We made it 11 consecutive wins on Thursday night as we ran out 1-0 winners over Sporting CP - but what did we learn from our Europa League outing?
A NEW LEFT-BACK OPTION
With neither Nacho Monreal nor Sead Kolasinac risked due to minor hamstring complaints, Granit Xhaka was tasked with filling in at left back. After a short cameo in the position during the closing stages of Monday’s win against Leicester City, this was a much longer and more challenging test for him – up against former Manchester United winger Nani – but he performed well in an unfamiliar position. He may not be a long-term option as a left back, but his versatility certainly makes him a useful temporary solution – and his disciplined display here will have done much to encourage Unai Emery.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Matteo Guendouzi may just be 19 years old, but he certainly does not hide, shirk responsibility or take the easy option when in possession. The French teenager constantly demands the ball, and it a measure of how highly rated he is by his team-mates that they are happy to give it to him to orchestrate things from the base of the midfield. In the first half alone, Guendouzi had 47 touches and made 40 passes, more than any other player on the pitch, and boasted a passing accuracy rate of 87.5 per cent – bettered only by Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny. He may only be in the nascent stages of his career, but Guendouzi’s desire to take hold of a game is highly encouraging.
AS ONE RUN ENDS, ANOTHER CONTINUES
Heading into this match, we had never won an away game in Portugal in six attempts (D3 L3), but we finally put that run to bed thanks to Danny Welbeck’s goal. In addition, not only did the result make it 11 wins on the bounce for Unai Emery’s side, but it also continued our run of second-half goals. We have scored 23 of our 33 goals this season after the interval, and it was a noticeably improved display from Emery’s side here in Lisbon after an underwhelming first half.
WILLING WELBECK AN INCREASING THREAT
While the likes of Alex Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tend to dominate the headlines, the sparkling form of Danny Welbeck has gone somewhat under the radar. The England international has caught the eye with his trademark energy and direct running, but he has added a greater cutting edge to his game too. His goal, a well-taken strike after clinically pouncing on a defensive error, was the fifth he has been directly involved in (four goals and an assist) in his last five starts. It has been a fine start to the season for Welbeck.
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