After a positive, yet fruitless start versus Molde FK, the youth of Arsenal became too overwhelming.
This can be seen as a product of both an inferior opponent, albeit a wonderfully coached and trained Norwegian side, as well as the time that Mikel Arteta focuses on his players in training. His youth movement in particular, a continuation and accentuation of the Wenger/Emery years, is demonstrating itself as a force for the future as well as the present at times; the Europa League performance was an absolutely brilliant example of Arsenal’s possibilities moving ahead.
With the youth movements potential expanding at the very same rate at which it’s constituent players grow and evolve, the possibilities and combinations regarding the future of the squad is certainly intriguing, as well as crucial for the ambitions in Europe and England across four separate competitions.
Molde Mettle No Match for Galvanized Gunners
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While the opening goal conceded by Bernd Leno certainly was a weak moment for him, the team regrouped and kept strong pressure, leading up to the first own goal of which otherwise would’ve been Joe Willock’s first of the match. As that was right before half-time, it was crucial to say the least. Arsenal came out after the break with more aggression, as is usual after Arteta gives them a talking to, and promptly pressured the Norwegian side into a second own goal 17 minutes into the second half.
Again, Willock had his ambitions for a goal deferred by a second ruled own goal of the game. At this point in the match, the wheels really began to fall off for Molde and Arsenal took control with even greater ambition and volition. When Nicolas Pépé scored just minutes later with a wonderful strike from just outside the box, the match seemed in little doubt.
But Willock had still yet to score, and one could see the frustration on his face, despite the team success. This is not an negative observation, as I’m sure he was quite thrilled that the team was up, simply that he wanted that goal that had been stolen from him statistically by his opposition. And he would, eventually, get it, with a beautiful strike mere minutes before stoppage time. And while Willock claimed the story line by his brilliant play yesterday, he was not alone.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was once reported to be on the way out – an obviously dreadful choice – looked a star as usual and played with brilliance. Both Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos found success protecting the backline and moving the ball up the field positively, while the three behind Eddie Nketiah in the boss’s chosen 4-2-3-1 were also quite bright and exuberant.
Sandwiching the No. 10, Willian and Pépé showed dynamic talent and creativity. Pépé in particular has been coming on slowly as Arteta continues to coach him up and bring him out of his proverbial shell even further. While he usually sees time switching with Willian across from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, I think it is quite healthy and positive to have them together in matches like this.
While Willian is a great player and positive on the training ground, playing with him in a professional game is a different matter, and one worth utilizing if you’re Arteta. I suspect that when Gabriel Martinelli comes back from injury that he too will see time across from Willian, which will obviously be to his benefit.
For Arsenal, the shining youth movement looks to be creating a positive circumstance for the future, with help from older veterans and an innovative boss, but the secret to success of the Klopp’s and Guardiola’s is consistency, and consistency throughout one’s depth; this, as with all teams, is an eternal work in progress, no matter how good you get.
Arsenal: An Eternal Work in Progress
This is not a slander, but a positive ambition that we should have for ourselves as well as our football club. Thankfully, Arteta believes in this as well, and that eternal drive to become better and intellectually connected to the game and its nuances is beautiful and powerful. It will help us find motivation during the unbelievable stretches of matches upon matches upon matches.
With the second international break just around the bend, it is worth considering how Arsenal might continue to improve as the season continues. Personally, I believe that utilizing this great youth is going to be key to all of our ambitions both this year, as well as in the years and campaigns to come. We have great players, Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, now Thomas Partey, as well as other very good players like Hector Bellerin, Pépé, Willian and others, but i’ts the pieces surrounding them that will ultimately influence the opportunities and form of the best players; no player, no matter how great, can play the game by himself.
And so whether it’s Aston Villa, Leeds United, Molde again or any of the teams afterwards, it will matter little; as long as Arsenal are playing their game and developing at their rate, the club is on the right track. This will of course, entail some hardships and struggles, but such is life, and with it, the opportunity to grow. For Arsenal, the growth, much like trees across our planet, will bear the eventual fruit we so desperately desire and crave.