Arsenal have control of Group A after two games and got through the hard work quickly with the intensity Mikel Arteta had demanded. They treated Bodø/Glimt like any other opponent during a ferocious first half, scoring through Eddie Nketiah and Rob Holding inside half an hour, before allowing the away side to show why they have risen towards Europe’s summit for spells of the second. Fábio Vieira, particularly impressive in that opening spell, provided a deserved late gloss.
From the start there was, by the standards of a Europa League meeting, a palpable electricity around the Emirates. Arsenal are a hot ticket again and the crowd could welcome a side that retained Gabriel Magalhães, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli from the starting XI that outclassed Spurs.
The atmosphere also owed plenty to a vibrant tranche of Bodø/Glimt supporters, clad in custard yellow and in full voice an hour before kick-off. Their club, based inside the Arctic Circle, are the Norwegian champions and missed out on the Champions League group stage by a whisker; the “kamikaze football” overseen by Kjetil Knutsen famously yielded a 6-1 win over Roma in last season’s Conference League.
It is a genuine football fairytale, even if any visions of a win here constituted a chapter too far. Arteta’s players made their usual rapid start, Vieira seeing a shot blocked before sending a rasping drive off the bar and behind. In between those two chances, Nketiah glided infield before floating a delicate effort past Nikita Haikin, the visitors’ Russian goalkeeper, and inches wide.
Bodø/Glimt had been required to complete their journey to the Emirates on foot after their bus struggled to pick its way through north London’s back streets. They looked willing to commit players forward but, having appeared to be settling, were caught after one such foray. Martinelli carried the ball forward rapidly and found Kieran Tierney to his left. Tierney’s vicious strike rattled the far post and rebounded perfectly for Nketiah, reacting admirably nonetheless, to apply the kind of finish that is his stock in trade.
Haikin immediately stopped Vieira making it two but the respite lasted seconds. Vieira’s corner was cleared back towards him and he swung in a cross that begged for a decisive touch. Holding provided it with a precise downwards header and it was already a question of how firmly Arsenal wished to keep their foot on the throttle.
Xhaka offered an answer with a 35th-minute free-kick that Haikin did well to tip over. But Bodø/Glimt survived further damage before half-time, Vieira shooting wide, and given Arsenal’s sheer relentlessness it counted as an achievement.
Within 25 seconds of the restart Xhaka reprised the combination with Martinelli that brought such joy in the derby before seeing Haikin beat his effort away. But Bodø/Glimt had emerged aggressively enough to cause problems of their own, Hugo Vetlesen failing to unduly exert Matt Turner from a good position and Ulrik Saltnes firing over. Then Amahl Pellegrino forced a more difficult stop and, belatedly, the underdogs were showing the verve that has brought them this far.
Whether through respect or the management of his players’ minutesArteta deployed Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Ødegaard before the hour. Jesus tracked back into his own box to stop a dangerous break as the visitors continued to probe; he had not come on for a cruise and such diligence must have delighted his manager.
Arsenal’s tempo duly returned. Nketiah ballooned over when through but it was Vieira, profiting from a mesmerising Jesus run along the byline and applying a simple finish, who finally got his goal near the end. Late heroics from Turner preserved a clean sheet.