Arsenal are in control of Group A after two games and got through the tough job quickly with the intensity required by Mikel Arteta. They dealt Bodø/Glimt like any other opponent during a wild first half, scoring through Eddie Nketiah and Rob Holding inside half an hour, before allowing the away side to show why they rose towards the top of Europe 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 outplayed Spurs.
The atmosphere also owed a lot to a lively section of Bodø/Glimt supporters, dressed in cream yellow and in full voice an hour before kick-off. Their club, based inside the Arctic Circle, are the Norwegian champions and missed the group stage of the Champions League by a whisker; the “kamikaze football” run by Kjetil Knutsen famously yielded a 6-1 win over Roma in the Conference League of the last season.
It is a true football fairy tale, even if some visions of victory here constituted a chapter too far. Arteta’s players made their usual quick start, Vieira seeing a shot blocked before sending a rasping drive off the bar and behind. Between those two chances, Nketiah slipped infield before floating a delicate effort past Nikita Haikin, the visitors’ Russian goalkeeper, and inches wide.
Bodø/Glimt were required to complete their journey to the Emirates on foot after their bus struggled through the back streets of north London. They looked ready to commit players up front but, appearing to settle, were caught out after one such outing. Martinelli carried the ball forward quickly and found Kieran Tierney on the left. Tierney’s brutal strike rattled the far post and rebounded perfectly for Nketiah, reacting admirably though, to apply the kind of finish that is his stock in trade.
Haikin immediately stopped Vieira from making it two but the break 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 an accurate downward header and it was already a matter of how tight Arsenal wanted to keep his foot on the accelerator.
Xhaka offered an answer with a 35th-minute free-kick which Haikin did well to tip over. But Bodø/Glimt survived further damage before half-time, Vieira firing wide, and given Arsenal’s sheer worthlessness it counted as an achievement.
Within 25 seconds of the restart Xhaka repeated the combination with Martinelli that brought such joy in the derby before seeing Haikin hit his effort home. But Bodø/Glimt appeared aggressive enough to cause problems of their own, Hugo Vetlesen failing to overexert Matt Turner from a good position and Ulrik Saltnes shooting over. Then Amahl Pellegrino forced a more difficult stop and, late on, the underdogs showed the verve that had taken them so far.
Whether through respect or the management of his players’ minutes, Arteta deployed Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Ødegaard before the hour mark. Jesus tracked back into his own box to end a dangerous break as the visitors continued to probe; he had not come for a cruise and such diligence must have pleased his manager.
Arsenal’s tempo has duly returned. Nketiah ballooned over when through but it was Vieira, benefiting from a mesmerizing Jesus run down the sideline and applying a simple finish that finally found its target near the end. Turner’s late exploits kept a clean sheet.