Arsenal v Sporting: yes a victory tonight will mean we win the group, plus team thoughts.

By Bulldog Drummond

Time to confess to an error – if Arsenal do win tonight they will win the group, because Europa league groups are decided on head to head results if points are equal.   Really, I did know that but somehow, completely forgot when writing the last piece.  And yes if you’d like to take over writing the match previews your application is likely to be well received by the management.

So a win would give us 12 points, and in the unlikely event of Arsenal losing the last two games against the bottom two clubs, while Sporting won, we’d be equal on points with them, but certain to go through top of the group, which gives an advantage in the first knock out round.

Mr Emery was his usual magnanimous self in the run up to the game, saying, “They are a team with very good players, very good history, also in this competition.   They’ve changed the coach but this is a very big match and a very good test as they are also fighting for first position.”

In the reverse fixture two weeks back we dominated the show with 67 per cent of the possession and it was only a reasonable showing by the Sporting keeper that kept the score down to 1-0.

At the other end the record shows that Sporting did not have a single shot on target.  And their form shows only two wins in five away league games in a league that does not have a lot of strength in depth. Even against Vorskla Poltava they got two injury-time goals to come from behind and get the win.

The latest stories buzzing around in relation to the team include the statement that Monreal is still not ready for a return although he is back in training, along with the rest of the gang.  On his position the boss said, “With Nacho we’re in a very precautionary moment because we don’t want to repeat the same injury.”

But according to the manager however Koscielny might actually play in November – I suggested he wouldn’t be back until December, so the most obvious thing to do is to stop believing anything I write. 

Indeed you might even stop reading, but just in case you are still here, I shall keep on writing.  Just in case.

The rest of what the boss said about the captain was, “He’s nearer, closer to being with us in the competitive games.   He is feeling well and getting better every day.   We’re going to think after the international break how we can continue working and how he can start playing games.”

Anything else?  Well, I did find this one which I mst admit I didn’t know: Arsenal have won each of their last three games in major European competitions but have not won four such games in a row, since a run of six between March – November 2005.   And one more, which is perhaps slightly more obvious when you think about it:

Danny Welbeck has scored more goals in the Europa League than any other Arsenal player.   The total is five.

As for Sporting they have only four victories in last 27 away games in the main European competitions.  Of the rest they have drawn four and lost 19.  One of those wins was against Vorskla Poltava and with two games to come against the bottom two in the group, they should be increasing that ratio, even if they get another setback.   Their ex-Manchester United winger Nani will captain Sporting tonight.

Countering their lack of form, we have scored two or more goals at Arsenal Stadium in seven of the nine matches at home in all competitions this season.  The only two to stop us are Manchester City in the first home game and Liverpool in the most recent.

As for the traditional head to head, that has now grown to a massive three games after the last Europa game.  You’ll know the data but I’m including it anyway, just because I want to point out that as yet they have not scored a single goal against us.

Date Match Res Score Competition
29 Oct 1969 Sporting Lisboa v Arsenal D 0-0 Fairs Cup
26 Nov 1969 Arsenal v Sporting Lisboa W 3-0 Fairs Cup
25 Oct 2018 Sporting Lisboa v Arsenal W 0-1 Europa League

The long run of wins for Arsenal has of course come to an end so if we look at the last four games we have played the result is two draws and two wins.

Date Match Res Score Competition
25 Oct Sporting Clube  v Arsenal W 0-1 Europa League
28 Oct Crystal Palace v Arsenal D 2-2 Premier League
31 Oct  Arsenal v Blackpool W 2-1 League Cup
03 Nov  Arsenal v Liverpool D 1-1 Premier League

Our record across the last 15 games including League, League Cup and Europa League is 13 wins, two draws and, you will know if you have been paying attention, no defeats.  Which I suspect most of us would have settled for – indeed even if the whole programme is included to give us 17 games with 13 wins, two draws and two defeats, I think most supporters would say, “that’s not too bad.”

Of course it is not top four, but since top four is not a trophy I don’t suppose that matters.

As for Sporting I guess they will have some hope since although they have lost their last four games against English teams, they did beat Manchester City at home in the Europa League last 16 in 2011-12.  Which is quite an achievement given the amount of collusion that appears to have been going on between Manchester City and Uefa.

So after all this, and before we set off for London, what sort of team might we put out tonight?


Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Kolasinac

Ramsey, Guendouzi, Maitland-Niles

Iwobi, Welbeck, Smith Rowe

It’s such a bit of guesswork that there is not much point me trying to think who is going to be on the beach.  A mix of experience and youngsters I am assuming.   For the youngsters I keep thinking this must be the time for Eddie to re-emerge, and then nothing happens, so I’m probably putting the mockers on him.

Beached, well, if I must, Auba maybe in case things are not going well, Mkhitaryan,  Torreira or Xhaka in case the midfield needs more defensive whatnot.   Bellerin in case there is an injury at the back, as Lichsteiner can move across.

Something along those lines.    Anyway, let’s hope for a win by quite a few goals.



14 Replies to “Arsenal v Sporting: yes a victory tonight will mean we win the group, plus team thoughts.”

  1. I have a confession to make.

    Whenever I study an Arsenal game, I also think about the fixtures after that.

    That’s why I might surprise a few Untold readers by claiming that tonight’s game is much bigger than anyone thinks at the moment.


    Well, as Bulldog said, Arsenal will win the group if we beat Sporting tonight. More importantly, we will the group with two games to spare which means we can send our U11 to the game against Vorskla.

    And the long trip to Ukraine is the biggest reason why I’d prefer us to make that game as least important as we can.


    Because, after Vorskla, we play against Tottenham in NLD at home. Tottenham have a big game themselves prior to NLD – a group decider against Inter Milan at Wembley, MK Dons or wherever they put their tent to sleep over on that day. Having our best players rested in the mid-week while Tottenham spend their strength trying to avoid Champions League elimination (a draw would knock them out of CL) is a good plan.

    And, my foresight doesn’t end there as only three days after NLD we have to pay a visit to Old Toilet (which makes that imaginary stadium of Tottenham a New Toilet then?).

    So, let’s beat Sporting tonight!

  2. i’d say


    we’ll see …
    anyway, thanks, buuldog; i for one will keep reading these previews
    enjoy the game

  3. Yes, I don’t think Sporting CP will play in tonight’s game at the Ems as second fiddle to Arsenal in the match. For, they will want and play to get a result in the match to keep a safe distance in between the Polish and the Aziberjan club sides and themselves in the table.

    Therefore, Arsenal should take a cue from last night’s match in Turin in the Ucl between Juventus and Manchester United where it has proved that winning first at away in the 1st leg does not necessarily guaranteed a win in the 2nd leg at home, as Man United shocked the Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus led attack team with a late 1-2 away win to the astonishment of the Juventus home fans.

    As a result of this shock win which can be taken as a lesson, Arsenal should not see tonight’s Europa League Cup match day No 4 return leg match with Sporting CP as a walk over kind of a match. For, to do that will be a dangerous thing by Arsenal as Sporting who have top quality players in their rank could shock them in the match to end their unbeaten run in 14 games. Which I think it’s still in it’s in embryo stage running and should not be forced to end summarily without allowing it becoming matured to stand the test of time in all competitions this season. Therefore, the Gunners should not become overconfident in the match to beat Sporting. But instead become very confident in their game playing calmly to beat Sporting.

    Not to repeat a falling starting XI making error like in the one in the last Liverpool game at Ems in the PL last Sunday, when Mkhitaryan was started and he was lacklustered in the match for Arsenal resulting to them holding Liverpool late in the match, instead of them to have beaten Liverpool had Iwobi been started. Emery should use this could likely be a tough match encounter with Sporting as the catalyst to be getting his starts and bench right to the letter by not starting any lackluster player who could be the weak link in his starting XI. I’ll leave him with his starts and bench to make for tonight’s match. But whatever be the starts and bench he’ll make or has made, Arsenal MUST win the match to return to the winning ways ahead of their match at home against Wolves in the PL on Sunday.

  4. Joisif, you are funny but very correct in your Arsenal next 3 games analysis in which you advocated for Arsenal youth team rotation for the Vorskla game. And I agree with you in toto. But I laughed as you re branded Old Trafford and NWL Stadia as Old and new Toilet stadia. Hmmm.

  5. @LE GALL
    Plezueguelo captained the U21s last night in their Chekatrade win so he won’t be part of the team tonight. Sorry he’s good but not superhuman

  6. From

    1 Čech (GK)(C)
    5 Papastathopoulos
    7 Mkhitaryan
    8 Ramsey
    12 Lichtsteiner
    16 Holding
    17 Iwobi
    23 Welbeck
    25 Jenkinson
    29 Guendouzi
    55 Smith Rowe

    26 Martínez (GK)
    11 Torreira
    14 Aubameyang
    15 Maitland-Niles
    20 Mustafi
    31 Kolašinac
    49 Nketiah

  7. Gord it looked that he landed badly after jumping for a header. I couldn’t see any foul

  8. Half time.

    We’ve had 6 shot, of which 1 is on target. They had 2 shots, none on target. We had 4 corners, they’ve had none. They’ve been offside twice and we haven’t.

    We’ve had 65% possession. 87% passing; 301 or 347 for us. 77% passing; 108 of 141 for them.

    We’ve recovered 25 balls to their 15.

    We have 1 yellow from 5 fouls. They have 1 yellow from 5 fouls.


  9. Gord – the stats are fouls that were called by the ref. In reality he has allowed them to get away by playing advantage.

  10. How Welbeck managed to sustained that leg injury baffled me. He went for a header, the ball hit his shoulder then he went down and as if he will get up but only to be stretched off after a lengthy treatment. Sorry, I wish him a quick recovery. I hope Arsenal will come out strongly into the match in the 2nd half showing urgency in their game in the final 3rd to beat Sporting. Mkhitaryan has to improve on the quality of his passing and crossing in the 2nd half. Iwobi too has to improve on the accuracy of his final ball passing in the 2nd half. The 2nd has just begun.

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