Football News

Arsenal crash out of the Europa League on a costly night for the Gunners

By Squawka News

Published: 23:36, 16 March 2023

Thursday turned into a nightmare scenario for Arsenal, who lost two defenders in the opening half-hour before playing 120 minutes and going out of the Europa League on penalties to Sporting CP.

A 19th-minute Granit Xhaka goal had given the Gunners hope that this would be their night but things went wrong in the 21st minute when influential defender William Saliba hobbled off. This followed an early injury to Japanese right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu.

The North London outfit still had the lead but this was cancelled out by a world-class finish from Pedro Goncalves who beat Aaron Ramsdale from over 45 metres out with a lovely chip. The two sides traded blows but nobody could find the breakthrough in the 90 minutes.

In extra-time Arsenal took control, especially after Martin Odegaard came off the bench, but they spurned a number of chances while Sporting keeper Antonio Adan made a couple of great saves.

The game went to penalties and it was Gabriel Martinelli who made the unfortunate error as his spot kick was saved well by ‘keeper Adan. It means the Gunners find themselves out of the competition, although this may not be such a bad thing. Pundit Martin Keown also suggested this might be a “blessing in disguise.”

The former Gunner continued that “Arsenal will be a lot happier not playing on a Thursday.”

Arsenal fans were mixed in their emotions with some not being too bothered

While others were concerned that things are not all rosy in the Emirates garden.

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The biggest concern for Arsenal is that amount of injuries and tired legs on show. Saliba, who is a crucial part of the central defence, limped off. Leandro Trossard, a revelation since his move from Brighton, was also seen limping off at the end, as was key defender Oleksandr Zinchenko.

It comes just a few days after Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag implied the Gunners had been lucky with injuries this season, which may have had a positive impact on their Premier League title charge.

“In just one game we had the squad available totally and I was able to pick my team, from a tactical approach, perfectly – that was against Manchester City at home this season. Every other time it’s been one player suspended, injured, or unavailable through illness,” Ten Hag had said of his own squad availability before Man Utd’s Europa League game against Real Betis.

“So we have to deal with it well, of course, you hope. I see Arsenal, they almost have all the time a squad that is totally available.”

But Arteta bemoaned how Arsenal have suffered with injuries across the campaign as a whole, only recently welcoming Gabriel Jesus back after he was injured at the World Cup.

Arteta said: “Tomiyasu looks pretty serious, for his reaction straight away and what he said to me. Obviously, it’s very early and difficult to know. William, I don’t know. He had some discomfort and could not carry on, so we had to take him off.”

“I don’t know,” Arteta added when asked if the injuries will have a lasting impact on the Premier League run-in.

“We’ve been carrying injuries throughout the season. We had Emile (Smith Rowe) out for four months, Gabriel Jesus out for four months, Alex (Zinchenko) for two and half months, Thomas (Partey) for a month and a half, Eddie (Nketiah) for a month and a half. We had quite a lot of injuries already, but we dealt with that.

“The disappointment is not going to go away, the disappointment is there now but it brings clarity. There are 11 games to play now, 11 Premier League games and we have a final against Crystal Palace.

“We have to recover all the energy there and put our focus there and play better than we did today. Put the same effort as today and win.”