Dundalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli eager to pit wits against Arsenal in Europa League

'Arteta is an unbelievable coach, I really like him. He is young and he has tried to apply his football principles the best he can'
Dundalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli eager to pit wits against Arsenal in Europa League

Dundalk interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli celebrates late in the UEFA Europa League Play-off match win over Ki Klaksvik at the Aviva Stadium last night. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Filippo Giovagnoli had set his heart on being drawn alongside Tottenham Hotspur in today's Europa League group stage draw.

Dundalk's Italian gaffer was intrigued by the thoughts of pitting himself against Jose Mourinho in two of their six games to come but now finds himself faced with the prospect of Mikel Arteta's Arsenal instead. He's more than happy with that.

“Arteta is an unbelievable coach, I really like him. He is young and he has tried to apply his football principles the best he can. Can you imagine he was building up his defence in his box against Liverpool without panic? They never kicked the ball (long).

“This is fantastic, things like that, and it really inspires me. I like this kind of coach who is not afraid of nothing. They want to get the result but through their football principle. This is amazing.

I really admire that and I am really looking forward to meeting and talking with him.

Dundalk were also grouped with Molde of Norway and Austrian Bundesliga side Rapid Vienna. Both will make for difficult assignments in their own way but the game against the Gunners is the glamour tie and the one that will demand the spotlight.

The London club seems to be progressing under Arteta's watch, defeating Liverpool for the second time in a matter of weeks yesterday, and they boast a playing roster with household names and world stars.

“They have better players than us and they have better coaches and everything than us, of course. They are better than us but this is the challenge,” said Giovagnoli. “You want to fill the gap in some way. How are we going to fill the gap? Lets see how we do that.

“We need to play with a lot of heart and run a lot and be a little crazy and brave but we are going to try. Anything is possible. I am here. I am the proof that anything is possible in life, but it's not really important. Sunday against Finn Harps is what's important. I'll think about Arsenal later.”

He is under no illusion as to the scale of the task ahead, even if playing at the Emirates is a “dream”. Dundalk, he said, have nothing to lose but they need to be more relaxed than was the case last night in booking their place in the group stages.

The Airtricity League champions were well below their best at times in winning 3-1 against KÍ of the Faroe Islands at the Aviva Stadium and their boss admitted that the players had been nervous on the night and that he himself had made mistakes on the line.

Dundalks' Sean Murray (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Europa League playoff match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Dundalks' Sean Murray (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Europa League playoff match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

It was a performance that did not match up to aspects of those punched in when seeing off the Andorran champions Inter Club d'Escaldes and in coming though a penalty shootout away to Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova last week.

“Yesterday we made a step back. In Andorra we had an attitude of controlling the game and having possession, 'don't be afraid', but we learned some things that a refereeing mistake can cause problems so we were aware that, internationally, anything can happen at any moment.

“Then we had a good performance in Moldova where the team stuck to the plan and didn't panic and created chances. Yesterday was a step back as we were nervous and lost composure. The players knew, they told me at the end of the game.

They know that we didn't perform and, when I say that, it wasn't our football principle but the work ethic was there. They gave everything but probably not the right way.

Giovagnoli was made aware of just how important European progress was when he was handed the reigns by the club's American owners back in August so a win that delivered a guaranteed €3m into the coffers has been welcomed with open arms.

“Of course they called and texted me, they were happy. We are starting to plan for the future. This season we have to finish it well and to perform in the league. It's a must to finish well or we don't qualify for Europe next year. It's one main objective and we want to do well in Europa League now that we are there.

“We want to show on the stage that we can be there and it's an important experience for the players for the future to understand they can play at this level. It is a new challenge but now the club is more unified.

"We have built a family environment where every player is involved in the project and we are going to need everyone if we're going to have a successful season.”

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