Arsenal extended their winning run to 11 matches in all competitions as they beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Danny Welbeck was the sole goalscorer as he took advantage of a Sebastian Coates mistake in the 77th minute and smashed home a fine finish from 16 yards.
The Gunners’ victory at the Estadio Jose Alvalade moved them three points clear of Sporting at the top of Group E and maintained their perfect record after three matches in the 2018-19 tournament.
Arsenal Must Improve Depth To Return To UCL
Arsenal’s fine recent run of victories has seen them break into the Premier League’s top four and establish themselves as genuine contenders to win the Europa League.
But if they are to remain in contention to return to the UEFA Champions League next season they need improved depth in their squad.
Head coach Unai Emery made six changes for Thursday’s clash and the second string players were largely unimpressive.
Welbeck was the only really bright spark as he proved again he could compete with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette for a starting forward spot.
He was attuned to Aubameyang’s movement in the build-up to the goal, and his finish was that of a man still high on confidence in the penalty area:
Others were not so impressive.
Stephan Lichtsteiner was sporadically run ragged by Marcos Acuna at right-back and increasingly looks to be a liability wherever he plays.
Sokratis also struggled with Acuna and should arguably have been sent off in the first half after pulling down Fredy Montero when he was through on goal.
Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka looked uncomfortable in a left-back role and Mohamed Elneny was largely anonymous before he was hooked just before the hour.
Arsenal are clearly lacking in genuine quality outside of their first team.
It is a long season, though, and the Gunners are going to need their squad players to contribute if they are to return to the Premier League’s top four or win any silverware.
Thursday’s performance may already have Emery thinking about entering the transfer market in January to find reinforcements.