Arsenal and Sporting CP will fight for a place in the final eight of the UEFA Europa League at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night. Ruben Amorim’s men performed commendably to hold the Premier League leaders to a 2-2 draw in the first leg. William Saliba opened the scoring for the Gunners, and Sporting rallied back through efforts by Goncalo Inacio and Paulinho until a Hidemasa Morita own goal levelled the final score. As both teams search for European glory, we bring you some of the stats that could predict the outcome of the second leg.
A thrilling first leg in Portugal
Up against an exuberant Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta, Sporting CP made sure to make their home advantage count in the first leg. They went neck-and-neck with the English team after conceding early through a free header and then levelled the score with a free header of their own. Sporting tried to pressurise their opponent to increase their lead further and succeeded early in the second half, only to see the score level once again through a deflected own goal. As a result, the tie is now equally poised, although facing the Gunners in their backyard will be a huge test for Ruben Amorim.
The two visuals above show Sporting’s xG map and pass map from the first leg. They penetrated the Arsenal penalty box and took nine shots, with six on target. Three of the shots, including both goals, came from in and around the six-yard box, as Sporting ended the match with a higher xG rate of 1.56. Sporting played with a deeper backline in a 5-4-1 formation, with the wingbacks tucking inside to provide additional support for the centre-backs. The wingbacks linked up well with the centre midfielders and wide forwards to help the team progress forward. They attempted 295 passes and completed 235 with nearly 80% accuracy.
Arsenal’s xG map above shows they had more chances in the opposition’s penalty area, particularly near the six-yard box. They took 14 shots, with seven on target, and ended the match with 1.19 xG. Sporting players blocked three shots from their opponents. Arsenal played in a 4-3-3 formation with a high backline. They utilised their fluent and smooth passing to stretch the play and attempted 645 passes with a high accuracy of 89.3%. Martinelli and Saka used their tricks and pace to get in behind, but the Sporting defenders were up for the challenge.
The attacking zones
The first viz above shows that most of the progressive runs for Arsenal came from the flanks. By looking at the box penetrations, we can observe that the players made more diagonal runs into the penalty box. They try to create spaces inside the 18-yard box and deliver a key pass that often leads to a goal attempt.
Overall, Arsenal averages 34.86 positional attacks and one counterattack per match in the UEFA Europa League. They take 15.57 shots with 34% accuracy. Mikel Arteta’s side will look to be more creative at home and convert their chances effectively.
Sporting showed more creativity on the right side. The players made most of the penetrations and progressive runs from the right flank. The Portuguese side saw less of the possession but did well to test the opposition’s defence.
Sporting launches 25.67 positional attacks and 0.67 counterattacks per 90 minutes in the UEFA Europa League. The team attempts 12 shots with 39% accuracy. They will look to put pressure on the opponents to keep them from building momentum in this match.
Gabriel Martinelli is having a great season with Arsenal. He is one of the team’s top performers in the league but is yet to open his scoring account in Europe this season. The 21-year-old can be lethal for opposing defences with his pace and clinical finishing but needs to find his composure in the Europa League. Martinelli attempts 2.46 shots (18.2% accuracy) along with 4.93 dribbles per match, and the Sporting players will have to be aware of his ability to make daunting runs in behind.
Sporting will once again be counting on Pedro Goncalves to display his versatility on the night. He is the team’s top scorer in the league and has scored twice in three Europa League appearances. Goncalves takes 3.11 shots per match (40% accuracy) along with 1.87 passes into the penalty box, and the Arsenal players will have to nullify his presence in the final third.
The only exclusion from the Arsenal squad is going to be Mohamed Elneny. Apart from that, there are no fresh injury concerns for Mikel Arteta.
Sporting CP will have to do without Hector Bellerin and veteran first-choice keeper Antonio Adan. Other than these two, Ruben Amorim will go with the strongest possible lineup.
Arsenal vs Sporting will be one of the most important matches of the midweek with both teams seeking European glory. Both teams have plenty of quality in their squad and it is surely going to be another thrilling match. Arsenal are going to be a force to be reckoned with at home, but Sporting will come with the mentality and spirit to create an upset. The Gunners are still the favourites to win the tie, but their Portuguese visitors will be inspired by their brave performance in the previous match.
Visuals via Wyscout and the TFA data viz engine