Times reporter Tom Allnutt was at Alvalade for the first-leg tie and believes the English are “clear favourites” for the London game.
Record arrived to speak to Tom Allnutt, hours after watching the match “in loco” at Alvalade. Despite the fact that the tie was the opposite of the expected result – the bookies tipped Arsenal to win – the Times journalist guarantees that Mikel Arteta’s side were “already expecting a tough game against Sporting”. “I don’t think Arsenal were surprised. They knew Sporting were coming from the Champions League, where they were unlucky not to get through to the last 16 in a group where Tottenham were. Arteta said, after the game, that he knew Sporting were a good team , well organized and with a good coach. So they expected difficulties, mainly because he has some injuries at the moment. The team was not at full strength. A draw is a fair result. It was a crazy game, there was not much structure. Both teams had good chances in the 2nd half, it was very open. I think in the last 10/15 minutes it looked like the teams were happy with the result.” he emphasized.
In the aftermath of the 1st leg, the general opinion in England, of course, gave credit to Sporting for stopping Arsenal, but also placed some of the blame for the draw on the fact that Arteta had not played some of his best. players, cases of Odegaard, Gabriel Magalhães or Partey (the last two were used as substitutes). “Odegard is very important for them, he was sick. Gabriel and Partey were on the bench. Even so, they played with a very strong team. They had Saka, Martinelli, Xhaka, Saliba, Ben White… They are all first .-The players in the team Arteta doesn’t have that many options at the moment due to injuries, so what he presented was close to the best team,” Alnut pointed out, stressing that these factors “do not serve as an excuse.” “Sporting played very well and made Arsenal uncomfortable. “People give credit and credit to Sporting, but it’s also true that Arsenal were a bit underpowered,” he added.
Still in relation to the Lisbon game, there were two particular lions in the retina of the English journalist: “Obviously the [Gonçalo] Ignatius played a good game. He made it 1-1, but it was also his shot that created the corner which he converted into a goal with a header. And from the English point of view we always look at Marcus Edwards. He was dangerous and caused problems with his forays into attack.”
“2nd leg? If they’ve held on at 2-1…”
The draw leaves everything wide open for the deciding game in London next Thursday, which forces both teams to fight for a win to advance. “Arsenal remains the clear favourite”, he underlined, although he knows that Sporting “could surprise”. “Maybe if Sporting had held on at 2-1 the draw would have been more balanced. But at 2-2, with Arsenal playing at home, the feeling is that they are in a good position to go through. It feels good. , sure that he has done the most difficult job and that in London they can win and move on,” he pointed out.
Ahead of the reunion, Arteta’s men turned their attention to the Premier League, which is “undoubtedly the priority”, and already on Sunday they will face… three former Lions, Cedric, Palinha, now Fulham players and Marco Silva. , coach of the cottagers. With Manchester City five points off the leaders, Arsenal will field the best team, which could see Arteta rotate again against the Lions.
“It will depend on the injuries, it is possible that Gabriel Jesus is already at least on the bench, I don’t think he will be in the starting line-up. Maybe Odegaard will come back and play. This season in the Europa League, Arteta has presented strong teams , but not the best. They played seven or eight of the best and then rotated three or four. I think he’ll do the same again, even if he can rest different players.” , admitted Allnutt, who sees the Europa League as “a kind of bonus” for the Gunners. “After the 2nd game against Sporting they have a game against Crystal Palace, which is not the most difficult opponent, but the Premier League is undoubtedly Arsenal’s priority. And you know a mistake or two is enough to give Man a huge boost. City,” he concluded.
By Ricardo Granada
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