Arsenal booked their place in the Europa League knockout stages after a 0-0 draw with 10-man Sporting CP that was marred by an injury to Danny Welbeck.
The point – combined with Vorskla losing 1-0 to Qarabag – was enough to ensure a top-two place for the Gunners in Group E, but the performance left much to be desired.
A lack of fire power meant the few openings the Gunners were able to create went begging, while Sporting – who had Jeremy Mathieu sent off late on – offered even less in the final third.
With Arsenal progressing despite a disappointing display, Welbeck’s injury will be the main concern for Unai Emery and Gareth Southgate, who named the 27-year-old in his England squad earlier on Thursday.
After a lengthy delay, it’s going to be a sad end to tonight’s game for @DannyWelbeck…
Welbz is substituted to the sound of Emirates Stadium chanting his name
We’re all hoping for the best for you, Danny
0-0 (29) pic.twitter.com/F5MHw67Pzc
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 8, 2018
Chances were at a premium in an opening 45 minutes dominated by Arsenal, the Gunners unable to turn their 69 per cent possession into clear-cut chances.
It was a half soured by the nasty-looking injury to Welbeck, the forward having landed awkwardly on his right ankle after meeting Stephan Lichtsteiner’s right-wing cross.
After receiving oxygen and medical attention on the pitch, Welbeck left the field on a stretcher, with Arsenal waiting to learn the full extent of his injury.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the man who replaced Welbeck – went close straight after the restart, but the striker was unable to guide Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross on target.
There was little to get the pulses racing after that 46th-minute effort until Mkhitaryan’s weak shot with 10 to play, Renan Ribeiro getting down easily to claim.
Mathieu’s dismissal for a mistimed last-ditch tackle on Aubameyang offered Arsenal the chance to seal a dramatic late victory, but the substitute blazed over the crossbar in an effort befitting this lacklustre spectacle.
What does it mean? Qualification secured thanks to Qarabag
With two games to go in Group E, Arsenal are already through, which will allow Emery to rotate his squad even more as the Gunners get ready for a busy schedule of 13 games before the end of 2018.
More woe for Welbeck
After his 2017-18 campaign was hampered by injury, Welbeck was looking to force his way into Emery’s thinking this season. However, his first-half injury could mean further frustration and another spell on the sidelines.
Toothless Gunners fail to fire
Emery will be concerned about the lack of quality in the final third from his side as they failed to score for only the second time this season. Even the introduction of Aubameyang – who had scored four goals in three substitute appearances before Thursday’s clash – could not spark the Gunners into life.
Key Opta facts
– Arsenal failed to score for just the second time under manager Unai Emery, also drawing a blank against Man City in the Spaniards first game in charge (0-2).
– Sporting CP failed to have a single shot on target in either of their meetings with Arsenal this season.
– Excluding qualifiers, Arsenal have kept three consecutive clean sheets in European competition for the first time since the 2007-08 Champions League group stages.
– Sporting kept their first away clean sheet in the Europa League since September 2011 (2-0 vs FC Zurich), ending a run of 18 games in which they’d conceded.
– Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had twice as many shots as any other Arsenal player (4), but not a single one of these was on target.
Arsenal will look to extend their unbeaten run when they host Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday, while a Primeira Liga clash with Chaves awaits Sporting.
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