Both Arsenal and Sporting fought it out in Lisbon with neither side able to emerge victorious, leaving it all down to the reverse fixture at the Emirates next Thursday. Arteta seemed to have difficulties putting together a competitive squad, which was most noticeable with the amount of academy players on the bench, as several key players were unavailable for selection due to suffering from illness. Trossard and Eddie we already knew would be out, Trossard picked up a groin injury early into the Bournemouth game and Eddie with an ankle injury. KT and Captain Ødegaard both had illnesses and, despite some optimism that we may see a cameo from Gabriel Jesus, it was ultimately decided not to be worth the risk and he was left back in London. There were six changes from the victorious side against Bournemouth; Turner played his first game since January, Kiwior made his Arsenal debut and Reiss Nelson was rewarded for Saturday’s heroics with a place in the starting XI. Vieira also started as Ødegaard wasn’t in the squad, and Jorginho started too after doing so well filling in for Partey in the last few weeks.
We started the game by dominating possession and pressing high up the pitch, but the home side played this to their advantage and were very quick to respond on the counter after errors from the Gunners. Arsenal were given a lucky escape early on in the half as Pedro Goncalves had a chance but somehow hit it wide. Halfway through the first half William Saliba scored a header from a Fabio Vieira free kick to open the scoring.
Sporting responded with another header from a corner; Turner looked uncomfortable playing out from the back, and Ignacio went unmarked in the penalty area to even the playing field. Turner didn’t stand a chance.
The second half started and Arsenal continued to dominate. Sporting then took the lead as Turner was forced to make a save and all Paulinho had to do was tap in the rebound; again, nothing Turner could have done. Martinelli looked amazing as Zinchenko fed him the ball and he went flying down the pitch. It looks like he was going to restore our lead having had to go it alone, but at the last minute his effort was put out for a corner.
Our equaliser and the final goal of the night came out of nowhere. Xhaka was looking to make a pass into the box, but his effort took a deflection off of Morita and somehow ended with the ball in the back of the net. Arteta then made his substitutions; Tomiyasu for Zinchenko before his triple substitution which saw Gabriel replacing Kiwior, Partey for Jorginho, and Reiss Nelson for Emile Smith Rowe. Kiwior had a good debut, he looked confident on the ball and it will be exciting to see how he performs in the Premier League under immense pressure. It’s also good to see Smith Rowe getting more and more game after he did well at the weekend against Bournemouth.
Into the last ten minutes, Arsenal seemed happy to take the draw and just pass the ball around. The boys will take to the Emirates Stadium next Thursday to seal the deal in front of an impressive home crowd as always to help spur them on; the Sporting stadium was half empty and pretty subdued at best.
Next up is Fulham away at Craven Cottage on Sunday. Fulham are currently sitting in 7th place, but are without a win in their last three matches. Arsenal will look to continue their good form and maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League table, hopefully without the need for last minute dramas. In our last meeting with Fulham back in August, we emerged victorious as Ødegaard and Gabriel turned things around after we found ourselves 1 – 0 down at the Emirates. Even more positively, Fulham haven’t taken the three points from us since January 2012, and the last time we dropped points against Fulham in the Premier League was in a 3 – 3 draw at the Emirates in November 2012.
Written by: Abby Goodson (@_abbygoodson)