FROM THE ARCHIVES: So who are Arsenal, Dundalk's Europa League opponents?

Originally published in December 2020

Dundalk conclude their Europa League campaign on Thursday with the visit of English Premier League side Arsenal to the Aviva Stadium.

Filippo Giovagnoli's side are without a point in Group B but will be hopeful of picking up something in their final game of the season.

Thursday's opponents are sure to be just as formidable opponent, having won all five of their games so far, including a 3-0 win in London.

With the game taking place behind closed doors, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta will be pleased to avoid the traditional Aviva Stadium welcome for former Rangers stars.

PSV's Peter Madsen found that out the hard way when he was booed on his introduction for Denmark's at Lansdowne Road in 2002.

The Best Fans in the World mistakenly believed he was Rangers' Peter Lovenkrands, as he was erroneously introduced by the stadium announcer.

Normal service was restored shortly afterwards as the real Lovenkrands was also booed for the sin of playing for a football team.

More recently, England's Raheem Sterling was booed after he turned down a contract offer from Liverpool.

I don't know either. 

Still - STILL - many Dundalk fans, and League of Ireland fans in general, may be unfamiliar with the proud North London club, Arsenal (but why?).

Never fear, has you covered. We ask…

Who are Arsenal?

Arsenal are one of England’s most successful football clubs with their record of 13 league titles and a record 14 FA Cup titles bettered only by Liverpool and Manchester United.

The club was founded in 1886 as Dial Square, reportedly in tribute to the team’s preference for crossing from wide positions and precise lobbed passes.

As munitions factory workers from the Woolwich Arsenal, the players soon took on the name of their employer, reflecting the industrial background of many of England’s working-class clubs.

Arsenal are also known as ‘the Gunners,’ making them one of the few clubs whose nickname doubles as a Simple English Wikipedia entry.

These industrial roots are reflected across England: Stoke City became ‘the Potters’ to reflect Staffordshire’s primary export at the time, crockery, while the Gunners reflected London’s main export: colonialism.

In 1893, Arsenal became the first club from the south of England to be admitted to the Football League, which had previously been made up exclusively of northern clubs, such as Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers and Scotland.

Arsenal made the controversial move across the Thames to Highbury in North London in 1913, setting up one of English football’s fiercest and most famous rivalries with Chelsea.

The club’s much-talked-about move from south to north will resonate in Dundalk, a town that is no stranger to contentious border crossings.

Arsenal famously innovated the installation of floodlights at Highbury in the 1930s, while Dundalk famously innovated the installation of toilets for away fans at Oriel Park in 2019.

The 1990s brought great success and a long-running feud between Patrick Vieira, Arsenal’s French midfielder, and Roy Keane, captain of Manchester United and Ireland.

And just like Vieira, in the late 2010s, Dundalk likewise managed to manufacture a mostly one-sided feud with the entire population of Cork.

European pedigree

The Mikel Arteta-managed side have reached the Europa League knockout stages in the past four years, having never reached the group stages before before 2017/18, so they’re clearly on an upward curve.

Arsenal went all the way to the final in 2018/19, having reached the semis the year before, but a defeat to London rivals Chelsea denied them what would surely have been their greatest triumph.

With a hard-fought 2-1 away win to Rapid Wien in the first round of games, Arsenal’s confidence will be sky-high as they welcome Filippo Giovagnoli’s Lilywhites to North London.

Who will League of Ireland fans recognise?

There won’t be many players in the Arsenal side that Irish football fans will recognise as the majority have spent most of their careers in England and other continental leagues.

Some faces may ring a bell with fans of certain clubs, however, as they played in exhibition matches against League of Ireland sides over the years.

Defender Shkodran Mustafi will be familiar to Bohemians fans after he played the second 45 minutes as Everton held the hosts to a creditable 1-1 draw at Dalymount Park in 2011.

Kieran Tierney made not one, but two, appearances for Glasgow club The Celtic in 2017 and 2018 in invitational matches against Shamrock Rovers under-15s. He was 21.

And Shelbourne fans may recognise Ainsley Maitland-Niles from their annual mid-2010s friendly games with Ipswich Town, where the wideman was on loan in 2015.

Other members of the Arsenal squad have played internationally for their country, such as Germany's Mesut Ozil, but he has unfortunately been left out of the squad due to his unpopularity on social media.

Do you feel like you have a better idea of who Dundalk’s Europa League opponents, Arsenal of London, are now? If so, please consider becoming a patron of for just €4 a month to help us cover running costs.