While Arsenal had started the season relatively well, winning their opening three fixtures in the Premier League, it’s fair to say it’s been tough going following the international break for the London based side.
A 1-0 loss to Manchester City, in which they failed to put their opposition under sustained pressure and failed to create many quality changes marked the first of a trend of sluggish performances. A scrappy 2-1 win against Rapid Wien, which they were losing prior to the introduction of first-team regulars Héctor Bellerín and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in their opening Europa League fixtures slowed their decline somewhat but a disallowed goal and a gapping miss from striker Alexandre Lacazette were their best chances this past weekend, as they slipped once more to defeat, falling 1-0 to a Jamie Vardy inspired Leicester City.
Manager Mikel Arteta has been lauded for his defensive set-up ever since he took over the role in December. While they had no issues scoring last season, an attempt at a more regimented attacking system has taken some of the spark away from a star-studded front line.
Their main signing of the summer, midfielder Thomas Partey, has only two starts to his name, yet he has already impressed with his debut against Rapid Wien where he controlled the game throughout. The game against Leicester, however, saw him being somewhat bypassed, with the majority of balls in midfield going to teammate Granit Xhaka, who’s willingness and ability to take the ball forward has come under fire.
With a trip away to Manchester United on Sunday, the big guns are unlikely to make an appearance, but similar to the game against Rapid Wien, they’ll be on the bench to call upon if things get ugly.
Similar to Arsenal, Dundalk head into tomorrow’s game off the back of a 1-0 defeat, with Waterford’s John Martin scoring the only goal in Saturday’s game.
It’s been a difficult season for Dundalk. Coming off the League and League Cup double last season, expectations would have been high for the 2020 season.
While their league campaign may not have gone exactly to plan, their European adventure over the past few weeks has been captivating. Following the sacking of Vinny Perth in August, all eyes were on Europe, as Perth’s successor Filippo Giovagnoli guided the Lilywhites through three qualifying rounds to make the group stages.
Their opening game of the group against Molde could not have started better for Dundalk with Sean Murray opening the scoring with a beautifully struck header across the keeper and into the far corner. Dundalk were unlucky not to score another, but their second half performance failed to reach the heights of the first, and they fell to a 2-1 loss.
Dundalk are likely to pitch a relatively unchanged squad from the side that faced Molde, with goalkeeper Gary Roger’s expected to come back into the side between having sat out the League defeat to Waterford on Sunday.
This is a chance for a season full of false starts and missed chances to be completely forgotten, and for Dundalk to write another chapter into their recent impressive history. It’s just unfortunate their fans cannot be there with them to savour the experience.
Arsenal have been struggling in front of goal recently, with only four goals in their last five games, two of which were scored by winger Nicolas Pépé against Sheffield United.
This is the first time Arsenal have ever played an Irish club team.
Dundalk haven’t played an English team since 1982, when they faced Liverpool in Round One of the European Cup.
Dundalk have faced English opposition three times in competitive competition, the first of which was Liverpool in the 1979 Inter-Cities Fair Cup.
All three fixtures had both home and away legs, and the aggregate score across these six fixtures, Dundalk are beaten 21-2.
Arsenal 3 - 1 Dundalk
Injured: Callum Chambers, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli, Rob Holding, David Luiz.
Injured: Dane Massey.
Doubtful: Nathan Oduwa.