Arsenal took control of its Europa League group by winning at Sporting CP.

By 90Min
October 25, 2018

Danny Welbeck's late finish helped Arsenal see off a defiant Sporting CP side to go top of their Europa League group and extend their winning run to 11 games.

The hosts had joy on the counter against Unai Emery's side, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan tested Ruben Ribeiro with a powerful free kick after Mohamed Elneny was felled on the edge of the box.

Despite early warning signs Arsenal's insistence to play out from the back provided the hosts with a number of chances; Nani won possession from Holding's wayward pass but fired over from distance.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went close twice in quick succession after the break, denied both times by the impressive Ribeiro, first saving well from an angled drive before standing tall to swat away Aubameyang's dinked effort.

Welbeck eventually broke the deadlock when he gambled on Sebastian Coates missing Aubameyang's flick, sending him clear to finish confidently to give his side a deserved victory.

Check out our breakdown of the game below.


Key Talking Point

With such a formidable home record Sporting's fans will be disappointed by their side's negative approach to the game. The opening exchanges showed Arsenal's defensive frailties and the home side on occasion looked the more likely to score despite not registering a shot on target in the first half.

With the game progressing the Portuguese side sat deeper and looked to hit Arsenal on the counter, though the isolated Fredy Montero could offer little physical presence up top as he was snuffed out by Arsenal's defense. 


Starting XI: Ribeiro (7); Ristovski (5), Coates (4), Pinto (6), Acuna (7*); Battaglia (5), Gudelj (5), Petrovic (5); Nani (4), Montero (6), Fernandes (5).

Substitutes: Gaspar (6), Cabral (5), Diaby (N/A).


Left back Marcos Acuña provided the hosts with a constant out ball down his flank and had the beating of both Stephan Lichtsteiner and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the first half. 

The Argentine used the ball effectively and showed his attacking instincts with impressive trickery throughout.


Former Liverpool and Sunderland man Coates struggled against Aubameyang's fleet of foot and deft touches in close proximity all night. 

In fairness to the leggy Uruguayan, he received little support from his teammates as he was left isolated against the Gabon star on numerous occasions.

Coates' lack of mobility was again exposed as he stretched to cut out Aubameyang's through ball but only succeeded in playing through the energetic Welbeck.


Key Talking Point

Emery's pressing style of football has certainly been welcomed by Arsenal fans, with their side showing more fight and desire without possession than under Arsene Wenger.

The former Sevilla manager has also brought with him an insistence on his goalkeeper and defenders playing out from the back. 

Arsenal's defenders certainly aren't renowned for their ball playing abilities and have throughout the season looked vulnerable and unsure when pressed at the back. 

Petr Cech's near expert finish into his own net against Manchester City at the start of the season serves as a prime example that Emery's tactical demands may take a while to bed in, while the players at his disposal are perhaps not best suited to his footballing ideology. 

Sporting were gifted the ball on countless occasions as Sokratis Papastathopoulos in particular misplaced pass after pass in the first half.


Starting XI: Leno (6); Lichtsteiner (6), Sokratis (5), Holding (6), Xhaka (5); Elneny (6), Guendouzi (6), Mkhitaryan (7), Ramsey (6), Welbeck (8); Aubameyang (8*).

Substitutes: Torreira (6), Lacazette N/A, Iwobi (N/A)


Aubameyang stood out in an otherwise lackluster display from the visitors. The jet-heeled forward used his pace to good effect as he probed an immobile sporting backline. 

With the game becoming increasingly open, Aubameyang's influence on the game grew; the striker's flick setting up Welbeck for the winner.


Sokratis looked nervy from the outset and showed no signs of improving as the game progressed. The former Dortmund defender still looks uncomfortable on the ball and panics under pressure.

In addition to his lack of poise in possession, Montero caused the Greece international problems throughout with his running in behind. The Arsenal man got away with a shirt pull that should've brought his mediocre showing to an end near half time.

Looking Ahead

Emery will be delighted to see his side come away with a win against a Sporting side that are notoriously hard to beat at home. His side will again look to extend their winning run to 12 games when they take on Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday at Selhurst Park.

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