Arsenal beat Dundalk to finish with 100% record

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Arsenal finished their Europa League Group B campaign with a 100% record as they overcame Dundalk in muddy conditions at the Aviva Stadium.

Eddie Nketiah gave the Gunners the lead when he clipped his shot past Gary Rogers after an error by Andrew Boyle.

Mohamed Elneny doubled the advantage with a superb strike before Jordan Flores made it 2-1 with an angled shot.

Joe Willock and Folarin Balogun scored late on for the Gunners before Sean Hoare grabbed a second for Dundalk.

“Today’s performance was overall positive because we won the game,” Gunners boss Mikel Arteta told the club website.

“However, we had some moments after scoring the first two goals where we were a little bit disconnected and we got a little bit confused by what the game required.”

His side’s form in Europe is in stark contrast with their three defeats and a draw in the past four Premier League matches.

The Spaniard added: “Now we have to forget about the Europa League because that’s in February.

“Now we need everybody on board – we obviously have a large squad at the moment with players back from injury, so we’ll have the opportunity to pick who is better in the moment and still rotate some players.

“It gives us more options in the Premier League, to focus there and try and get the results we need.”

Nketiah passes audition

Folarin Balogun
Teenage striker Folarin Balogun shone during his 28-minute cameo

Although this was a dead rubber, the players selected in Dublin had the chance to prove to Arteta and Arsenal fans that they could be the ones to change the misfiring team’s fortunes in the Premier League.

However, there were only a handful who made a strong claim, with winger and £72m club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, suspended at domestic level after his red card against Leeds, particularly underwhelming on the right with his poor decision-making and deliveries.

Of the attackers, striker Nketiah probably made the strongest claim to be in the XI against Burnley on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, who has not started a league game since 4 October, became the club’s top scorer this season on five goals with his opener, and he produced four other efforts.

Full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles and midfielder Emile Smith Rowe, on the left, formed a good partnership on the left, with Arsenal looking most dangerous when they broke down that flank.

Midfielder Willock impressed once more and took his low effort well, while 19-year-old substitute Balogun, who set up that goal, kept his composure for his side-foot finish.

At the back, Calum Chambers was making his first start following his cruciate injury last year and made an outstanding block at 2-1 to deny Darragh Leahy an almost certain equaliser.

This was Dundalk’s final match of the season, coming after they won the FAI Cup last weekend.

On a cut-up Aviva Stadium pitch they troubled Arsenal, especially in the first half.

Flores lit up the night with his angled strike which, while not as impressive as his stunning entry for the Fifa Puskas award, was still superbly struck, and Hoare’s late header was just reward for the team’s efforts.

These are uncertain times for the Irish club, with 14 of their players now out of contract.

Arsenal continue to excel in Europe – stats

  • Arsenal are unbeaten in nine away major Uefa games (W7 D2) – the Gunners’ longest ever streak without a defeat on the road.
  • Arsenal have won six consecutive major Uefa matches (excluding qualifiers) for the first time since November 2005.
  • In all European competition, Dundalk are winless in eight matches against English teams (D1 L7), scoring four goals while shipping 28.
  • All three of Elneny’s goals for Arsenal have been scored in European competition, with two of those strikes coming from outside the box.
  • Arsenal have won all 11 games in which Nketiah has found the back of the net, with the forward scoring 12 in total.
  • Arsenal are the first team to have three English players aged 21 or younger (Balogun, Willock and Nketiah) score in a major Uefa match since Spurs in 1982 v Coleraine (Garry Brooke, Terry Gibson & Gary Mabbutt).
  • Arsenal have scored twice as many goals in the Europa League this season (20 in six games) as they have in the Premier League (10 in 11).

BBC

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