Sporting CP host Arsenal at the Jose Alvalade Stadium on Thursday night to kickstart the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 ties. The Gunners are one of the favourites to go all the way in the competition as they will try again to secure that elusive continental trophy. Ruben Amorim’s side faces a huge test to prove their credentials and if they are to be perceived as one of the contenders themselves.
Sporting CP progressed to the Europa League knockout stages after finishing third in their Champions League group and beating Midtjylland in the previous round. Their home form in Europe has been below par, winning one and drawing one out of four matches played thus far. Meanwhile, Arsenal have been in rampant form this season and topped their group to reach the Round of 16. They won five out of six matches, losing only to PSV away.
Below are some stats from both teams from the current season to help foresee how the upcoming meeting between the two could pan out.
Overall performance of both teams
The viz above shows the percentile rank of both teams’ stats compared to each other as well as to other teams in the UEFA Europa League 2022–23. It can be seen that Arsenal have better overall stats than Sporting in almost all the departments. Notably, the English side has superior stats in terms of xG, shots, accurate passes, possession rate, and xGA. Alternatively, there are a couple of indicators in which the Portuguese team holds a slight advantage or is at par, such as goals per 90, recoveries, and PPDA.
Sporting keeps 53.31% possession and attempts 478 passes on average with an accuracy of 84.7% at home in Europe. They take eight shots per match with 37.5% accuracy and have averaged 0.85 xG. Whereas, Arsenal maintains a 65.21% possession rate in away matches, attempting 604 passes with an accuracy of 89.2%. Additionally, the Gunners attempt 12.67 shots per 90 minutes with 29% accuracy and average an xG of 1.82.
Attacking and passing gameplay
The two visuals above show Sporting’s xG map and pass map from their 2-0 home win against Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to goals by Paulinho and Arthur. They penetrated the Spurs’ penalty box with effect, took 11 shots with six on target, and ended the match with 0.99 xG. The Lions played with a deeper backline, with the wingbacks and centre midfielders proving key in linking defence with attack. Sporting attempted 556 passes and completed 490 with 88.13% accuracy. This was one of their best performances of the season, and they will have to try to replicate it to achieve success against Arsenal.
The two visuals above show Arsenal’s xG map and pass map from their 2-0 away defeat against PSV in the last Europa League. Despite making many attempts inside the penalty area and accumulating 1.76 xG, the Gunners failed to find the back of the net. They took 13 shots in total, but only three were on target. They outplayed their opponent through fluent and smooth passing but still lost the game. Arsenal attempted 577 passes with 88.04% accuracy. Against Sporting, they are expected to keep more possession, but they must make sure to convert the chances they create.
Winning possession back
The two viz above compare both teams based on the recoveries they made in their respective games against Tottenham Hotspur and PSV. Both are capable of winning back possession in the opposition’s half because of their urge to press opponents. Sporting made 75 recoveries in total, of which 11 came in the attacking half, as opposed to the 76 recoveries by Arsenal, eight of which were in the attacking half.
Overall, Sporting averages 80.25 recoveries per 90 minutes while playing at home in Europe, compared to Arsenal’s record of 79.67 recoveries in away matches.
Pedro Goncalves has been one of the top performers for Sporting this season. Apart from his 12 goals and six assists in the league, he has scored two goals for the team in Europe, both coming in the last match against Midtjylland. He is a versatile player, able to perform a variety of roles in attack or midfield. The Arsenal players will have to be alert to the amount of space available for Pedro Goncalves in the final third, especially at the Jose Alvalade Stadium.
Eddie Nketiah has done excellently to lead Arsenal’s front line in the absence of Gabriel Jesus. He has slotted in seamlessly and scored four goals along with one assist in the league. The 23-year-old is also Arsenal’s top scorer in the Europa League with two goals thus far. Nketiah brings a genuine attacking threat with his speed, physicality, and ball control, and the Sporting defenders will have the task of nullifying his presence inside the penalty box.
Sporting CP are expected to be at full strength going into this crucial tie with no known injuries or suspensions in their squad. They should be able to field their strongest lineup.
Meanwhile, the injured duo of Gabriel Jesus and Mohamed Elneny will be missing for Arsenal, but the rest of their talented squad seems fit and ready to play.
Sporting vs Arsenal will be one of the biggest matches of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. The stats indicate it is going to be an exciting and intense encounter, with both teams having plenty of quality in attack and defence. Sporting will have the advantage of playing at home in this first leg and will be motivated to carry some advantage into the return fixture. Arsenal, on the other hand, is seen as the favourite to win the tie and will do their maximum to secure a positive result to take back home.
Visuals via Wyscout and TFA data viz engine