Mikel Arteta was clearly relieved to avoid the potential banana skin when Arsenal welcomed Dundalk to the Emirates on Thursday evening.
Arsenal claimed a 3-0 victory over the League of Ireland side but despite the one-sided nature of the scoreline, Gunners manager Mikel Arteta praised the work rate of Dundalk.
Arsenal continued their 100 per cent start in Group B of the Europa League and moved top on goal difference with their win over the Lilywhites, while Dundalk have it all to do if they are to progress to the knockout stages as they find themselves bottom of the group.
“I didn’t know how they were going to play,” Arteta said of Dundalk after the game. “They’ve been playing 4-3-3 all season and 4-1-4-1, and I knew they could come back after what we’ve seen in the last few weeks and play with five at the back. We were prepared for that.
“They’re a really committed team, the way they go about every ball, and they try hard. Credit to them for what they’ve done in the last few months but I’m happy to beat them.”
After holding out for the majority of the first half, Dundalk conceded twice in two minutes as Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock made Arteta’s half-time team talk a lot easier.
Nicolas Pepe made sure of the result almost immediately after the break and Dundalk clearly saw the funny side when Arsenal reinforcements came on in the form of Dani Ceballos and Willian.
Arsenal ready to throw a couple of substitutes on for the craic.
Dani Ceballos and Willian.
— DundalkFC (@DundalkFC) October 29, 2020
Arteta admitted he was impressed by the way that Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli remains faithful to his footballing philosophy regardless of the challenge his side is facing.
“I think it’s their style and it’s their philosophy, and it shows the personality that the coaching staff has and how much the players believe in them,” added Arteta.
“I think that’s a really positive thing to show. It doesn’t matter where they play, they can adapt the way they play, but the style of play doesn’t change.”