Result: Arsenal 0-0 Sporting
Competition: Europa League
Date: 8th November 2018
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Holding, Jenkinson, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Smith Rowe, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Aubameyang, Nketiah
Arsenal could only draw 0-0 against Sporting at the Emirates this evening in a game that was overshadowed by injuries to Danny Welbeck and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Unai Emery made nine changes from the team that drew with Liverpool last weekend, trusting in the depth of his squad to get the job done, with only Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Rob Holding keeping their places.
The game began with plenty of Arsenal possession, the visitors seemingly happy to sit off and soak up pressure as we looked for a way through. Jenkinson and Smith Rowe tried their luck from distance inside the first 15 minutes but couldn’t find the accuracy required.
There was danger in the 18th minute when Ramsey found Guendouzi in behind, he crossed it, Mathieu blocked it and only the intervention of Coates prevented it from going over the line. Welbeck headed a free kick wide, Lichtsteiner picked up a 21st minute booking for a foul in Nani, and the England man again got on the end of a cross but couldn’t find the right connection to beat the keeper.
Unfortunately, in that attempt he seemed to seriously injure himself, and after a lengthy spell of treatment during which he received oxygen, he was stretchered off in considerable pain. Television didn’t show any replays, which is usually a bad sign, and he was replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Lichtsteiner shot wide, and not a great deal else happened as the game entered 4 minutes of added time at the end of first period, and the teams went in level.
The second half began with a chance for Aubameyang at the near post but he put it wide from Mkhitaryan’s delivery, while at the other end Jenkinson blocked a shot by Diaby as Sporting looked for an opening.
Ramsey showed good defensive discipline to cover for both Jenkinson and Lichtsteiner, but creating chances was a problem for Emery’s side. Iwobi set up Aubameyang but the striker could only find the side-netting, and the manager made his second change on the hour mark bringing on Sead Kolasinac for Jenkinson.
Iwobi shot over in the 67th minute, and as Arsenal were preparing to bring on Eddie Nketiah, Lichtsteiner pulled his hamstring as he charged down the wing, forcing Emery into a rethink. Instead, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was introduced with a little less than 20 minutes to go, and with Smith Rowe also appearing to suffer a knock it was a team down to the bare bones.
Sokratis had to make a block as Sporting looked for a goal on the break, but the visitors sat very deep as the game entered the final ten minutes. Iwobi did well to create a chance for Mkhitaryan but he couldn’t get enough on it to beat the keeper, and the Nigerian was involved again when he set up Kolasinac to cross for Aubameyang but the shot from inside the box was blocked.
With just a couple of minutes to go, Aubameyang was taken down just outside the box by Mathieu leading to a red card for the former Barcelona man, and from the resulting free kick the striker whacked it way over the bar without troubling the keeper.
With 5 minutes of added time there were chances for Arsenal to trouble Sporting, but the final ball was nowhere to be seen.
In the end a disappointing night, not least because of the injury to Welbeck, and it’s the first time the Gunners have failed to score since the opening day of the season.