Arsenal’s 2020/21 Europa League Group Stage Opponents: Dundalk, Rapid Vienna & Molde

LIEGE, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 12: Players of Arsenal pose for a team photograph prior to the UEFA Europa League group F match between Standard Liege and Arsenal FC at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on December 12, 2019 in Liege, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
LIEGE, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 12: Players of Arsenal pose for a team photograph prior to the UEFA Europa League group F match between Standard Liege and Arsenal FC at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on December 12, 2019 in Liege, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

And the crowd goes mild!

Yes, Arsenal got the Friday midday slot to find out who their European opponents are for the 2020/21 season, as for the fourth year running, we’re in the Europa League.

There is little in the way of excitement to be had for the draw, other than hoping for an interesting city/town to visit on the continent for an away day, and we can’t even do that.

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Yet we can’t gloss over the importance of this competition. Securing the FA Cup last season wasn’t just another moment to savour, it had a great bearing on the club’s bank balance and hopes of returning to the Champions League as soon as possible.

Whether it’s via a top four spot in the Premier League or by winning the Europa League outright, the Gunners now have more chance of returning to the promised land. In order to keep their hopes alive, they’ll need to navigate their way past Group B, which contains Rapid Vienna, Molde and Dundalk.

Some of the names may be familiar, while other less so, thus we’ve provided a few fact files on the three sides Arsenal will be facing in this year’s competition.

Rapid Vienna

Country: Austria
League: Austrian Bundesliga
2019/20 Finish: 2nd

How Did They Get Here?

Rapid Vienna were originally in the Champions League qualifying rounds, but were knocked out at the third qualifying stage to Belgian outfit Gent. A 2-1 defeat at that stage automatically placed them into the group stages of the Europa League.

Who Are Their Key Men?

Taxiarchis Fountas finished as the third top scorer in the most recent season, with the Greek striker have only just joined from German side St. Pölten ahead of the campaign. He ended up with 20 goals in just 29 outings in all competitions, a tally he’s followed up with strongly in the latest campaign.

Already the 25-year-old has bagged six goals in as many outings, including three in three league matches.

Kelvin Arase is another player Arsenal should be wary of. The pacy winger chipped in with six goals last term, but his frightening pace is more of a worry. Really, he’s quick.

Where Do They Play?

Rapid play at the Allianz Stadion in Austria’s capital city, a new ground built as recently as 2016. It has a maximum capacity of 28,345, the biggest of all Arsenal’s group stage opponents.

What is Their European History?

They may be 32-time winners of their domestic league, with another 17 domestic cup titles, but their history in Europe isn’t quite as glittering.

Still, they do have European silverware to brag about, having win the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup on two occasions, in 1985 and 1996. The Mitropa Cup – one of the first major international competitions for club sides – has also been secured twice in 1930 and 1951.

Molde FK

Country: Norway
League: Eliteserien
2019/20 Finish: 1st

How Did They Get Here?

Similarly to Rapid Vienna, Molde were originally in the running to obtain a Champions League place having earned the right to fight for the elite competition off the back of their Eliteserien title last season.

However, they went closer to reaching the promised land than the Austrian side, making it into the play-offs following a penalty shootout victory over Qarabag FK in the third qualifying stage.

Their journey was ended, cruelly, on away goals. A 3-3 first leg draw away at Ferencvaros was followed up by a 0-0 draw in the return leg, leaving the Turkish side to reach the Champions League group stages. Nevertheless, their defeat still left them with a place in the Europa League.

Who Are Their Danger Men?

There are a few players in Molde’s ranks that Arsenal should be wary of, but none more so than Nigerian forward Leke James. The 27-year-old netted 24 goals in all competitions for the Norwegian side last campaign.

Molde share goals throughout their team, but Ohi Omoijuanfo also hit well into double figures with 17 goals of his own. A name that might be more familiar to followers of English football is Magnus Wolff Eikrem, a midfielder who ‘enjoyed’ a pretty torrid spell with Cardiff City during their forgettable dabble in the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

There is also an American in MFK’s ranks, 24-year-old midfielder Henry Wingo, who joined from Seattle Sounders in 2019.

Where Do They Play?

Molde’s home is the beautifully located Aker Stadion which, given Norway’s weather climate, is understandably an artificial pitch (yay!).

Holding 11,249 spectators, it sits on the waterfront at Reknes. Check it out, it’s a lovely spot.

What is Their European History?

Arsenal’s opponents are no strangers to European football. Molde have featured in four Champions League seasons, reaching the group stage once, while they’ve also dabbled with 14 terms in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, reaching the group stages on two occasions.

Their best finish in any competition on the continent came four years ago, when they made it to the round of 32 in the 2015/16 Europa League. They finished top of their group that season, beating the likes of Fenerbahçe and Celtic, but crashed out to Sevilla in the next round.


Country: Ireland
League: League of Ireland Premier Division
2019/20 Finish: 1st

How Did They Get Here?

The final name drawn out of the pots to face Arsenal are Irish side Dundalk, who too were previously involved in this season’s Champions League qualifying stages (everyone but Arsenal, eh?).

It wasn’t long before their quest for elite European football came to an end though, as Celje ran out 3-0 winners in the first qualifying round. Defeat at that stage placed them into the second round of Europa League qualifying, one they navigated their way through 1-0 against Inter d’Escaldes, despite being reduced to ten men. Victory there pitted them against the brilliantly named Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol, who they beat on penalties after 1-1 draw.

Their passage into the group stages of this year’s competition was wrapped up with 3-1 home victory over Faroese outfit Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag. Another cracking name.

Who Are Their Danger Men?

Runaway winners of their domestic league by nine points, their surge to Irish superiority was aided by a combined 25 goals scored from forward duo Patrick Hoban and Michael Duffy.

Aside from their forwards, Dundalk boast an impressive defensive setup. In their 36 league games last term, they conceded a measly 18 goals. Sean Gannon and Sean Hoare were pivotal figures in their dominance of the division.

Where Do They Play? 

Dundalk play their home fixtures at Oriel Park, one of the smallest stadiums Arsenal will have visited in their recent European history. Seating 4,500 for domestic games, but only 3,100 for European matches, there are just two covered stands either side of the pitch.

What is Their European History?

Having their first dabble in European competition back in 1963, Dundalk wrote their name into Irish football history when they became the first club from their nation to win an away tie on the continent. It came in the form of 2-1 win at FC Zurich.

Since then, they’ve fluttered around in the early stages of the European Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup, facing the likes of Sp*rs and Liverpool in various rounds.

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Their greatest success in this competition came as recently as the 2016/17 season, where they reached the Europa League group stages. Once again they broke records, becoming the first Irish team to win a match, and any points at all, in a group stage. This is just their second venture into this stage of the competition.