Tag Archives: Europa League

FC Vorskla Poltava – The calm before the storm

Today feels like the calm before the storm.

We are out in Ukraine for the Europa League game against  FC Vorskla Poltava where victory will guarantee first spot based on our better head-to-head record against Sporting Lisbon.

Having beaten Vorskla 4-2 in the home leg, Unai Emery is expected to make wholesale changes to the side with one eye on Sunday.

As key games against Tottenham on Sunday awaits. Emery’s first North London Derby. An opportunity to mark up his first 3 points against that lot up the road. A win takes us above them.

All this week I have been speaking to people about Sunday’s game, rather than tonight’s. It is easy to take the eye off the ball, but this evening just seems inconsequential. An inconvenience. An interruption. Sunday’s game is just a million times more important.

Arsenal are already without Danny Welbeck, sidelined long term with an ankle injury. Striker Alexandre Lacazette (groin) is also a doubt after missing Sunday’s win over Bournemouth. This could open the door for Eddie Nketiah for his first start of the season; as Emery is unlikely to risk Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, his only fully fit senior striker.

Centre backs Konstantinos Mavropanos and Laurent Koscielny are still battling back from their long term injuries.

Elsewhere, full-back Nacho Monreal is sidelined for the next 10 days as he battles back from a hamstring injury and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who also has a hamstring problem, is a doubt for the trip.

The likes of Tyreece John-Jules, Joe Willock, Charlie Gilmour and Jordi Osei-Tutu were among those who trained with the Arsenal first-team at London Colney before they fly out to Kiev for their tie, the location for which has been changed in light of the introduction of martial law in certain regions of Ukraine.

Petr Cech will replace Bern Leno in goal, with Carl Jenkinson likely to get a start in defence.

Rob Holding will be in defence alongside Stephan Litchsteiner. At left back we should see Ainsley Maitland-Niles get some game time.

A midfield 3 of Aaron Ramsey, Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny.

Nketiah will be joined in the front 3 by Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock. The youngster has been in fine form playing centrally for the U23 team this season, with a raft of youngsters on the bench.



Match Report: Sporting 0 – 1 Arsenal

Sporting Club of Portugal (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Group E, Matchday 3 of 6
Estádio José Alvalade Stadium
Thursday, 25th October 2018. Kick-off time: 5.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Xhaka; Guendouzi, Elneny; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey (C); Welbeck, Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Martinez, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Torreira, Iwobi, Özil, Lacazette.
Yellow Cards: Mkhitaryan, Holding
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Attendance: 47,331
If we all believe in omens, then tonight is going to be a classic case. In the season that we won the Fairs Cup (1969-70), Arsenal beat Sporting Club de Portugal en route to the final, so let’s hope that tonight, history (which can be fickle) repeats itself and we shall be starting on our journey to glory! One of the big three of Portuguese football (along with Benfica and Porto), Sporting Club de Portugal, at the time of writing, are currently fifth in Primeira Liga, a league that they have won 18 times; last season they finished third, behind champions FC Porto and Benfica.
A strong Gunners team lined up here for the early kick-off at The Estádio José Alvalade Stadium, which also included, amongst our substitutes, the return of Carl Jenkinson, which I must say was a surprise (but welcome) addition to the bench tonight in Lisbon. True to form, and true to our season, the first half of tonight’s match was lukewarm by anyone’s standards, let alone Mr. Emery’s. With just two shots on target, it was looking like we were all careering towards a dull-and-dreary goalless draw, with the Arsenal machine creaking down and punching through the gears into a pitiful crawl. The one and only incident of note was when Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free kick was punched away by the Sporting Lisbon goalie almost on the stroke of half-time; by this time we were all starting to wonder if Arsenal’s talent had been impounded at Portuguese customs upon landing.
However, the second half started, and the Arsenal model of 2018-19 started to look like the team that we have known for most of this campaign. We picked up the pace quite early, and the on-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led the charge with two chances which were denied that on any other day would have ended up with a goal for him. Time for a change, time for fresh legs; just before the hour, Mohamed Elneny made way for Lucas Torreira, and suddenly everything started to move up a notch. Passing became more accurate, tackling was precise and crisp, and more importantly than all of these things, players started to run into space and find their renewed hunger for the game. Out of nowhere, the goal appeared, like a welcome genie out of the bottle. A clever back-heel from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which the Sporting Club defender failed to address, and Danny Welbeck capitalised immediately on the error, striking a perfect ball through the goalie’s legs and into the corner of the net; from that moment onwards, the match was truly ours. As Mr. Emery is prone to do in these situations, more substitutions became paramount. Danny Welbeck left the pitch in favour of Alexandre Lacazette, and six minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang followed him into the dressing room, to be replaced by Alex Iwobi; and apart from one or two chances here and there, the match was ours, even after a mysterious five minutes of injury time.
Not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, our defence is still problematical at times; it’s not just the centre backs either, the full-backs charge up the field and don’t recover quickly enough – they lack awareness at times and get caught too many times out of position. These problems, which may seem minor at the moment will return to haunt us in the future when we meet teams in the Premier League that can (and will) punish us badly for these indiscretions. But eleven matches undefeated speak for themselves, and the stats that state high percentage possession are always welcome to see, of course. Next match is Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this Sunday, and the expectations are growing ever higher with each game. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Arsenal look to make it 8 from 8 as a strong squad travels to Baku

8 wins in a row.

That is what The Arsenal are looking at if we beat Qarabag in Azerbaijan tonight (17:55ko in case you did not realise!)

It is a terrific run of form we are currently in.

The last time we won 7 in a row was at the beginning of the 2016/17 season when we beat Hull City, Nottingham Forest (League Cup), Chelsea, Basel, Burnley, Swansea and Ludograts. That run ended with a bore 0-0 draw away to Middlesbrough.

If we make it 8 wins in a row, it will be our longest winning run in all competitions since the 2007/08 season. That year we won 12 games in a row.

Some might point to average opposition, a League Cup win against Brentford and Arsenal being in the Europa League as reasons why we have won 7 in a row thus far. But you can only beat what is in front of you.

Looking at the previous 7-run winning streak, we only really played Chelsea. And whilst Basel and Ludograts were in the Champions League, they were not exactly competitive competition.

Likewise in the 12 game winning run of 2007/08; we beat Manchester City before the money (they lost their last game of the season 8-1 to Middlesbrough before before being taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group) and a Tottenham side that finished 11th.

To go on long winning runs, you need favourable fixtures – we saw the same with Liverpool winning their first 5 games of the season. They did not really play anyone decent, yet were being hyped up by all and sundry.

But you need to win your games, regardless of who you are playing.

In our current winning run,  Watford have beaten Tottenham and West Ham have drawn with Chelsea and beaten Manchester United. Arsenal won both games.

A 5 run winning run in the league is actually the current longest run of any club in the top 4 divisions of English football, yet not much about Arsenal is being mentioned in the press.

In September it was 6 out of 6.

Unai Emery has given the club a breath of fresh air. Surely after his sides performance in September, he has to be a shoe in for the Manager of the Month?

Qarabag are certainly not going to be a walk over.

Currently unbeaten in the Azerbaijan Premier League, of which they are defending champions, Arsenal are making a 6 hour 2,859 mile journey to Baku.

Chelsea beat them 6-0 and 4-0 in the Champions League last year, but they held Atletico Madrid to 2 draws, and only lost by 1 goal in each game against Roma.

Emery has selected a strong squad to travel out to Baku.

Sokratis is returning to the squad after his short injury, and will join up with Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal.

Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi have also made the trip in what looks to be our strongest available starting XI.

The highest profile absentees seem to be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey, who were not pictured in the clubs official photo release, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who has been left home for “safety reasons”.

Petr Cech has not travelled to Azerbaijan and will be out for up to a month with a hamstring injury. Other players currently sidelined are Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (fractured fibula) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles).

Matteo Guendouzi, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah and reserve goal keepers Dejan Iliev and Emiliano Martinez.

All in all Emery is given the side its best chance to make it 8 from 8 and take a huge step towards securing early qualification for the knock-out rounds.