A pretty bizarre game in the Europa League between Sporting and Arsenal this evening. The game ended level at 2-2, which is probably a better result for the Gunners than the Portuguese side with the second-leg back at the Emirates & you’d favour Arsenal to get the job done back at home next week.
Centre back, Sebastian Coates & midfielder, Hidemasa Morita both picked up bookings today which means they’ll miss the second-leg back at the Emirates next week, which is only good news for Arsenal.
On the game & it was a pretty disjointed performance from Mikel Arteta’s team. The boss made six changes to the team that started against Bournemouth last weekend and unfortunately you could tell in moments during the game with the amount of giveaways and mistakes the Arsenal players were making.
Jakub Kawior made his first appearance for Arsenal tonight, after signing for the club in January. He completed 47/49 passes, however lost possession three times, didn’t win a single duel & a mix up between him and Matt Turner gifted Sporting their opening goal from a corner. He didn’t have the best debut, but he’s new & he needs time.
Saying that, you can see why Mikel Arteta wanted to bring him in as he looks very composed on the ball & clearly has a good range of passing. Once the Polish centre back gets more game time under his belt and gets used to playing with his new teammates, then there’s no doubt in my mind we will see the proper player.
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Mikel Arteta won’t be happy with the fact his players conceded from another corner tonight, although I don’t think the goal would have happened if Aaron Ramsdale was between the sticks. Matt Turner has hardly played a match this year so I don’t want to be too harsh on him, but he really should be coming for the corner in the six-yard box which lead to the equaliser in the first-half.
William Saliba & Fabio Vieira were Arsenal’s best players today. Fabio Vieira looked at home back in Portugal. He was always looking for the ball & trying to make things happen, especially in the first-half. He deservedly got his assist for the opening goal which brings his tally to 8 goal contributions in 12 starts for Arsenal this season. The Portuguese international is getting better every game he plays.
Arsenal looked a lot more defensively solid when Gabriel, Takehiro Tomiyasu & Thomas Partey were introduced, which is really no surprise. Arsenal started without the main spine of their team – Ramsdale, Gabriel, Partey, Odegaard, Jesus – so that probably explains why the performance was a little shaky away in Portugal at times tonight.
Despite that, Arsenal still managed to control large parts of the game, especially in the last 20 minutes where it was all Arsenal and if there was going to be a late goal, Mikel Arteta’s side made sure it was only going to be in their favour. Unfortunately it wasn’t like the weekend & the late goal didn’t come.
To come back from 2-1 down away in Europe shows the character and mentality these players have shown all season. They never give up & they didn’t again today, even without the majority of starters on the pitch.
Gabriel Martinelli produced a decent cameo playing as the main striker tonight. The Brazilian had 3 shots, completed 7/9 dribbles, won 10 duels, played 2 key passes & produced an amazing solo run which would have been goal of the season if he managed to finish it off. Want to watch the clip? Click here.
Bukayo Saka & Ben White both played 90 minutes and looked tired towards the end of the game. With a trip to Craven Cottage next, the games are coming thick & fast and Mikel Arteta will be hoping both recover in time to play another 90 minutes on Sunday.
Overall, the result favours Arsenal. To come home from Portugal with a draw is a good result and the Gunners will be expected to win the game back at the Emirates next week.
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