Arsenal’s fringe players made their mark as the Gunners maintained their 100 per cent Europa League record this season with a 3-0 win at Molde to seal their qualification for the knockout stages.
A much-changed Arsenal were sluggish in the first half, and should have gone behind after just 16 minutes in Norway, Sheriff Sinyan somehow contriving to miss at the far post.
In the second half, however, Arsenal were a different beast altogether, with Nicolas Pepe brilliantly opening the scoring in the 50th minute, before Reiss Nelson’s first ever goal in Europe put the game to bed just five minutes later.
Two youngsters came off the bench to combine for Arsenal’s third, with Folarin Balogun finding the net for the first time for Arsenal seven minutes from time, less than a minute after coming on.
The third goal put the icing on the cake and ensured the Gunners qualified through from Group B with four wins from four, six points clear of Rapid Wien in third with two games to play.
Only three players survived from the weekend draw at Leeds, and one of those, Pepe, took it upon himself to try and make amends for his senseless sending off at Elland Road, but his finishing let him down on several occasions in the first half.
How Sinyan managed to miss on the slide, from not even two yards out, is a mystery, and that proved costly as Arsenal, having seemingly been told some home truths by Mikel Arteta at the interval, shifted up the gears to blow the hosts away.
Moments after a brilliant effort came out off the crossbar, Pepe found the net with another fine finish, before a great cross from Joe Willock was nudged home by Nelson.
With the hosts beaten, Arteta rotated, and the Spaniard will have been delighted for Balogun, 37 seconds after coming off the bench, as he drilled home to guarantee he will not forget this trip to the edge of the Arctic Circle in a hurry.
Eddie Nketiah triesd to make things happen in Molde
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Several stake claim for PL starting spot
Without a goal from open play in nearly eight hours of Premier League football, the Gunners's fringe players have had no such trouble on the continent.
With Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Nicolas Pepe in the side, Arsenal have so much more energy, and when labouring in front of goal at home, that extra impetus can make all the difference.
Pepe has to serve a ban, but others, even Emile Smith Rowe and Folarin Balogun off the bench, showed there are plenty of options for Arteta to turn to revitalise his side in the Premier League.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Nicolas Pepe
Pepe seemed very much on a personal mission to get back in his manager's good books after Sunday's moment of madness in West Yorkshire.
In the first half in Norway, he was almost trying too hard to make things happen, but after the break, the club's record signing made all the difference with that extra quality he can bring. Cutting in on his left foot Pepe is deadly, and perhaps deserved more than his one goal.
Molde: Linde 6, Wingo 6, Gregersen 6, Sinyan 6, Risa 6, Aursnes 6, Ellingsen 6, Hussain 5, Hestad 6, Eikrem 7, James 6… Subs: Omoijuanfo 6, Bolly 6.
Arsenal: Runarsson 6; Cedric 6, David Luiz 6, Mustafi 6, Maitland-Niles 8; Willock 8, Xhaka 6; Nelson 7, Pepe 8, Nketiah 6, Lacazette 6... Subs: Ceballos 6, Holding 6, Tierney 6, Smith Rowe 7, Balogun 7.
16’ - WHAT A MISS! Molde really should be in front. Eikrem half volleys a quite brilliant ball across the face of goal for centre-back Sinyan at the far post, and he's a yard out on the stretch, but he someone guides the ball back across goal and into Arsenal understudy goalkeeper Runarsson's arms!
20’ - WIDE! Pepe does everything right, cuts onto his left foot, but fires just wide.
49’ - CROSSBAR! What a goal that would have been from Pepe! Once again he cuts inside onto his left, arrows a beauty of a strike towards the top corner, it looks to be flying in, but the ball hits the underside of the crossbar and comes out.
50’ - GGGGGOOOOOAALLLLLL!!! Molde 0-1 Arsenal. Pepe goes one better and finds the net to break the deadlock. Willock clips a cross to the back post, Pepe stops the ball dead before curling a fine finish into the net. It had to be him, given he's been the main threat.
56’ - GGGGOOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!! Molde 0-2 Arsenal. Nelson surely puts this game to bed. All about the inch-perfect low cross from Willock, into the path of Nelson, who had the simple task of tapping home.
71’ - WHAT A SAVE! Lacazette needed that to go in for his confidence. He stuck the ball well for the edge of the box, but Linde gets across brilliantly to tip wide.
83’ - GGGGOOOOOOOAAALLLLLLL!!!!! Molde 0-3 Arsenal. What a moment for the young man Balogan! His first Arsenal goal, with his first touch since coming on puts the icing on the cake. What an introduction that is! Fresh off the bench, on his second game, Balogun takes a fine touch and finds the net.
Arsenal have won their opening four group stage matches in a European campaign for the first time since the 2005-06 season, in the UEFA Champions League, going on to reach the final of the competition that campaign.
Norwegian sides have lost their last five home meetings with English sides in all European competition by an aggregate score of 0-14.
Nicolas Pépé has been directly involved in nine goals in his 10 UEFA Europa League games for Arsenal (5 goals & 4 assists), netting in each of his last three appearances in the competition.
All four of Reiss Nelson’s goals for Arsenal have come in different competitions (UEFA Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup & League Cup).
Folarin Balogun scored with his first ever attempt for Arsenal’s senior team.
Since the start of last season, only Nicolas Pépé (9) and Bukayo Saka (8) have been involved in more UEFA Europa League goals for Arsenal than Joe Willock (7 – 4 goals & 3 assists).