Molde vs Arsenal | Thursday 26th November 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Arsenal head to Norway to take on Molde in search of their fourth win in as many games in their Europa League group. Qualification for the knockout phases looks all but secure already for The Gunners but they need to put in a performance for their fans after a pretty dire display at Leeds last weekend.
Nicolas Pepe has so often shone in the Europa League for Arsenal and has been given his backing by his manager Mikel Arteta after his red card at Elland road on Sunday. His moment of stupidity left Arteta furious, but he has been given a chance to redeem himself as he has travelled.
Pepe apologised publicly and reportedly to his team-mates, and Arteta has rubbished claims it is the start of the end of the Ivorian’s Arsenal career. Joining Pepe on the flight to Norway are a few of the academy’s youth prospects.
Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azeez, two of the Under-23s star central midfielders, have both travelled for The Gunners, along with highly regarded striker Folarin Balogun. Arteta has the option of five substitutions in the Europa League, and a 23-man squad. Whether this trio will play any part is to be seen but it will be a great experience for them.
Arsenal have had to travel on Tuesday evening though, due to Norwegian government guidelines on Covid, so will be well rested and energised for this game.
The Gunners dispatched Molde 4-1 at The Emirates just three weeks ago, despite going a goal behind early on. They out-shot the visitors 17-6 and dominated the ball with 59%. Arsenal have the third highest possession stats in this season’s Europa League, along with the third highest shots-per-game. They have a weak group, though, and should be dominating these games.
Molde have a relatively settled XI in the Europa League with Ohi Omoijuanfo leading the line. The Nigerian-Norwegian striker has 61 goals in just 48 games for his club.
Goals is the trend in general for Molde, who have seen over 2.5 goals cop in 44 of their last 55 games in all competitions, dating back to the start of the 2019/20 Eliteserien campaign. Goals are a formality in that division and whilst Arsenal tend to see low scoring games in the Premier League, with a transition and change of philosophy taking place, the openness of this game may play into Arsenal’s hands.
Molde have scored in seven of their last eight Europa League games and haven’t lost at home in this competition since 2015 – a run of 10 games across the five years.
Arsenal also compliment a goal heavy approach here given they have scored nine goals in this group already, and their Europa League games tend to see more goals in general. Both teams to score and over 2.5 goals at 10/11 takes appeal given the attacking nature of Molde and also how prolific Arsenal have been in this competition over the last few years. They very rarely fail to find the net in the Europa League.
One man who is taking his opportunity when given a chance is Joe Willock. The England youth international has two goals already, scoring against Molde and Dundalk. He is 23/5 (5.6) on Unibet/888 to score at any time, and given it’s 3/1 elsewhere, may be worth a punt.
Cards are the way to go
The referee on Thursday is Bosnian Irfan Peljto, who loves getting out his cards. He has given out 17 yellow cards and 1 red in just three UEFA games this season, with two in the Nations League and one Europa League. That Europa League game saw 8 yellows and the red card.
In his native Bosnia, he referees in the top division and has dished out 3, 8, 3, 2 and 6 yellow cards in the five games he’s covered.
That makes me want to head to the cards market where Bet365 offer 4/5 for over 3.5 cards and given it has landed in all of the referee’s last five games and was just one caution off in the two before that run, it looks generous.
Arsenal’s match against Rapid Vienna saw both teams collect four cards off the referee. Arsenal picked up two cards in the reverse fixture, and Molde will have to cope with the likes of Pepe, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah who are all tricky and lightning quick. They only have four cards in their three games, but I was still surprised at these odds, and the stats do back these angles up.