A much-changed Arsenal side eased past Norwegian minnows Bodo/Glimt, with Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding and Fabio Vieira scoring to put the Gunners top of their Europa League group with a 3-0 win.
With a Super Sunday clash with Liverpool on the horizon this weekend, Arsenal made eight changes from the side that beat Tottenham 2-1 last weekend, but still raced into an easy first-half lead through Nketiah’s and Holding’s poacher-style goals.
Bodo/Glimt were backed by five per cent of their 55,000-strong town at the Emirates Stadium and did improve after the break – but were kept at arm’s length by Arsenal all night.
Gunners substitute Gabriel Jesus was brought off the bench by Mikel Arteta and the Brazilian superbly set up Fabio Vieira, who crashed high into the net on his first home start for the Gunners.
How Arsenal swept past Bodo
Arteta’s Gunners came out of the blocks flying and were inches away from taking the lead inside the first 10 minutes through Vieira.
Nketiah laid the ball off to him in the penalty area, only for the Portuguese midfielder to strike the top of the bar with a rasping drive. But it wasn’t long until the woodwork went in Arsenal’s favour.
Gabriel Martinelli fed Kieran Tierney down the left on the break and when the Scot hit the inside of the post with a powerful effort, Nketiah was on hand to tap home the rebound into an empty net.
Four minutes later, Arsenal had a second. Vieira’s corner was cleared as far as the midfielder, who crossed for Holding at the back post to head home, with no Bodo defender around to mark him.
It could have been more before half-time for Arsenal, who limited Bodo to just one half-chance in the first period. Granit Xhaka tested goalkeeper Nikita Haikin’s gloves with a free-kick right on the edge of the area, while Vieira pulled another chance in the box wide of goal.
Arsenal: Turner (7); Tomiyasu (6), Holding (7), Gabriel (7), Tierney (7); Lokonga (6), Xhaka (6), Vieira (7); Marquinhos (6), Nketiah (8), Martinelli (7)
Subs: Saka (6), Odegaard (7), Jesus (6), White (6), Nelson (n/a)
Man of the match: Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)
The visitors did improve after the interval, with American goalkeeper Matt Turner, making his home debut for Arsenal, pulling off a solid low save to deny Joel Mugisha from inside the box.
Arteta, perhaps unimpressed by his side’s start to the second half, brought on Jesus, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka before the hour mark.
Both Saka and Odegaard combined to give Nketiah a one-on-one chance with just over 10 minutes left, but the Arsenal forward failed to seal the result as he clipped the ball over the Bodo bar.
Instead, Jesus took it upon himself to make the scoreline a realistic reflection of the match, showing excellent footwork to nip down the left and cut back for Vieira, who slammed home.
Arteta: We can do things much better
Despite extending their winning run to four games, keeping a clean sheet and maintaining their 100 per cent record in Europe this season, Arteta believes his side still need to improve in many areas in order to control games.
Arteta claimed the triple introduction of Saka-Odegaard-Jesus at the start of the second half was mainly down to managing the minutes of his players rather than a poor spell, but the Spaniard did identify a lack of composure in his side’s performance.
“There’s still a lot of things we can do collectively better, we need to keep the standards as high as possible and raise the next level,” Arteta said in his post-match press conference.
“We had spells that were too rushed, didn’t win enough duels and didn’t manage the ball and win it back well enough. It became really open with a lot of transitions. When the game is in your hands you have to manage it much better.
“We have to put 10-15 passes together enough times to get more in the final third. We were really effective in the final third, we looked a threat. But in terms of composure, the timing between the units, maybe because they haven’t played enough together, was lacking a little bit. In football, five minutes is everything”
Gunners depth looks better than ever
Analysis by Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz:
October is a gruelling month for Arsenal. Nine matches in 29 days, with four out of the last six being away from home.
But what will delight Mikel Arteta is that eight changes can be made and results and performances don’t waver. Arsenal have barely been required to step out of second gear against Tottenham and Bodo/Glimt, which is the perfect tonic ahead of a major contest against Liverpool this weekend.
Bar Cedric Soares, who is only just back from injury, every single available member of the first-team squad is used – which is testament to the depth Arteta has at his disposal.
Last season, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney were both deemed irreplaceable but are now struggling to show that Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko should be dropped as full-backs, meaning they can be used to keep the Europa League levels high.
With another goal to his name, Fabio Vieira is taking some creative burden from Martin Odegaard, while the calmness of Rob Holding means too much is not asked of William Saliba so early into his Arsenal first-team career.
Injuries will eventually come up on Arsenal, but on Thursday’s showing these second-string players showed they can step up to the mark.
When Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League in May, both Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher said the Thursday-Sunday routine would damage their season. But they’re top of the league and barely breaking sweat in Europe. It’s not been too bad so far.
England squad watch: Will Three Lions lose Nketiah?
Two English goalscorers in the first half for Arsenal, but none of them have even a remote chance to make England’s World Cup squad this winter.
However, conversations will need to take place over Eddie Nketiah’s international future, with the striker revealing on Wednesday that talks have taken place with Ghana over switching allegiances.
Will Nketiah ever be in Gareth Southgate’s thinking? The forward is the England U21s all-time record goalscorer but will need to do more than score in second string Arsenal teams if he is to force his way into the senior stage.
As for those who do have a chance for Qatar, both Bukayo Saka and Ben White both came on as second-half substitutes but didn’t have enough time to make an impact on the game.
White showed some endeavour to get forward from right-back – and his versatility at right-back, centre-back and right centre-back could do his chances the world of good with Kyle Walker undergoing surgery this week and facing a race against time to be fit for Qatar.
Saka showed some flashes of brilliance – but his chances of starting for England will be judged in the bigger games.
Arsenal return to Premier League action on Sunday as they host Liverpool, live on Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League from 4pm, with kick-off at 4.30pm.
The Gunners will then play their return match against Bodo/Glimt in Norway on Thursday, with kick-off at 5.45pm.