Arsenal v Sporting Afterthoughts

Well that was a good game of football. A typical European night against an unexpectedly very strong Sporting side. It turned out that only our strongest team would have been able to overcome the Portuguese warriors, and if we were indeed serious about progressing in this competition then this was a tactical mistake by Arteta. I know we have the PL title to fight for and I respect Arteta’s choices, and I still enjoyed this European night tremendously.

The teams were equally strong over the two legs and it was decided on the dreaded, cruel penalties. As a Dutchman I have come to despise penalty shootouts, and I still feel that it would be better for the referee to flip a coin at the end of the 120 minutes.

I think we can pull some conclusions on a few individuals who were given the chance to impress us over both legs.

Reiss Nelson: I think his biggest problem is a lack of presence and ability to make the game his. Yes the service could have been better but there is a strong feeling that he will go the same route as Iwobi and Willock. Good PL worthy player but, unless he really shows us a different side to his game, I think he will move on this summer. This is a personal judgement and I respect that others will see it differently.

Vieira: everything is there but just like Nelson he lacks presence and natural dominance. Yes he needs bulking up but it is also important to see pictures quicker and act on them in a flash. This is where Odegaard is so impressive and Vieira is a level below this currently. I think it will come but a loan to Marseille or Stade de Reims next season may be necessary.

Rob Holding: that was a phenomenal performance by Rob. He never made me think I wish Tequila had not gone off.

Tomiyasu: a great cover for Ben White but I think he is finding it hard to not play automatically every week. He is not having much luck either this season if and when he is on.

Zinchenko: as others have pointed out, the Zinch can be a bit hit and miss at times. Sometimes he is phenomenal but he can also be erratic and undisciplined. His strong points are his presence and motivational skills and that is clearly why he is in the team, but yesterday’s game was a great example of how his misplaced passes can get the whole team frezzled.

Ramsdale: no complaints from me. That was a once in a lifetime goal and Aaron is not to blame at all. The penalty saving attempts could have been better but this is probably not one of his strengths (as yet). He has plenty of strengths though, and he clearly is our nr1 goalkeeper. The save with his face was unbelievable.

Jesus: it was great to see him back and for the first 30 minutes he was simply awesome. It will take a few weeks before he will be fully up to speed.

ESR: the fact that he did not come on in this game is telling a lot. I love the guy but it looks like he is not going to contribute much this season.

A loss always hurts even when we clearly did not give the game enough priority, and our opponents enough respect imho. But what is done is done and now we will move on to the League for 11 beautiful battles.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners.

By TotalArsenal.

55 thoughts on “Arsenal v Sporting Afterthoughts

  • We were dreadful for 70minutes at home and 65minutes away. That away performance should have informed Arteta thta without Partey and Ode it was a push.
    Vieira is not made for the PL. Nelson, like Nketiah has flashes but neither should be in this squad.
    The last month has shown increasing periods of games where we are poor and sloppy. Bad omens and like last year I expect us to fall away miserably

  • Good post Total, for me Reiss Nelson is never as effective on the right flank, much like Martinelli, he always looks more dangerous on the left where he can whip in dangerous crosses, Vieira unfortunately has to stand comparison with one of our very best players in Odegaard and the drop-off in quality and effectiveness is clear for all to see, I don’t want to kill the boy, so I’ll leave it there.

    Losing Tomiyasu and Saliba was huge, even though White and Holding did ok there

  • Losing those two so early affected Arteta’s options to change things tactically which is his strength, we also didn’t have any luck but that’s Arsenal in europe a history of sh*t fortune, if it can go wrong you can bet yourself that it’ll go wrong for Arsenal.

  • I bet that the guy who scored that long shot has never done it before and probably won’t ever do it again.

  • Total, have you noticed that certain contributors are routinely absent when we win but are always there when we lose?

    Why do you think that is?

  • LeG, I read that Marcelo Flores had a two-year option on his contract which was due to expire this summer but he’s now signed up till 2025, apparently he wants to do another year in Spain next season but I reckon we should send him to Reims or Marseilles, savoir faire methinks…

  • There were many times over my decades of support than any loss would have cast a shadow over me for day’s – especially going out of a key competition. Now I have changed completely and my disappointment is reserved for the players and coaches who have put all of their energy and efforts into winning the game.

    Their disappointment must be enormous and it’s now down to the leaders within the team and the coaching staff to remind them of what a great opportunity still lies ahead of them – in winning the championship.

    I thought that Sporting were the better team in both legs and fully deserved to come out as winners albeit by a once in a life time goal.

    Next up manager less Crystal Palace who have just sacked the entire coaching staff, they do not have a new manager to impress so they will be extremely vulnerable.

    We remain as the only team who have the EPL Championship in their own hands – and every win puts us one precious step closer.

  • Yes Kev, maybe changing Nelson to the left will make a difference. He scored and assisted from the mid/left and left, so there is a case for moving there. But I still have my doubt and have not been impressed with him over both legs v Sporting.

    Re those needing to emphasise all that they believe is not good about the club…. and feel especially drawn to visiting the blog when the boys have lost…. I can only say that some were born to sing the blues: they are only happy when it rains. Nothing to be done about it, it seems.

  • GN5, good point of having empathy with the players and coaches. Many supporters are so demanding, they feel the club owes them something and a loss is a reason to hack into them. Luckily, we don’t have much if any of this on the blog.

    It is okay to be critical but with humility and empathy.

  • You hit it on the head TA criticizing is ok but come with some humility and be measured not just this and that player sucks or being so harsh on Mikel after a blip yet some of these so called fans have been overboard in boasting about Arsenal leading the table ( while not admitting they wanted Mikel fired long ago). As soon as there is a sign of trouble they turn on the players and manager. Again I had my takes on yesterday about what Mikel could have done differently but I would not have anyone else in his place and he will improve. It is just fun to discuss and share opinions as arm chair coaches and I enjoy learning from others on here and seeing things from different points of view especially from the tactical side.

    As for Reiss he very might be better on the left but if you remember kev his other great match winning cameo came on the right in the Nottingham game where he came on for Bukayo on the right early in that game. I believe he had two goals and an assist. I may be biased where he is concerned but it is such a shame that injuries took away his opportunities for a large chunk of the season. It has been very hard for any of the backups to perform and be judged properly with our second string struggling as a unit this season. I would hope he lands at Brighton who are rumored to be interested in him if he leaves as they play good football.

    Now with some luck I am hopeful we will go to places like City, Anfield and Newcastle with a fully fit Partey whose absence was telling in our defeats to Utd and City but offcourse based on the evidence Granit and Ode are equally important and irreplaceable in our lineup.

  • Total, One of the key reasons of me joining and remaining on BK is the even handed manner in which you run the blog.

    We are blessed to have a group of very knowledgeable bloggers and you allow everyone to express their viewpoints. It’s also wonderful to have so many different nationalities and country’s represented.

    Over the years I’ve spent time on various blogs that have gradually driven me away by the amount of outrageous comments about all levels of our ownership, management and playing staff that were allowed by the administrators.

    It’s simply a joy to come on BK each morning and read meaningful/reasonable well informed comments.

  • That’s humbling, GN5. Thank you.

    We are all supporters and do have our own takes, and I genuinely feel if we were all to meet up a couple of ours before a game and then watch one, we would get on like a cannon on fire!

    One important thing to remember for us all is that, just because somebody does not agree with you, it does not mean they don’t like or respect you.

  • One thing to remember is how machine like Arteta has set up the team, and when one part is replaced or struggles the whole team is affected. This is because the team is still in evolution, despite the enormous progress. The first eleven to fourteen players now click like clockwork red and white, but there is still a while to go to get the whole team to play effectively in the machine. It takes time and a few more purchases.

    Yesterday, Vieira worked his socks off but he is not yet able to knit the game together like the Øde does. He was also not the same safe outlet for the full backs and central mids. It was one of the reasons there were so many misplaced, hastened passes, made worse by Sporting pressing so well.

    Give one or more seasons and all 25 players will play well in the machine. For now we have to hope to stay fit and win as many games as possible.

  • Here are the last 9 games of the season – simply predict a Win, Draw or Loss.

    Liverpool A
    West Ham A
    Southampton H
    Manchester C A
    Chelsea H
    Newcastle A
    Brighton H
    Nottingham A
    Wolverhampton H

  • These are my choices – simply show Win, Loss or Draw.

    Liverpool A – D
    West Ham A -W
    Southampton H – W
    Manchester C A – D
    Chelsea H – W
    Newcastle A -D
    Brighton H -W
    Nottingham A – W
    Wolverhampton H -W

  • Fine post, Total. Honest and accurate. And, a lovingly wise perspective offered by our Senior Statesman, GN5.
    I have always loved the blues, but feel they need a mix of gospel (from which they sprung) in them to take the dark edge off the melancholy they can induce. The Book of Psalms may be considered the oldest blues on record, and countless many have drawn comfort from the searingly honest complaints and despairs they register, a cathartic expression which our human condition absolutely requires.
    But like all the greats from King David to Blind Willie Johnson, to Ella and Marvin, to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, we all need to to add the perspective of hope… “To sing the blues you’ve got to live the dues / And carry on.”
    Amen Kev, we’ve lived those dues in Europe alright. Some heart breaking nights, but we are still in the saddle. We still support the greatest football team the world has ever seen. We are The Arsenal. Friday finds us in the cold ground but Monday is coming… and in the words of our gracious host, “eleven beautiful games to come”.

  • Liverpool A…….win
    West Ham A…
    Soton H…………
    Man City A……
    Chelsea H………
    Newcastle A….win
    Brighton H……
    Nottm F A……….win
    Wolves H………….win

  • Well food for thought here, as always
    Flores is not a player I know well, Kev. I wasn’t impressed by the very little I’ve seen of him, tbh. He’s a right-footed LW, and when you think of Reiss’s level (him I knew well) at that same age, I don’t see how Marcelo could ever make it to the first team. If I had to guess I’d say the club extended him in the hope of being able to cash in on him at some point … but then again, he might be much better than the glimpses (a little more, actually) I caught of him.
    Fabio’s some conundrum, isn’t he? I’ve never been able to ward off the first impression I had after watching his first half in the red-and-white with the U21s, that of a lad who belonged here, even though he was 22, had been bought for no little money, and came from a country where players are used to becoming first-team starters at a very young age. Now about yesterday, he may have wound himself up too hard because he comes from Porto and as a result got unable to harness whatever emotions the idea of knocking a Lisbon team out of the cup had brought up in him, I don’t know …
    I don’t feel like making too much of his bad night at the office anyway, but what I do know is that not only is our Viking skipper out of his league, but Charlie P. is too (and is 3 years younger), not to mention Emile, or Reiss – so for all the praise Mick lavishes on him, I don’t see how GabMart’s buddy could keep his berth in next season’s squad.
    I liked what part Reiss was asked to play yesterday, I really did. It made me think of what Arne Slot sometimes asked him to do for Feyenoord last season. He was outstanding in that very position in Marseilles, in the 2nd leg of the Europa Conference League, and was instrumental in Feyenoord getting the goalless draw they needed to make it to the final. But yesterday I didn’t like his being axed as soon as we started sailing against headwinds. To fulfill his (immense, imo) potential once and for good, he needs to feel that even though he’s not at the absolute top of his game, the manager plays him on because he believes he has it in him to pull some classy trick at some point.
    “Managers must know which buttons to press to have each player bring as much benefit as possible”, the Great Valeri Lobanovskyi used to say. At the end of the Bournemouth game, I couldn’t help but notice the way Ben, Aaron, and BigGab embraced the lad, as though he were a kid brother who had eventually done what his Big Bros knew he could do, but the kid didn’t – they looked so happy for him.
    Just like ’em, embrace the kid, Mikel, he’s a genuine wonderkid, he has many miracles in store for us, but I’d bet a whole lot of money the “Love” button is the one that needs pressing for him to do it – just not the “Tough Love” one.

  • Makayah, yes that Nott F performance did cross my mind as I was posting but I think in general he’s better on the left – I don’t know where the career of Reiss will take him but I can see him eventually playing a more central type role where his close control would really be beneficial, but maybe not at a club like Arsenal unfortunately…

  • LeG I was hoping that Flores’ loan to Oviedo would be his Marseille’s/Reims/Blackpool loan that propels him into the senior squad picture, but I’m not sure it has.

  • “Ain’t no grave, gonna hold my body down…”

    Liverpool A…….win
    West Ham A…
    Saints H…………
    Man City A……
    Chelsea H………
    Newcastle A….win
    Brighton H……
    Forrest A……….win
    Wolves H………….win

  • The entire game was a bit of a pantomime and Ramsdale’s error was comical but the reality was that we couldn’t get another 1 or 2 goals to seal the win. frankly I’m happy to see us out of the Europa toilet cup and able to focus on winning the league. With 9 games to go, we can do it but need to remain focused on the league.

  • Liverpool W
    West Ham W
    Southampton W
    Manchester C W
    Chelsea W
    Newcastle W
    Brighton W
    Nottingham W
    Wolverhampton L (we won’t give a farting f..k because we’ll have been champs for a week, and we’ll be too hangovered to give one about anything anyway).
    Actually hadn’t Lee Mason out-Masoned himself when he VARed our Brentford home game, we’d have been “under the influence” for TWO weeks already!!

  • Nicely tempered article, TA. Just what is needed to put things in perspective as regards that game and the performance of the lads.

    And, that’s quite the post up there, LeGall. Nothing more to add to your submissions. I believe in Reiss Nelson and strongly feel he will be an influential player for our (or some other lucky) club, some day. Sporting pressed us with such ferocity almost all game and you felt even if we scored with up to 3 minutes to play, they could well have pegged us back with another equalizer. Nelson likes to have some space and be given options by teammates, both situations which were lacking last night because of the Portuguese game plan to be aggressive and press certain players hard. It just didn’t suit Nelson …. and Vieira. Both players need playing time and trust of the manager, teammates and fans. I think Arteta and the rest of the lads have that trust in one another, which leaves us, the fans to complete the path into the team for these two young lads.

    I thought being in Europe helped with rotation and a chance to get players back to fitness and but for the manner of our elimination (at home, on penalties), losing out in the UEL is no skin off my nose, since we can now focus on the league. Arteta has a job on his hands to re-energize the boys, have them recover well and ensure we get the wins we need to get the title. Don’t wish to jinx it, but I may just come into London for the Trophy parade, who knows….

  • Liverpool A D
    West Ham A W
    Southampton H W
    Manchester C A D
    Chelsea H W
    Newcastle A W
    Brighton H W
    Nottingham A W
    Wolverhampton H W

  • TA and all nice posts. My perspective of Reiss is that he is a winger that really adds something to the squad. Note that he is coming back only now and still getting used to Arteta system. Let’s remember when Marti came back from injury he was used sparingly and it took him few games to understand the system and structure. Arteta needs his wide men to do a lot and Reiss to be fair did a lot of defending in this game. In a market where a Mudryk is 100 M we should not give up on a home grown talent like Reiss. I believe we did the same with Willock. We just give up on them too easily. Can anyone say that Willock wouldn’t have given us better games than a Viera. Our academy kids deserve a longer rope and we should be patient.
    Coming to Viera, i feel he tries to use his lack of physicalality as a way to manufacture fouls. He should desist that and result his technique to get past physical challenges. That’s what a Bernado Silva does it. He has to be told to not go to the ground if anyone touches him. Referees will not give those as fouls as they see him going down easily. The other problem is his end product is dismal. When we expect a Mo Elneny playing as a DM not to do safe passes then Viera playing high up the pitch just doesn’t do enough in a game. He cannot be trying to back heel in the box but take the responsibilty and test the GK. He was poor and may be the hype of Edu is getting into his head. He needs to be pulled aside and given an earful and tell him he hasn’t achieved anything to put his head down and start producing results.
    Lastly if we win against CP oj Sunday this game will be in the dustbin of History and just another exit from European Cup. If not then the narrative would be that this game was the start of the end of Arsenals title challenge. Arteta will have to rally the troupes and make them forget this game amd concentrate on getting things done in PL.
    On Jesus, he has played for 75 mins up till now and h hasn’t made much impact. Hope he keeps it in locker and produces in the next 11 games. I think we are a bit harsh on Nketia and i feel he has done yomen service for us in Jesus absence. Much as Jesus is a transformational signing we shouldn’t forget that without him our system has coped and produces exactly the same results. That’s the testament to the team work and not any individual. We should never forget that. Team is what matters and not individuals. COYG AND PLS GET THE JOB DONE.

  • T ….. now I have Shirley Manson in my head…
    For whatever reason, our boys could not get themselves up for these games. I think the emotion of the league fight makes it much harder than we realize to take it seriously. Somebody else online said that the real passion in the Europa league is much more for teams that want to get into the champions league. This season that could be Man Uniteds route.

    Our players know in their guts that we’re finishing at least 2nd in the league, so the motivation for Europa is difficult considering how hard the premier league is every week.
    As Kev said, events conspired against us. Two early injury subs, and Jesus planned to do 45 limited us. We played poorly, still messed up good opportunities in their box in regular and extra time… then a highly unlikely goal with probably a zero XG against us. Then close pens.

    All I care is that the boys have enough energy for Palace.

  • I had posted this earlier. Apparently, it didn’t deliver so, here goes another:

    Liverpool A D
    West Ham A W
    Southampton H W
    Manchester C A D
    Chelsea H W
    Newcastle A W
    Brighton H W
    Nottingham A W
    Wolverhampton H W

  • Liverpool A L
    West Ham A W
    Southampton H W
    Manchester C A D
    Chelsea H D
    Newcastle A D
    Brighton H W
    Nottingham A W
    Wolverhampton H W

  • As always, Count of Rouen, a fine encouragement for Reiss, but I really don’t see it happening. I hope ito be wrong as he is a fine human being, but I am 80% sure he will leave this summer.

  • Eris, I hope you are right re Reiss.

    Madhu, I liked Willock a lot but it was the right thing to let him go. Wenger for example held on to these sort of players too long and it doesn’t help anybody. And how long should we wait for the Nelson breakthrough? I say it again, what is missing is presence and initiative, and this is hard to still obtain.

  • J, I knew you like Garbage and would get the reference. Good point about energy levels and focus.

    I find it sad that teams would only get excited to win the Europa League because it means they can enter the CL. But thats because I am a young romantic. 🙂

  • TA looking at the contribution of Willock for Newcastle I don’t think we can say that he wasn’t good enough for Arsenal. Especially when we spent 35 M for Viera.

  • The jury is out for Vieira, Madhu, but we are talking about a different sort of player.

    Joe is a good player and will play for a midtable team during his career. I don’t expect him to survive at Newcastle, and certainly don’t think he has been important in the current team.

  • TA iam very clear. We have to give a longer rope for our academy talents. Willock is doing a job for new castle and he would have played an important role for us and costed us nothing. With Arteta and his high performance coaching staff they would have only made Willock better.

  • Well Madhu, it was Arteta who decided to let him go, and in the end it was great business if you ask me. Tough but necessary decision.

    I feel we need a Trossard buy for the right wing position, but if Arteta feels that Reiss is the man then I will support it. I don’t think he will be at Arsenal come September, though.

  • Penalty kick heart break for my local club BFC in the finals today. Tough luck but extremely proud that club won 11 consecutive games to qualify for finals.

  • Yes TA two penalty heart breaks in a week. Hopefully tomorrow I get a bit of a joy from Arsenal.

  • TA, Reiss may well leave us in the summer, if he doesn’t get the assurance of playing time. I just think he is one player we would hear about later in his career, doing well at some club. His injury problems have not helped his progress at ours, it must be said. He just needs a good run in a side and to recover his confident dribbling style back.

  • Indeed, TA.

    Jync, I saw bits of the game between the Saints and the Spuds; both Theo and Ainsley played parts in that draw, to be honest. Maitland-Niles, for one, only came on early in the first half and played at centre back, because Southampton lost two CBs very early. I thought he did good to come on in such circumstances and play where he played, albeit his team conceding 3 goals may not say that.

    Theo provided a fine assist and was all over the spuds full backs and midfielders on many occasions. They both must have been satisfied with their afternoon’s work. 😁

  • According to “L’Equipe”, Bill’s unavailabilty may last several weeks. That’d be a blow, but Rob was outstanding when he came on thursday, so …
    It was a rugby afternoon for me so I didn’t watch the Tiny Totts live. I watched the highlights though; I know I should rejoice over this last-minute equalizer, and the part Ainsley played in it, but … how could that pen be given in the first place? It really looks as though the PGMO loonies were doing all they could to discredit VAR …
    Frustrating ending to your boys’ brilliant run, Madhu – but cheer up, mate, this might just be the beginning of a golden age for your home team
    And of course, COYG!! Make ’em feel sorry for the way they treated our PV4, lads

  • Just saw that Theo actually scored the 2nd goal for the Saints to peg the spuds back to 3-2.
    Theo Walcott…..scourging Spurs since 2006.

  • Thanks Le Gall. Infact we have been blessed that our club which was formulated only in 2013 has had a glorious decade winning trophies. We started the season with a cup. But this season our football has been dreadful but we still grit it out.
    Hoping for a win against CP to ease the disappointment. Coyg

  • Theo can look back at his career and feel pride even if he didn’t hit the heights that some expected.

    A while ago I came across a YouTube compilation of his goals for Arsenal…. so many great moments he had for us. Looking back at over a hundred,… many memorable in FA cup runs and finals, beating Chelsea in derbys, his hand gesture taunting spud fans while being carried off at Tottenham… I was really impressed. He did pretty well for us.

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