Saka and Pepe combined for a fine goal
Arsenal might have finished this match with three goals, but their own creative game was sorely lacking in long spells, with an uninspiring tempo and predictable movements in the final third hindering their progress.
The home side had managed just one shot on target by half-time, and only three by the 75th-minute – with just one of those being a goal, of course, with Molde’s defence contributing the other two strikes.
Willian offered very little and his been largely subdued since signing. Pepe scored, but only after running countless blind alleys and underhitting crosses.
Too few seem to be giving Mikel Arteta a real headache on a week-to-week basis to break into the team and the level of opposition they are facing realistically demands a masterclass to press a claim.
Willock pushes his case
While it might not have been a masterclass, the best performer on the pitch for the Gunners was Joe Willock.
It wasn’t just his technical ability which impressed, but his work rate, intent, movement into the final third and all-round positive approach – this was a player trying to show he should be involved more.
His domestic involvement has been minimal and Arsenal have been linked with Houssem Aouar, which would further limit his prospects of being a regular.
Here, then, he gave everything to show he can offer the manager an alternative: his constant driving runs into the box saw him involved in the strike called offside in the first half, before bursting into the area and sliding in for the eventual equaliser.
A couple of late chances went begging, but he kept pushing on and buried a late fourth for the Gunners, a deserved strike for the young midfielder.
Mathis Bolly of Molde controls the ball under pressure from Ainsley Maitland-Niles
They might have been expected to be defensive-minded, back the lack line and look to frustrate a bigger side, but Molde were more progressive.
Indeed it could probably be argued that they executed more of a game plan on the night than Arsenal did, albeit obviously lacking the same level of individual quality.
They passed out from deep, countered in numbers and pressed high at the start of each half, as well as being prepared to go direct quickly into the left channel when the opportunity arose.
Molde are still well-placed to progress to the knock-outs at the halfway stage.
Arsenal have gone from a back three to a 4-3-3 in the past couple of Europa League games, perhaps on account of their perceived dominance or maybe just to fit in extra players who need game time.
Arteta started with a back four for this game, but ended with a three – only late in the game did they really exert dominance and exude authority, despite their volume of possession.
The latter system also enabled them to press rather higher and in better areas – it still definitely looks like the best set-up for the Gunners at this stage.
Three games into the Europa League group stage, Arsenal know they are already all but into the knock-outs.
Nine points leaves them three clear at the top and six clear of second; there’s a chance for further rotation in the games ahead as one more win probably secures top spot.
That will please the boss, as much as keep alive Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League football for next season, which will be difficult to achieve through their league placing this year despite the obvious advances they have made.
This is a long, slow, second-class race to reach the promised land, but all the Gunners can do is take it one step at a time. So far, so fine.
This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League. Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri – Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.
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