At first glance, Mikel Arteta will be pretty happy with the Europa League draw.
The Gunners got their campaign underway against Rapid View, and few fans will be surprised if Arteta uses the Group Stage as a means to give senior players a rest and youngsters a chance.
Tiredness has been a big issue for clubs this season so far given the disrupted preseason preparations, and Arsenal
certainly won’t be immune to that.
Indeed, whatever your views on Arsenal this season, most fans – and pundits – are in accordance that the Gunners are better equipped to mount a Top Four challenge in the Premier League.
However, fatigue is going to play a role, and resting key players as much as possible in the Europa League
campaign could help Mikel Arteta achieve those ambitions.
The draw gives him the opportunity to do exactly that.
But while Group B might not look terribly exciting for Arsenal fans who may have wanted to see an AC Milan or Napoli thrown in to spice things up, the Gunners’ opponents represent an interesting trio.
Below we have a brief overview of their European pedigree, dangerous players and other things
High kings of Irish football for several years, Dundalk went off the boil last season and could only scrape third place in the League of Ireland Premier Division. Qualifying for the Europa League is a big deal, however, and it should help the club with some much-needed revenue going forward. Dundalk did well when last reaching the Group Stage in 2016, managing to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv and securing a point against AZ Alkmaar. To be frank, they pose little threat to Arsenal, but they have enough nous and experience to put up a fight against Rapid Wien and Molde.
Danger man: Patrick Hoban. An experienced striker who is in his second spell at Dundalk. He bounced around the lower leagues of English football for a while, but Dundalk is where he has enjoyed consistent success.
Twenty years ago Molde became only the second Norwegian club to play in the Champions League proper (the other was Rosenberg, if you were wondering). But their greatest achievement by far was topping their Europa League Group A back in the 2015/16 season. Not too shabby when you consider the group contained Ajax, Celtic and Fenerbahce. They were eventually knocked out by perennial winners of the competition, Sevilla.
Their manager during that glorious run? None other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His then assistant, Erling Moe, is now Molde boss.
Danger man: Leke James.
Molde seems to be a good home for Nigerian striker Leke James, although a move to a stronger league might help his vocal ambition to get a national team call-up. He has pace and a ferocious shot, but he’s also one of those strikers who pops up in the right place at the right time for tap-ins.
Rapid Wien have won the Austrian title no less than 32 times, but you have to go all the way back to 2012 for their last triumph. As you might have guessed, one of the reasons behind that is the emergence of RB Salzburg as the dominant force in Austrian football. Rapid aren’t that far away from the champion’s standard, however, finishing second behind Salzburg in Austria’s complicated league championship system. As for European pedigree, Rapid reached two European Cup Winners’ Cup Finals and qualified for the Champions League Group Stage a couple of times.
Danger man: Yusuf Demir.
You might not get to see him in action too much, given his age, but 17-year-old Demir looks like a star of the future. He’s an attacking midfielder with a good eye for goal,
and his talents have not gone unnoticed by Europe’s bigger fish.