Want to learn more about Arsenal's Europa League opponents before kickoff?

I put together this thread on Dundalk FC, the Irish side that has reached impressive heights over the past 10 years, but stumbled recently after acquisition by an American ownership group [1/x]
Coming into 2020, Dundalk had won 5 of the previous 6 titles in Ireland's top flight, including back to back Premier Division championships in 2018 and 2019.

In 2016, they became the first Irish team to win a Europa League match, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv. [2/x]
Dundalk boasts the league's top scorer, Patrick Hoban, who has scored 9 goals in 13 matches this season. He also won top scorer in 2018 with 29 league goals.

The #9 will be a serious threat to whichever patchwork CB pairing Mikel Arteta trots out this afternoon. [3/x]
Dundalk lost its opening Europa League group game to Molde (Norway) at home. After going up 1-0 in the first half, they conceded 2 in the second half to a Molde side that were much better on the day. It was perhaps their best chance for points in the 2020 European campaign. [4/x]
The Irish Premier Division runs from Feb-October. This year's competition was halted midseason due to COVID, and this week is the final matchweek. Shamrock Rovers have already secured the title despite playing 3 less games than the other teams. [5/x]
Dundalk has one game left to play on Sunday v St Patrick's. The full 3 points would secure them a place in the qualifying rounds of the Europa Conference League next season. That game may actually hold more importance to Dundalk than the tilt with Arsenal today. [6/x]
That's right, I said the Europa Conference League. It will begin next season as the 3rd tier European Cup competition. The Irish Premier Division will lose its Europa League qualifying spots, but the champion (Shamrock) will still reach the Champions League qualifiers. [7/x]
With domestic and European success, lots of eyes flocked toward Dundalk in recent years. This is where things get interesting... [8/x]
Manager Stephen Kenny took over in 2013 and broke a 20-year title drought for Dundalk in 2014. He also led the club to the league/cup double that season, the first in its history. [9/x]
After winning 3 consecutive league titles and the historic Europa League victory in 2016, Kenny was offered a position as Republic of Ireland Under 21 manager before the 2018 season. He has since risen to senior team manager. [10/x]
Kenny's departure coincided with another major change at the club. In January 2018, American private equity firm Peak6 completed a takeover of Dundalk FC, with the goal of using it as a model for how they could run a bigger club in the future. [11/x]
Chicago-based Peak6 also holds stakes in Bournemouth and Roma, and previously attempted to buy St. Ettiene. Dundalk had fallen victim to the plague of modern football that is the private interest ownership group, and the Irish fans were less than pleased. [12/x]
Peak6 founder Matt Hulsizer appointed his father -- a man who knew nothing about soccer -- as chairman of the club, and many strange things followed (reporting from Miguel Delaney of the Independent) [13/x]
Hulsizer reportedly suggested that the GK take corner kicks because he "struck the ball cleanly" and that a CB take throw ins because he had coached basketball before.

He also signed American winger Josh Gatt "out of the blue" after reading an interview with him in ESPN. [14/x]
Owners also suggested the club play 10 "home" games per season in Dublin, a money grabbing move met with ire by local fans who would have to travel 50 miles for a home game. [15/x]
Vinny Perth, who took over as manager from Kenny was reportedly fired after losing Dundalk's Champions League qualifier this season because he did not follow the guidance of the board. [16/x]
He was replaced by Filippo Giovagnoli, who worked in US Youth Soccer and does not hold a UEFA Pro License. This means he is ineligible to by on the sidelines for the Arsenal match or any other Europa League matches. [17/x]
For its faults, Dundalk's ownership group did step up during the COVID-19 pandemic. It ensured salary of all club players and staff and also donated medical supplies to the local community.

A lot more than many big clubs, like Arsenal, can say. [18/x]
Dundalk embodies the tale of a modern club -- proud history being seized upon by wealthy owners with goals of bigger and better things, though those don't always align with the fans. [19/x]
It should be a simple 3 points for Arsenal, but we know how that goes. And even if it does go routinely, it will be yet another yarn spun in the stitching of the dramatic tale that is the rise of Dundalk FC. [end thread]
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