If a routine Europa League group stage win is remembered for anything in a few months’ time, Arsenal’s fans might recall the mesmerizing run along the byline by Gabriel Jesus that allowed Fábio Vieira to garnish the scoreline late on. Yet the most telling sequence arguably came shortly after the hour. Bodø/Glimt had improved since the interval and a dangerous raid down Arsenal’s left was their latest attempt, conviction growing each time, to erode a two-goal deficit. Busting everything to stop them was the blistering figure of Jesus, making up 60 yards and finally cutting out the danger inside his own box.
“When he does it, and he’s won everything in the last five years, imagine what the rest have to do,” Mikel Arteta said of a player who has driven performances, belief and standards since his summer arrival. “So follow him, because he’s always in the right spot.”
Jesus’s relentlessness appears to be rubbing off. Arsenal won this game so easily because they treated Bodø/Glimt like any other opponents, destroying the Norwegian champions in a ferocious first half and making sure the game was in effect won before legs tired and minds wandered. Only Gabriel Magalhães, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli were retained from the starting XI that overwhelmed Spurs but the supporting cast turned in a display of largely similar concentration: they previously lacked such consistency of performance and, even if the occasion was humdrum, it bodes well .
The atmosphere was several notches above low-key thanks to a healthy home support, perhaps buoyed more by the excitement that surrounds their team than by the overdue return of continental football here, and a vibrant Bodø/Glimt following clad en masse in custard yellow. The team from inside the Arctic Circle, domestic champions and spectacular vanquishers of Roma in last season’s Conference League, are a genuine fairytale story and added to the fun even if there was little prospect of a new chapter here.
Vieira had already come close twice, his second effort flicking the bar, when Eddie Nketiah scored an opener that had been inevitable since the start. Bodø/Glimt were willing to commit players forward in the style that has carried them this far but a fast break from Martinelli, followed by a sharp pass left to Kieran Tierney, exposed them. Tierney’s thundering drive against the far post deserved a goal; in fairness Nketiah’s reaction, controlling his finish despite the speed of the rebound, did too and any home doubts were assured.
Four minutes later the outcome was settled when Vieira, who had just forced Nikita Haikin to save well, crossed deliciously for a chance the rising Rob Holding could not turn down.
Vieira was inches away again shortly afterwards; he is a delightful, gliding mover who has fitted immediately into Arsenal’s attacking schema. “You saw the quality every time he’s around the box,” Arteta said. “He’s a real threat, real intelligent player, really brave.”
Vieira certainly deserved his goal and Arsenal could have had others in the second half through Xhaka and Nketiah, the latter ballooning the ball over when through. But Bodø/Glimt made a contest of things, Matt Turner saving superbly from Amahl Pellegrino, and showed enough to suggest Arsenal will not have an easy ride on their artificial surface next week.
Arteta was not happy with the spell, either side of the hour, when the away side threatened, although the arrivals of Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard and Jesus ultimately brought a return to their old tempo. “When you have the result in your hands you have to manage the game much better,” Arteta said. Thank goodness he has found a talisman to set the tone.