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.
|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.
|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.
- Arsenal v Sporting. Injuries, team news and options.
- Arsenal v Sporting: how the opposition have been doing of late