Sporting Review: Paling Into Insignificance

Arsenal 0 – 0 Sporting Clube

A short while after the final whistle, Qarabag’s win in Poltava confirmed Arsenal’s progress to the knockout stages. Not quite assured of top spot with three more points needed to confirm that position thanks to the head-to-head results with Sporting. Thanks to Danny Welbeck’s late goal in Lisbon.

The ‘Welbeck Express’ the Portuguese media labelled him after that performance. For very different reasons, Welbeck cast a big shadow over last night’s proceedings as well. Twenty-six innocuous minutes passed when he crumpled on landing from meeting a cross. Immediately, he required assistance and the faces of players around him, etched with concern, told the story.

For some, it was the first time of seeing someone suffer; Mateo Guendouzi’s face is the image carried in the morning papers. For others, painful and unwanted memories returned.

Post-match, Unai Emery reflected on the injury suffered:

He’s a very good person. His commitment with us is very big. He’s helped us with his behaviour, with his quality and his capacity. It’s a very big injury for him, for us, for all people who like and love him as a person.

From there, the match took on a subdued demeanour. Sporting weren’t adventurous to begin with and withdrew even more into their shell. The stats record they failed to manage a shot on target in either of the matches.

I only recall Cech leaping through the air to claim a cross and putting his boot through the ball in a match where he was a spectator. We probably charged him admission, self-sustaining and all that.

Emery was under no illusions on why the match became instantly forgettable. Welbeck’s injury impacted on the players and while they got on with the job, it was never far from the front of their minds.

Good For You

The question of what the club does next will, I guess, be determined by the extent of his injury. Under Arsène, humanity in a cut-throat business was the order of the day. Were he in charge, Welbeck’s scrawl on a new contract would be obtained as he left the pitch.

But now? It’s a test if he is out for the season. The initial speculation – not from club sources – was that it was months on the sidelines. A year’s extension to ease the troubled mind of a player?

His departure from the pitch saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang introduced to the fray. A shot which brushed the frame of the goal while his burst of pace induced Jeremy Mathieu to trip him as he bore down on Sporting penalty area.

A comforting arm from Emery underlined how integral the centre-back had been in subduing Arsenal. In keeping with the tone of the match, Aubameyang skied the free-kick harmlessly over the bar. Of course, he did; there was no other outcome this match demanded.

Other than another injury. Stephan Lichtsteiner galloped down the wing and his hamstring twanged. The reverberations continued as his momentum hopped through a few more paces. He will be assessed on Friday suggesting it wasn’t as serious as first thought. I’m sure the injury update will have him out for “three weeks”.

At this point, you can tell there isn’t much beyond Welbeck’s injury to write about the game. He missed 70 games with his last serious injury, I read somewhere. A season’s worth of football. Hopefully, it’s not that bad this time around.

Emil Smith Rowe did well in midfield, advanced as the #10 in a 4-4-1-1. Given licence to patrol the flanks as well, his performance continues his trajectory to the first team on a regular basis.

Blown A Wish

The choice of line-up was surprising to the extent that victory assured us of top spot. It was a Carabao Cup team which in the end did a job for Emery. The suggestion is that the team which faced Liverpool was knackered. Given the poverty of their performance in Belgrade, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

Wolves on Sunday, however, is always the priority in this situation. The Premier League is the bread and butter, and we have two more extremely winnable games remaining in the Europa League.

Looking at the Champions League, none of the teams dropping down will give us huge problems in the next round. Tottenham and Liverpool, the likeliest candidates in that sense, will wait until the latter stages as they pursue ignominious  departures from the Champions League.

Imagine opening a new stadium and seeing the first European tie against MOL Vidi. It really is the gift which keeps on giving.

’til Tomorrow.

18 thoughts on “Sporting Review: Paling Into Insignificance

  1. Imagine opening a new stadium and seeing the first European tie against MOL Vidi. It really is the gift which keeps on giving.

    Please let this be true 😀

  2. Damon,

    There’s an hilarious Twat in twitter, claiming that ‘someone’ has mplained to the office of fair trade over some Spuds advert from the summer. Could be made up, but still worth a look.
    It’s on Yogi’s account.

  3. From Yesterday’s thread tho…. is it “MOL” or M.O.L . And where’s Vidi?

    The Welbeck conundrum tho does throw up some moral thorns. Was he holding out for a better deal? There’s been no word on his contact discussions so we can’t say. Maybe the dynamic duo were waiting for Unais verdict. Maybe they’ve already done their sums, and he was being let go.
    All the best to Danny. I’ve no doubt Arsenal will ensure he gets the ultimate treatment and rehab options available to human kind. A new contract at full pay would be pretty remarkable . Unless he’s a long term plan .
    What must Rambo be thinking? He did look pretty sick. He’s also got to be feeling pretty vulnerable.

  4. Bad luck for Welbeck. There were rumours circulating of him being sold to Crystal Palace in the January transfer window. Not happening now.

    I’m a fan of Welbeck’s industry, but if this is new ruthless Arsenal surely we shouldn’t be offering a deal to a player that is seriously injury prone and likely to be out for the rest of the season?

    I feel sorry for Danny (he’d just been recalled by Southgate) but he won’t end up on skid row.

  5. The team’s saying today that he is being assessed with a further update within the next 72 hrs sounds ominous. Doesn’t sound like a straightforward break. I hope Danny makes it back: he’s a classy individual and an asset to the squad. He seems to accept his role and sets a good example to the younger players.
    I realize football is a business, often a harsh one, but I think it would be a PR disaster for Arsenal to cut him adrift at season’s end.

  6. Blue Yonder,

    Abou all over again?
    There is a far cry between cutting adrift and renewing a full Playing Contract.
    Didn’t Arsene offer Diaby a Piece Rate contract for a final extension?
    He got fit enough to go back to France to play…. it’s all history.
    If we were to cut him loose, it would be an Actual Disaster. Our soul is gone

  7. ferkov,

    I don’t recall how Wenger handled the Diaby situation other than he was given multiple chances over a number of years; too many, some said. It’s a debatable point, but I believe Welbeck’s situation is a bit different, having been a more integral part of the squad, scoring some memorable goals and being picked for his country.
    I used “cut him loose” because, In this new era at Arsenal, we don’t know what sort of deal (if any) they might offer. We keep hearing that finances are much tighter now but how that translates into contract renewals remains to be seen.

  8. Hello all, didnt catch the match but just reading teh comments, i feel like i was lucky. Never like seeing someone go down that way. Welbeck has performed well but come on guys, I dont think he has completed a full season with us yet and this is a horrible injury. Best of wishes to him but hopefully we can find an upgrade. That being said danny has had some really key goals for us (FA cup against manure??) and thought he was very effective this season.

    What is it with guys always busting hamstrings. Surely Licht (the vet) knows that he doesnt need to be hauling ass all game.. Sure we all love to see hustle but be smart, dont go trying to be hero & a cup game that was crawling towards a draw!

  9. thrillbo,

    You make two key points in your post. Firstly, I’d like to tackle your second one :-). If any player isn’t giving one hundred percent every second they’re on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt, I have an issue. I’ll never call anyone out for tryingtoo hard to win a game.

    On the Welbeck point, which is your first and main one, I think this will divide opinion. We’re pretty well stocked in attack now and anyone coming in knows they’re more than likely going to play the second string games and be benched behind PEA and Lacazette. With Iwobi, Smith Rowe and possibly Nakita, there’s an argument to say even a young prospect wouldn’t see a gap in our front line at the moment. No game time available

    When you see the line of Richarkson move for circa £50m to Everton it makes me think that Welbeck is a very good squad player. Never going to get you 20 league goals in a season but he works hard, by all accounts is a nice lad to have around the squad and, as you say, chips in with a few key goals and performances when the stars are being rested

    It’ll cost us well over £20m to replace him and I’d rather see that money spent on areas that need an upgrade. Not replacing a squad player.

    Lastly, it’s one thing that I respected about Wenger, is that he gave players a chance to come back from injury by resigning them when they were badly hurt. He got a couple wrong by taking it too far, I agree. But let’s not forget these are boys in their twenties. In the main. Their window to play is limited at best. It’s not just about the money either. I’d imagine you’d give your teeth and hair to have played for Arsenal, or any top flight team?

    Not for the fame adulation and money, but for the love of the game?

    Nearly all these boys living the dream are doing exactly that and if he was broken on our clubs duty we have a responsibility to at least keep that little boy’s dream alive until he’s fixed again. Give him another year and if it turns out he can’t make the trade again. Like Eduardo, then you cut him loose. Just my opinion.though

  10. Damon,

    I’m with you on both points Damon. I was puzzled but delighted to see how often Lichtsteiner showed up in their box in the 2nd half. That kind of hunger in a 34 year old with no established loyalty to the club went down well with thus fan, even though we can and perhaps the coaches should question the physio wisdom of such exuberance.
    On Danny’s future with the club, I was keen to see an upgrade at the end of last season but he’s been Emeried and I thought he was building a platform of confidence that might see him surprise us and provide some special goals. Add to that his evident warmth and decency – an Old Trafford convert we can be proud of owning – I would like to see him treated kindly by the club. (I know, I know…)

    Perhaps his case will be an acid test of the 100% Kroenke culture where money and contracts are concerned. Letting him drift away injured and never put on the shirt again would cast a shadow over a hopeful season for fans, I suspect, but does Stan care?

  11. Damon,

    However tight we’ve suddenly become, allegedly, if we were to cut Danny adrift without supporting him through his recovery , then we have lost our Soul.
    From the causative trauma, I can’t imagine that his ankle is as bad as his knee was, so with a fair wind, he could be back rehabbing in a couple of months, and as we’ve seen previously, he’s a good recoverer. Then the Dynamic duo can see about a reasonable contract offer, or not. Though I agree with your thoughts on his usefulness within the squad. Good luck Danny.

  12. Noon Gunner,

    Crossed in ( single finger) typing.

    That’s 4 full backs / wing backs with tweaked hammies. But no full tears it seems.
    Training hard , working hard. The performance team are pushing the envelope to meet the coaches expectations and The players are giving 110% . Hard to fault it, just hope they don’t break.

  13. Hands up. I didn’t actually see the Welbeck injury, and only saw the treatment ongoing. I’d foolishly assumed that it had be a free kick situation, standing start jump. Just seen a repeat on Twitter, .I hadn’t realised how quickly he was running when he leapt for the ball. Sadly, That could be a lot worse than I said above. Pray for Danny.

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