Arsenal got back to winning ways with a dominant victory over Dundalk in the Europa League.
The Irish outfit proved stubborn for the majority of the first half and left the hosts frustrated but once Arsenal broke through there was only going to be one winner.
Eddie Nketiah broke the deadlock from close range and Joe Willock added a second in quick succession.
Nicolas Pépé made sure of the victory with a great strike at the start of the second half and Arsenal eased to victory in the easiest half of football they have played for some time.
Mikel Arteta made a whooping 10 changes for the visit of Dundalk with goalkeeper Alex Rúnarsson handed his debut. Only Granit Xhaka kept his place from Sunday’s loss to Leicester, although he was thrust into the middle of a back three.
Four Hale End graduates were given starts in Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Willock, Reiss Nelson and Nketiah while fellow youth products Héctor Bellerín, Bukayo Saka, Folarin Balogun and Karl Hein made the bench.
Dundalk’s game plan was simple but effective as they crowded the central areas and asked Arsenal to break them down, which they struggled to do – the Gunners’ attacks were too predictable and easy to defend against.
Pépé headed over and Nelson curled wide as Arsenal peppered the Dundalk goal with shots without testing veteran ‘keeper Gary Rogers.
The hosts eventually made their pressure count when Willock bulldozed his way into the box before picking out Sead Kolašinac, who headed straight at Rogers. A Pépé effort caused a game of pinball in the box and when the ball fell to Nketiah the goal was at his mercy but the youngster prodded wide.
Dundalk were coping well with the Arsenal threat but an error from Rogers let the Gunners in. The goalkeeper misjudged the flight of a corner and his punch away caused another goalmouth scramble and this time Nketiah powered home.
That seemed to open the floodgates as Willock added a second minutes later. Pépé’s shot deflected into his path and the midfielder kept his composure to fire past Rogers.
Arsenal carried their momentum into the second half with Pépé getting his name on the scoresheet within a minute of the restart. The Ivorian collected Willock’s pass and, surrounded by a group of players, shifted his feet and picked out the top corner.
Arteta’s men could, and should, have added to their tally but a lack of decisiveness and cohesion in the final third kept them at bay. Dani Ceballos and Willian were sent on to try and make better use of their dominant possession.
It was all one-way traffic and a superb delivery from Cédric set up Nketiah but the striker couldn’t get the right connection as Dundalk struggled to get out of their defensive third.
Balogun was given his debut for the final 15 minutes in place of Nketiah while Xhaka made way for Kieran Tierney.
Nelson, who could have left the club on loan, was playing like he had a point to prove and was involved in everything good about Arsenal. He will have given Arteta a decision to make about his game time in the coming weeks.