Arsenal went out of the Europa League on penalties to Sporting Lisbon. It was just one of those games, in the end. The Gunners did enough to win, had a 1-in-1000 goal scored against them, hit a post, had two fantastic saves against them in extra time, and didn’t win the game of chance that is a shootout. Like the first leg, it wasn’t the best performance from Arsenal, but it was probably enough to get by most of the time. Unfortunately, it didn’t go their way on the evening.
The Gunners didn’t help themselves by putting in a tepid performance, either. I’m loathe to say that the players didn’t care or to pass any sort of subjective judgment, but the Arsenal players looked to be lacking the focus, intensity, and sharpness they characteristically display in the Premier League. They did not play anywhere near their best.
Once again, Fabio Vieira didn’t cover himself in glory. It was a disappointing showing from him over two legs where you’d hope he’d be a focal point and standout player. At this point, I’m prepared to write off the season for Vieira. He may still have an important moment for the club in the run-in, he has that level of quality in his locker, but his time to put up or shut up will come next season and beyond.
The effect of not having both Ødegaard and Partey on the pitch is a significant one, and it showed. Arsenal didn’t control the match in the way they normally do. The drop-off from Martin Ødegaard to Fabio Vieira is much more pronounced than the gap between Thomas Partey and Jorginho. When Ødegaard came on in added time, Arsenal took complete control. Jorginho hit a fantastic pass that led to the first goal. Vieira didn’t do much of anything.
There’s not much to be said about Sporting’s goal. It was a jaw-dropping strike that just dipped under the crossbar from about 10 yards inside midfield. You can’t get too upset when someone scores a potential Puskas award finalist goal against you. Maybe Aaron Ramsdale could have tracked back sooner / quicker, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
The penalty shootout was the first in a competitive men’s match at the Emirates. It’s a bummer that the Gunners couldn’t do better. Aaron Ramsdale came close to saving two but couldn’t keep any out. Gabriel Martinelli’s attempt wasn’t a good one. And that was all she wrote. For what it’s worth, the team that goes first in the shootout wins 60% of the time. It’s a silly advantage gained from a coin flip.
Losing stinks. Arsenal could have won the Europa League if they had really gone for it. But the focus now shifts entirely to the Premier League, which will likely help the Gunners on the run-in. The big concern is with the injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu. Saliba was pictured laughing on the Arsenal bench with his teammates and Twitter reports said it appeared to be a precautionary move for back spasms. That eases my concern tremendously. Tomiyasu’s injury is a concerning one. It didn’t look great.
Of lesser concern is that Arsenal just played 120 minutes of football, but Crystal Palace played yesterday in the Premier League, so they won’t be fully rested either. The Gunners host the Eagles on Sunday at the Emirates. Eleven cup finals.