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Arsenal 0 - Sporting 0 match report: wake up, the match is over

A listless affair sees the Gunners clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.

Arsenal v Sporting CP - UEFA Europa League - Group E
This picture accurately captures today’s match. A flop.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

If you’re having trouble falling asleep tonight, might I recommend putting on a replay of today’s 0-0 snoozefest between Arsenal and Sporting? Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but any match in which the Gunners have as many shots on target (2) as yellow cards is not something to write home about.

Today’s draw puts Arsenal through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, but leaves work to do to clinch the group. Unai Emery now faces a bit of a dilemma - how much does he push for a result away to Vorskla before two critical Premier League matches against Tottenham and Manchester United?

The biggest concern coming out of today’s match is the injury to Danny Welbeck. Around the 30th minute, the striker fell awkwardly on his right ankle. He was given oxygen and had his leg in a boot as he was stretchered off. We can always hope for the best, but I would not be surprised if he misses significant time.

Stephan Lichtsteiner appeared to injure his hamstring in the 74th minute, adding to Arsenal’s injury woes at outside back. It looks as if Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ return from injury couldn’t have come at a better time. He looked lively on the ball in his cameo appearance.

The Gunners utterly dominated today’s match. They had 71% of the possession and completed more than twice as many passes as Sporting. The visitors did not even manage a shot on target - they really did not make much effort to get forward. It was clear they were happy with a draw.

Jeremy Mathieu was sent off in the 87th minute for denying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The resultant free kick sailed over the bar, and the Gunners were not able to capitalize on playing a man up for 8 minutes.

Matteo Guendouzi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan stood out today for the Gunners. The young Frenchman made several slick passes between the lines to spring wide players and ran himself ragged defensively (perhaps with time he will learn to be more economical in his movement, but I applaud the effort). Mkhitaryan also put in a high-energy shift - his work rate was noticeably higher than most everyone on the pitch, and he was frequently involved in the play.

Statistically, Aaron Ramsey had a good game. He did a lot of good things on the pitch. You could even argue (as the tweet alludes to) that he was played slightly out of position and that he might have been able to do more if he was able to get further up the pitch with Guendouzi staying a bit deeper.

But you can’t ignore the fact that Ramsey was one of the focal points in the midfield in a game in which Arsenal failed to score and failed to generate all that many quality chances. He’s a great player, but he has still not found his place in Unai Emery’s system. The blame for that failure probably lies with both player and manager.

The Gunners’ next Europa League match is away to Vorksla on November 29th. Arsenal are next in action on Sunday when Wolverhampton visits the Emirates.