There was zero pressure on Arsenal last night as they took on the Irish minnows Dundalk, and Mikel Arteta took the opportunity to rest most of his first team players to keep them fresh to face Burnley on Sunday.
The gunners raced into a two-goal lead through Nketiah and Elneny, but then seemed to take their feet off the pedal and allowed Dundalk some space to play, before regaining their urgency with another couple of goals in the second half, courtesy of Willock and Balogun, who is looking lively every time he gets an opportunity.
Arteta was pleased with the youngsters, but was not happy that they relaxed and allowed a couple of goals to get past Runnarsson. The boss told Arsenal.com after the game: “Well the group stage in general has been very positive, obviously. It’s never easy to win these games in Europe. I think we’ve been really consistent and performing well.
“Today’s performance was overall positive because we won the game but as well 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. That is normal because the job is done in the group but as well it is not the standards that we need.
“Then we reacted, we got better, it’s true that we rotated a lot of players. We gave players who haven’t played any football some [minutes], and some young players too. There were a lot of positives but some things as well that we have to improve.”
Considering that this group of players haven’t had much time to play as a unit competitively, I think Arteta has been a little bit harsh. At least they have now had some much-needed game time, perhaps the boss can start integrating some youngsters into our weekend squads as well…