Arsenal v Molde: Pepe can light up fun encounter

Arsenal and Molde have won both games in the group stage, and Kevin Hatchard thinks sparks will fly when they clash at the Emirates.

Arsenal v Molde
Thursday 05 November, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Old Trafford win vindicates Arteta's approach

It's not always fun to watch, but when Mikel Arteta's gameplan at Arsenal is carried out effectively, it often gets results in big matches. The Gunners have beaten both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea in 2020, and although many observers have doubts about Arsenal over an entire league campaign, they've proven they can raise their game for one-off events.

That makes Arsenal a dangerous cup team, and they've made a decent start in the Europa League. They came from behind to win 2-1 at Rapid Vienna, and then dismissed Dundalk 3-0 in a patient yet unspectacular performance. Players like Nicolas Pepe and Chris Willock have caught the eye, while Reiss Nelson is trying to show he can be a legitimate first-team player, after his promising yet inconsistent spell in Germany with Hoffenheim.

Arteta is expected to shuffle his pack again here. Pepe and Eddie Nketiah are likely to feature in the attack, while Alex Runarsson could get the nod again in goal.

Molde enjoying European adventure

Molde fans must view the carousel of criticism that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on at Manchester United with bemusement, for the "baby-faced assassin" is still held in the highest regard in that western part of Norway. Solskjaer led the team to Tippeligaen titles in 2011 and 2012, and when he left the club at the end of 2018 to try to lead United forward, they were in good enough shape that they won the title again under his replacement Erling Moe.

Things haven't quite gone Molde's way this season though. They tumbled out of the Champions League qualifiers against Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros, and in the league they have been left in the dust by an extraordinary run of results from runaway leaders Bodo Glimt. However, the Norwegians have hit something of a purple patch - they have won their last five games in all competitions, including their first two matches in the Europa League. A 2-1 success at Dundalk was followed up by a hard-fought 1-0 win over Rapid Vienna. A surprisingly positive result at the Emirates would put them within touching distance of reaching the last 32.

Molde have forwards in form. Nigerian Leke James scored twice in the Champions League qualifiers and has rattled in nine league goals, while Ohi Omoijuanfo has fired in seven league goals and three in Europe.

Gunners to win, but Molde can strike

Molde have a strike-force that is playing well and scoring goals, and while even a weakened Arsenal team should win this, I can see Molde contributing a goal or two to a lively game. You could back Arsenal to win and both teams to score at 7/5, but instead I'll just go for Over 3.5 Goals here at 6/5 on the Sportsbook.

Pepe to shine again?

Nicolas Pepe scored a fine goal against Dundalk, and he can use this competition to show he should be more heavily involved at Premier League level. Keep an eye on the team news, and if he starts, back him to score at an attractive price of 6/4.

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