Welbeck horror injury takes shine off Arsenal’s Europa League progress
Fears that the Gunners striker will miss the rest of the season after 'breaking something in his ankle'
08 November, 2018 — By Paul Cowling
Danny Welbeck was taken off on a stretcher after suffering a horrific injury
Europa League Group E
SPORTING LISBON 0 (Mathieu Sent off 87)
ARSENAL’S safe progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League with two matches to spare was marred tonight (Thursday) by a serious ankle injury to Danny Welbeck.
Gunners boss Unai Emery revealed after the goalless draw against Sporting Lisbon that Welbeck had been taken to hospital after “breaking something in his ankle”.
“It’s the worst news, this injury. It’s clear that we are with him in these minutes,” said the Spanish coach. “He was working well and he was having a good match. He had some chances too.
“When you are playing football, when you are playing in competitive matches, it can happen. You don’t want it to happen but this is our profession.”
The injury understandably overshadowed what was, in truth, a forgettable match at the Emirates Stadium. Emery started with only two of the side who began the impressive 1-1 draw against Liverpool on Saturday, with only Rob Holding and Henrikh Mkhitaryan retaining their places.
Emile Smith-Rowe continued his Arsenal education with another Europa League start in midfield, and summed up the scrappy nature of not just the opening stages – but the entire game – when he got himself into a good position on the edge of the box only to hoik the ball into the crowd.
The first real action of the game arrived on 19 minutes when Welbeck’s goal-bound flick was cleared by Sebastian Coates. Just minutes later disaster struck when the injury-prone forward jumped to head a cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner but fell awkwardly.
Referee Gediminas Mazeika quickly signalled for a stretcher, with the England man being fed oxygen and his left leg soon encased in a protective green cast.
Such was the paucity of goalmouth action in the first half, the unfortunate Welbeck had the only effort on target for both sides. “The players had Danny’s injury on their minds. They saw it was a big injury,” admitted Emery.
Despite boasting 70 per cent of the possession, the Gunners continued to fire blanks in the second half. They just didn’t look a threat, not least when Carl Jenkinson hopelessly air-kicked a volley from 30 yards, bringing a much-needed smile to the fans’ faces.
A miserable evening got worse on 73 minutes when Lichtsteiner pulled up with a hamstring injury, which will undoubtedly rule the left-back out until December.
With the game petering out into a bore draw, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who came on for Welbeck, had a goal-bound effort blocked by Coates.
Then, on 87 minutes, Sporting were reduced to 10 men when defender Jeremy Mathieu was sent off for bringing down the Gabonese striker as he tore towards goal. Aubameyang teed up the free-kick just outside the penalty area, but his effort sailed over the bar.
In a rare bit of good news on the night, FK Qarabag beat FC Vorskla Poltava 1-0 in the other Group E match, guaranteeing the Gunners a place in the last 32 of the competition.
“We created chances, but it wasn’t enough to win the game.” admitted Emery.
ARSENAL: Cech, Jenkinson (Kolasinac, 61), Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner (Maitland-Niles, 73), Guendouzi, Ramsey, Smith-Rowe, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck (Aubameyang, 25)
Substitutes not used: Martinez, Torreira, Mustafi, Nketiah
SPORTING LISBON: Ribeiro, Gaspar, Coates, Mathieu, Acuna, Nani, Miguel-Luis (Petrovic, 85), Gudelj, Bruno-Fernandes, Montero (Dost, 68), Diaby (Cabral, 83)
Substitutes not used: Salin, Jefferson, Pinto, Mano