3️⃣ points as Hale End graduates fire Arsenal into knockout stage

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Phil Costa

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Arsenal cruised into the Europa League knockout stages after beating Molde 3-0 at the Aker-Stadion.

Goals from Nicolas Pépé, Reiss Nelson and Folarin Balogun secured all three points, making it four wins from four in Group B.

Europa League


Here are three points we took from the game …

Point to prove

Mikel Arteta held nothing back when assessing Nicolas Pépé’s red card against Leeds, claiming his actions were “unacceptable” and that he “cost his teammates” despite escaping Elland Road with one point.

Those words felt particularly pertinent and in some quarters, many were guessing if the record signing had any future at all in North London.

But after apologising both publicly and privately, Pépé was given a chance of redemption against Molde and took the opportunity with both hands.

His overall game still needs polishing, but the Ivorian was direct, dangerous and much tidier in possession, before scoring a well deserved goal. It’ll be a long way back – but this was a step in the right direction.

Worries for Willian

After impressing with three assists on his debut against Fulham, it’s fair to say that Willian hasn’t exactly kicked on since signing for Arsenal.

The 32-year-old has been peripheral, sluggish and was in trouble after taking an unsanctioned trip to Dubai during the most recent international break.

With Willian absent, Reiss Nelson has played twice and impressed on both occasions – and was arguably the best player on the pitch in Norway.

Injuries have often hindered his progress but Arteta is a big believer in his talent. Is it time the 20-year-old was afforded an opportunity to spark this side into life?

Remember the name

It was a good night for the Hale End academy with Nelson, Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe all contributing, but Folarin Balogun will steal the headlines and deservedly so.

Balogun is highly rated at Arsenal but an ongoing contract dispute made his future almost untenable, with a number of clubs – including Sheffield United and Brentford – enquiring for his signature.

But as time has passed, the 19-year-old has been brought into the first team environment and impressed in training, leading to Arteta publicly stating he wants to renew the striker.

Just 37 seconds after coming on against Molde, he turned brilliantly and fired a shot through the goalkeeper to the delight of his teammates … the first of many?