The Europa League group stages are strange to me, even after four years in this competition. Last night, with the Emirates empty – starkly so – the absence of fans contributed significantly to a sense of oddness before the game.
What we got was fairly typical group stage fare. An early goal for the visitors; lots of Arsenal possession; a couple of goals ruled out for offside when VAR might have made a difference; an impressive showing from a young midfielder; Granit Xhaka leading a counter-attack; Nicolas Pepe
swinging between both poor and good, like Schrodinger’s Pepe; and in the end a comfortable win.
Molde’s goal is not one Bernd Leno will look back on with any great affection. He kicked long, we were all over the place when the ball came back to their man, and the German was – to my mind, at least – beaten too easily by an admittedly well-placed shot from distance. It was no howitzer though, and the Arsenal keeper looked pretty pissed off that he’d let it in. Good, he should be as he quietens the annoying little voice in the back of his head taunting him … ‘Emi Martinez would have …’ … you know the rest.