An insipid encounter in the Europa League saw Arsenal take care of Bodo/Glimt in Norway. Bukayo Saka’s 24th minute finish, albeit a lucky one was enough for the gunners to take all three points and move to the top of Group A.
This was one of those games where clear cut chances were few and far in between. Both teams did not look like they had extra gears. Arsenal sat back for most of the game. They never really got the killer second goal. Hence Bodo were always in the game. Their top scorer Amahl Pellegrino wasted a glorious opportunity to equalize in the first half. They had half chances in the second but they never really got the momentum going late in the game, allowing Arteta’s men to see out the game.
Here are the 5 takeaways from the game.
1. Fairly Strong XI
This game comes after a hard fought win over Liverpool and before a tricky trip to Leeds on Sunday. With focus on a title challenge after a great start, Europa League was always going to play second fiddle.
However, Arteta wants to wrap the top spot and avoid playing two extra games in the playoff(since last year, if you finish second in the group you have to play a 2 legged playoff with Champions League 3rd place teams. Europa League group winners make it to the Round of 16 automatically).
Arteta started the likes of Odegaard, Saliba, White, Saka and Tierney all of whom are integral part of the first team. It might be a token of respect for how Bodo played in the reverse fixture.
Bodo came into the game with a 14 game home undefeated streak in Europe. They defeated UEFA Conference League champions AS Roma twice last year. With all that in mind, the Gunners made broke the streak and made it 11 wins out of 12 in all competitions.
2. Squad Rotation
Playing on Thursday’s is a tricky proposition. Key to a successful side is a deep squad capable of performing at a high level irrespective of the personnel changes and regardless of the competition. Although Arteta has not had major setbacks to his best XI, there is always a risk.
He has not been afraid to play some of his big guns in the Europa League. He’s done so in a controlled manner where his starts don’t tire out. None of the above mentioned starters started against Bodo in the reverse fixture last week except for Tierney. Gabriel, Tomiyasu, Xhaka, and Martinelli got the start in that game.
Fair to say Arteta has managed to reshuffle his deck with desired results.
3. Early Game
Thursday night games are always exhausting. If there ever is a solace, its playing earlier in the day so you get an extra 2 hour to prepare for the upcoming Premier League game. Arsenal were one of the 4 sides that played at 11:45 central.
4. Eye on PSV
There is a full set of Premier League games next midweek. However, Arsenal will play PSV in the Europa League instead because of fixture rescheduling. They are two points ahead of the Dutch side and 5 ahead of Bodo who have played a game more. A win next week against PSV all but secures top spot but the Dutch side are no pushovers as they have already scored 11 goals in the competition in 3 games and are also top scorers in the Eredivise.
They have one of the finest young forwards in European Football in Cody Gakpo, who has had more goal involvements(21) than Erling Haaland at their disposal.
Familiar foe Ruud Van Nistelrooy will lead his PSV side at the Emirates with the former Manchester United forward looking to get one over his former nemesis. Prolific striker who scored 95 goals in the Premier League for Man United in 150 games became PSV’s Head Coach this summer.
5. Bodo Atmosphere
Despite the defeat, Bodo/Glimt fans were full of praise for their team. They kept singing even after the game was over. They showed how passionate these fans are and how much it means for them to play in Europe.
Bonus: Magnificent Matt Turner
The US international kept another clean sheet, his 2nd in 3 games in the Europa League. Although he did not have a whole lot to do, he made sure the gunners got the win. He had: