock, Pepe and what we learned in Arsenal vs Molde


rsenal’s second string enjoyed another comfortable win in the Europa League as they beat Molde 4-1 at the Emirates on Thursday night.  

Mikel Arteta changed all ten of his outfield players from the side that had started the win at Old Trafford on Sunday and, despite going behind midway through the first half, his side made it three wins from three in the competition to close on a place in the last-32.  

As against Dundalk a week ago, Joe Willock shone, finding the net and having a key hand in two other goals.  

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Pepe frustrates again despite scoring in victory

If ever there was a performance to sum up Nicolas Pepe’s time at Arsenal, then this was pretty close to it.

For 69 minutes, the Ivorian was fairly anonymous and his game was lacking any real end product against a Molde team who allowed Arsenal plenty of possession.

Pepe was the main beneficiary of that and time and time again in the first-half he was given the chance to beat his full-back when one-on-one with him. The 25-year-old, though, blew those opportunities and you could hear the knives being sharpened and people pointing to his £72million price tag.

Then, out of nowhere, Pepe burst into life as he curled home an effort from the edge of the box. Before that he, like Arsenal, had shown very little and it was only thanks to two own-goals that they had cancelled out Molde’s opener from Martin Ellingsen.

Pepe, though, summed up how Arsenal suddenly came alive and that is very much the way life has gone for the Ivorian in north London so far. As Arteta has pointed out on several occasions, he just isn’t consistent enough and this was the case on Thursday night.

There is certainly a player in Pepe, someone with the ability and talent to be a success in England, but right now we are only seeing flashes of it – and largely against lesser opposition in the Europa League.

Willock making most of Europa League chances

Joe Willock said in the build-up to this match that he would let his football do the talking. The 21-year-old is keen to get more minutes under Arteta, but rather than explaining that in a press conference he wants do it on the pitch.

And Willock is certainly doing just that as he followed up his man of the match performance against Dundalk with another good showing here. On an easy night for Arsenal, the midfielder was a rare bright spark – finishing the game with a goal and an assist. He was full of energy and dynamism, which is something the Gunners lack at times.


The Europa League group stages have often been a chance for young players to shine – just look at Bukayo Saka last season – and Willock is seizing this opportunity. He is yet to play in the Premier League this term, but the midfielder is well and truly knocking on the door at the moment.

Arsenal punished for not playing out from the back

It has often been the case under Arteta that Arsenal have been criticised for overplaying in defence. Pundits and supporters have accused the side of trying to play out from the back too much in the tightest of spots, which has sometimes landed them in trouble.

Against Molde, though, Arsenal were undone by going long. Bernd Leno opted to pump the ball up to Eddie Nkeitah instead of playing out from the back – and it came back to bite the Gunners.

Nketiah lost the header and Molde were able to pounce as Ellingsen caught an unset Leno out from 25 yards, with the back four still out of position, too.  

Arteta has always advocated playing out from back – and defender Rob Holding revealed he even complains when the team don’t do it. This goal against Molde showed just why the Spaniard wants Arsenal to play the way they do.

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