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HomeNewsArsenal aren't built for squad rotation, so Europa League exit a blessing

Arsenal aren’t built for squad rotation, so Europa League exit a blessing


LONDON — Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League in the round of 16 on penalties when Sporting CP won a shootout at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday to lift the Portuguese side to the quarterfinals.

With the tie well underway in the 2-2 first leg, Xhaka Granite put the hosts ahead on the night after 19 minutes with a low shot. But Pedro Goncalves scored an impressive equalizer in the 62nd minute, blasting a shot past the Gunners keeper Aaron Ramsdale from within the Arsenal half.

In the extension, Gabriel had a header in the 117th minute magnificently saved by the goalkeeper anthony adam before he was denied again from the resulting corner, this time by Ousmane Diomandewho punted his effort off the line.

The teams could not be separated in 120 minutes, and after scoring the first seven penalties, the Arsenal striker gabriel martinelli Adán saved his penalty, which gave him nuño santos the chance to send Sporting to its first quarter-final in European competition since 2018.

quick reaction

1. Arsenal walked away with just the Premier League run

When the dust of this agonizing defeat settles, Arsenal will be looking to turn their European exit into something positive as they now have only one competition left, the most important Premier League, to fight for.

They have been at their strongest when manager Mikel Arteta has been able to name an established team and, if anything, perhaps this unexpectedly early exit from the Europa League is the biggest indication of that. Arteta made six changes for the first leg, five again here, and on both occasions he was disjointed and somewhat far from his best level of fluidity.

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Sporting Lisbon deserved to pull away and, in truth, Arsenal had a bit of luck dragging them into extra time. With that, the Gunners can now focus on naming their best starting line-up for their next 11 Premier League games, knowing that 10 wins will give them their first title since 2004.

That said, losing to Sporting is nonetheless a significant setback given that one of the unknowns remaining this season is whether this young Arsenal group can hold their nerve under the most acute pressure, and they failed to do so here. That will only raise more questions about whether they can handle the rarefied atmosphere of a title race and with Crystal Palace visiting the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, Arteta doesn’t have much time to rally the troops.

2. It never rains but it pours as Arsenal injuries are a concern

The view of both Takehiro Tomiyasu and, particularly, Guillermo Saliba Limping within the first 21 minutes is an obvious cause for concern.

Arteta criticized his team’s defense in the first leg and they looked shaky here with ben white brought in the right back to replace Tomiyasu and steal holding accompanying Gabriel Magalhaes in the back.

Besides that, Gabriel he went down with an injury early in the second period, but lasted the full 120 minutes. Leandro Trossard was seen limping towards the end while Oleksandr Zinchenko he was repeatedly holding his hamstring in the later stages.

Each player will be evaluated in the coming days, but the turnaround to face Crystal Palace is fast. gabriel jesusHis first start since knee surgery was positive, registering six touches in the opposite area and two shots on goal, but it was cut short when he was removed at half-time out of apparent precaution. Arsenal, after all, had been forced to make two substitutions and only had one more window in the second half to make another alteration due to substitution rules.

It’s easy to assume that given Arsenal’s fight for the Premier League title, win or lose on Thursday, the last thing Arteta wanted was extra time. Some fans actually suffered more than others: During the second half, two leaks in the stadium roof forced supporters in affected areas to disperse and take cover from the downpour. Call it symbolism if you want.

3. Penalty shootout makes history at Emirates Stadium

Emirates Stadium opened in 2006 and this was the first competitive penalty shootout to take place here.

In fact, this was Arsenal’s first penalty shootout anywhere in European competition since 2009 against Roma, though Sporting had to wait longer as their last European shootout came, surprisingly, in 1989.

Of course, this was not the part of the story that Arsenal wanted, and Martinelli will take it particularly hard given that he was the only player to miss in the penalty shootout.

The Brazilian suffered a slight dip in form several weeks ago before returning to his best in recent weeks, but his decisive miss in the penalty shootout is yet another setback he must now overcome. Having been left out of Brazil’s last team, it is likely that he wants another chance against Palace, otherwise they wait for a fortnight thinking about his mistake.

Best and worst performers

Best: Pedro Goncalves, Sporting CP

No one has scored from further away in any of UEFA’s competitions this season.

Best: Marcus Edwards, Sporting CP

He regularly caused Arsenal trouble by cutting down the right wing with his left foot, though he missed a glorious opportunity to send Sporting out in regulation time.

Best: Granit Xhaka, Arsenal

He scored his first goal since October and made more ball recoveries (11) than any other Arsenal player.

Worst: Reiss Nelson, Arsenal

Another missed opportunity after a disappointing first leg. He was largely ineffective here apart from a dangerous cross and came on for Saka in the 65th minute.

Worst: Fabio Vieira, Arsenal

He picked the wrong option in the final third on more than one occasion, drawing groans from the home crowd. He won one of 11 duels from him.

Worst: Rob Holding, Arsenal

Unable to replicate Saliba’s confident presence, though to be fair, he’s only played one regular minute of football since Jan. 27 and was dumped here unexpectedly due to the Frenchman’s injury.

Highlights and Highlights

Arsenal went into Thursday’s Europa League second leg feeling in a good position: level on goals with Sporting CP after the first leg in Portugal and playing at home, Arsenal were the clear favourites.

But the thing about being the favorite is that you still have to score the goals and get the result, and Granit Xhaka wasted no time putting the Gunners ahead early with her 19th-minute strike.

Arsenal seemed to be sailing, but then Pedro Goncalves apparently pulled a rabbit out of a hat and made something out of nothing.

After intercepting the ball in midfield, Goncalves looked up to note that Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was off his line, so he struck, scoring a sensational goal near the halfway line.

Sporting Lisbon came close to scoring again less than 10 minutes later, with an excellent chance inside the box from Marcus Edwards.

But Ramsdale went big to keep the scoring level.

As the match progressed to extra time, it was the goalkeeper at the other end of the pitch who came into action.

When Leandro Trossard came from behind Sporting’s back line in the 97th minute, goalkeeper Antonio Adán made a great save to keep the equaliser.

After the game: What the coaches and players had to say

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on his elimination from the Europa League: “The disappointment is not going to go away, it is there now. But there is also a clarity. There are 11 games to go and we have a final against Crystal Palace. We have to pick ourselves up and put all the focus there and win.”

Key statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • Sporting CP reaches its first quarterfinals in European competition since the quarterfinals of the 2017-18 Europa League (lost to Atlético de Madrid).

  • Pedro “Pote” Gonçalves’ goal scored from 49.3 yards is the longest distance for any goal scored in all UEFA competitions this season.

  • This is Arsenal’s 59th game in the Europa League since 2017-18. He is only the second to go to overtime in that span. The previous instance occurred on February 27, 2020 in a 2-1 loss to Olympiakos.

Until next time

Arsenal: The Gunners return their focus to the Premier League and host Crystal Palace on Sunday, March 19 at 10am ET.

Sports PC: lions they continue in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, hosting Santa Clara on Sunday, April 2. They will resume the Europa League in the quarterfinals in April.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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