A lot of the fringe players got opportunities and did well for Arsenal against Dundalk on Thursday night, with a few catching Mikel Arteta’s eye.
Mikel Arteta rotated heavily for Arsenal’s match against Dundalk on Thursday, bringing in almost a full team of new players compared to Leicester City lineup. Only Granit Xhaka kept his place in the side, with even goalkeeper Bernd Leno dropping out.
For a couple of the younger players, this was a rare chance to impress. Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were making their first starts of the season outside of the League Cup. Arteta liked what he saw from both of them.
“[Joe and Reiss] looked good tonight and always looked like threats,” Arteta said. “They looked like they could do something different in the game to change it.
“They were good around the box, they were creative, they had courage to make the right decision in the right areas. I’m pleased with both of them.”
Nicolas Pepe hasn’t been quite so much on the fringes, starting three of the last four games. But this was still a chance for him to make his case ahead of the weekend’s game against Manchester United. He did so with a nice goal on his right foot.
Again, Arteta had praise for another one of Thursday’s starters, as well as some constructive criticism.
“I think he’s so willing to do well and show everybody – first of all, his team-mates and myself – and also the fans that he is a player that can make the difference every week,” Arteta said of Pepe.
“It’s about finding the consistency. Not through the games, but during the games as well to be most instinctive and to be able to do the right things in many, many occasions where he has to make the right decisions on the pitch.
“[The goal is] nothing to do with me, that! That was his action and he scored a magnificent goal.”
As for whether the performances will put any of Thursday’s group in contention to play against United, Arteta suggested he makes the decisions on a case-by-case basis, not using team results.
“It’s not because we lose or win, it’s what they bring to the team, how they play, and what they have shown.
“The results at the end are the consequences of many things but individually how they do things is what determines whether they have the opportunity to play or not.”