Arsenal v Sporting CP

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Interview

‘We’re all fighting for each other and the fans’

Our Super Eagle is flying high this season.

Alex Iwobi has already racked up four assists in the first few months of the campaign, and starred in October’s 3-1 win over Leicester City.
 
The 22-year-old’s form has reflected the team’s, with Saturday’s draw against Liverpool stretching our unbeaten run to 14 games. So why are things going so well for us at the moment?
 
“It’s basically a family and we’re all fighting for each other, not just for the manager and the players, but also for the fans,” Iwobi said. “It’s one big family and we’re always going to fight for each other. We’re putting in an extra shift, not just in matches, but in training as well.
 
“Unai’s very intense in training and he’s demanding because he knows how good we are. He always wants us to be at 100 per cent, giving our best. It’s not just him, though. We know what we expect from each other, so we’re also trying to get the best out of each other in training.
 
“He’s always encouraging me to be positive with the ball, always encouraging me to work hard off the ball for my team as well. It’s not just for me, he’s helped out my other team-mates as well and has helped every player individually.
 
“He’s always talking to them and if it’s not him then it’s his assistants, the other coaches talking to me, showing me different clips, analysing my game, analysing opponents as well. His staff are always helping me. He’s given me that confidence in games and in training to go out and express myself.”

Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Sporting CP: The Brief

The equation heading into Matchday Four of the Europa League is relatively simple - and the rewards undeniably ample.

Should we beat Sporting CP and Vorskla fail to defeat Qarabag on Thursday evening, we will seal top spot in Group E with two games to spare.

That will allow Unai Emery the freedom to rotate his squad en masse for our remaining two fixtures of the group stage, both played during an increasingly busy time in an increasingly tense battle at the top of the Premier League. 

Our head coach will be well aware of the rewards, and having dispatched Sporting at the Jose Alvalade Stadium two weeks ago he will be confident of his side holding up their end of the bargain.

But just as important to him will be extending an unbeaten run that stretches back to late August, spanning 14 games, while continuing the progress we have made in that time.

Read on for a comprehensive match preview, Emery's thoughts on the game, the latest team news, stats, and analysis of the opposition.

The Breakdown - Sporting CP
Emery quote - Sporting
Team News - Sporting CP
The Dangerman - Sporting
AN Live - Sporting CP

 

Gallery

Find out who trained ahead of the Sporting game

Mesut Ozil

The boys were hard at work at London Colney on Wednesday ahead of our Europa League game against Sporting CP.

Find out who was training in our exclusive gallery of images below.

Press conference

'Torreira has done brilliantly well for us'

Shkodran Mustafi knows all about the challenges facing players in adapting to life in the Premier League - and that makes Lucas Torreira's start all the more impressive to him.

The Uruguay midfielder has quickly become a fan favourite after a string of tigerish performances in midfield and Mustafi is just as enthused as anyone.

This is what the World Cup winner told the media at London Colney on Wednesday:

on Torreira’s start…
I’m very happy for him. He played at one of my ex clubs, Sampdoria, so when he came here, it’s of course not easy, because it’s a different type of football in England. You have to give credit to him because he’s someone who works hard, who wants to work hard and who shows that on the pitch as well. Against Liverpool he recovered a lot of balls, and that makes it not only easier for the defenders, but for the whole team. As long as you have the ball, you have more opportunities to score. I think you have to give him credit. I’ve changed a lot of leagues, a lot of countries myself and I know it’s not easy to settle in. I think he’s done it brilliantly well.

on his partnership with Holding…
It’s always important when you play in central defence that you know what your partner next to you know is doing. In football you have always to adapt. You won’t always play with the same players so for me it’s important to have someone next to me who I can play with. That’s the case with Rob, with Sokra, with Lolo and with Mavro too. I have a good relationship with everyone really, it doesn’t matter if we play together or not. In training when we do play together, I’ve felt quite comfortable with whomever I’ve played with. With Rob, we’ve had good results in the last few games, which I’m very happy with as well.

Press conference

'When Bould talks, you listen very carefully'

Shkodran Mustafi arguably delivered one of his finest performances in an Arsenal shirt last weekend as we drew 1-1 with Liverpool.

The World Cup winner was in imperious form, and he says he has learnt a great deal from working alongside legendary centre back Steve Bould.

This is what Mustafi told the media ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash against Sporting CP:

on Steve Bould's influence…
Steve is always there, always giving us a hand. With his experience, when he tells you something he sees in training, you listen very carefully. With his experience, you have to listen to him. I don’t feel that he’s now trying to create something new. He looks carefully at what we do, especially when things are wrong. When things are going good, it’s easy to not look at the small mistakes but he still looks at everything and when he sees something where we can improve, he’s always there to try and give us a hand.

on what Emery has added…
For me personally, the biggest thing was that he’s someone who really knows what he wants from each player. He tells you exactly what he wants you to do, but gives you freedom to expose your talent. When we don’t have the ball, he tells you where to stand and how to get it back, when we have it, he gives you options you can use. You can decide which option you choose. For me it’s a good mix between freedom and discipline, and having the same plan in the whole team. I think that’s what we saw against Liverpool. That was the first game where I felt like we came out from the first minute and were everywhere until the 90th minute. I feel like there’s a good mix between discipline and freedom.

on if the team is more defensively solid this season…
I think that we are very good [when] attacking, and that makes the defensive work a bit easier. When you attack well, and even when we lose the ball, we press straight away to win the ball back high up the pitch. That makes it easier for us to defend because you don’t always have to go back 60 or 70 yards back to win it in your own box. We are very good at attacking but with that, we still prepare being in the right position to recover when we lose the ball as quickly as possible.

on the balance of the side…
I think the midfield players are defensively minded when they have to be. When we have the ball, the players try to create something up front. We try to work as a team, building up from the back. We play forward from the back. When we don’t have it, we press and defend from the front. When we have the ball, we are all offensive players. When we lose the ball, we are all defensive players.

Team news

Team news: Monreal, Sokratis, Elneny

Nacho Monreal

Here's the latest team news update from our medical team ahead of our Europa League game against Sporting CP:

 
Nacho Monreal
Right hamstring. Being assessed ahead of Sporting (h) on Thursday, November 8.
 
Sokratis
Right ankle. Being assessed ahead of Sporting (h) on Thursday, November 8.
 
Mo Elneny
Right thigh. Expected to return to full training in one week.
 
Laurent Koscielny
Right Achilles tendon repair. Currently being integrated back into full training.
 
Dinos Mavropanos
Groin injury. Expected to return to full training in November.

Press conference

Emery, Mustafi: Every word of the press conference

Unai Emery and Shkodran Mustafi faced the media on Wednesday to discuss our Europa League clash against Sporting CP at Emirates Stadium.

Read on for a full transcript from the press conference as they discussed the progress of the team, Steve Would Rob Holding and more:

UE on how he’s feeling ahead of the game…
UE: Good afternoon. [We want to] find our focus in two ways - one is in this competition, which is very important for us. It’s one way [to win] a title and get into the Champions League next year. The second focus is on our work, to continue to improve and to continue with the players, taking responsibility and confidence. Above all, I want to continue at the Emirates [together] with our supporters with the same spirit as in the same matches as against Blackpool, Leicester, Liverpool. Tomorrow is a very good test for us for those two things I have spoken about.

Emery on what he learnt about Sporting in Portugal…
UE: Firstly, respect for them. They are a team with very good players, very good history, also in this competition. They’ve changed the coach but I think for them tomorrow is a very big match and a very good test in this competition, also for fighting for first position against us. But we want tomorrow to give a big match with our personality.

Emery on if Monreal will be involved…
UE: At the moment, we are continuing with the injuries of Mavropanos who is also working with us but also not to start playing with us. Laurent Koscielny too, but he is getting better in each training with us. And then Nacho, we are with him in a very precautionary moment because we don't want to repeat the same injury. At the moment he is starting to train but not with us [for all] and for tomorrow he isn’t in the group.

Emery on Koscielny and when he can return…
UE: The most important is how he’s feeling every day. He can feel better in each training with us and for him. With calmness, he’s nearer, closer to being with us in the competitive games. At the moment, we are happy with him. He is feeling well and after [some] months without every training with the team, I think the most important thing is he is every day with us and getting better every day. We are going to think after the international break how we can continue working and how he can start playing games.

Emery on being one win away from qualifying and if that affects team selection…
UE: Of course the first [target] for us is to finish first in this group. Tomorrow is a very important match because they are second in the table and if we win, we are first in the group. That’s our clear target tomorrow.

Mustafi on partnership with Holding…
SM: It’s always important when you play in central defence that you know what your partner next to you know is doing. In football you have always to adapt. You won’t always play with the same players so for me it’s important to have someone next to me who I can play with. That’s the case with Rob, with Sokra, with Lolo and with Mavro too. I have a good relationship with everyone really, it doesn’t matter if we play together or not. In training when we do play together, I’ve felt quite comfortable with whoever I’ve played with. With Rob, we’ve had good results in the last few games, which I’m very happy with as well.

Mustafi on what Emery has added to AFC…
SM: For me personally, the biggest thing was that he’s someone who really knows what he wants from each player. He tells you exactly what he wants you to do, but gives you freedom to expose your talent. When we don’t have the ball, he tells you where to stand and how to get it back, when we have it, he gives you options you can use. You can decide which option you choose. For me it’s a good mix between freedom and discipline, and having the same plan in the whole team. I think that’s what we saw against Liverpool. That was the first game where I felt like we came out from the first minute and were everywhere until the 90th minute. I feel like there’s a good mix between discipline and freedom.

Mustafi on if Bould has more input now…
SM: Steve is always there, always giving us a hand. With his experience, when he tells you something he sees in training, you listen very carefully. With his experience, you have to listen to him. I don’t feel that he’s now trying to create something new. He looks carefully at what we do, especially when things are wrong. When things are going good, it’s easy to not look at the small mistakes but he still looks at everything and when he sees something where we can improve, he’s always there to try and give us a hand.

Mustafi on if the team is more defensively solid this season…
SM: I think that we are very good [when] attacking, and that makes the defensive work a bit easier. When you attack well, and even when we lose the ball, we press straight away to win the ball back high up the pitch. That makes it easier for us to defend because you don’t always have to go back 60 or 70 yards back to win it in your own box. We are very good at attacking but with that, we still prepare being in the right position to recover when we lose the ball as quickly as possible.

Mustafi on balance…
SM: I think the midfield players are defensively minded when they have to be. When we have the ball, the players try to create something up front. We try to work as a team, building up from the back. We play forward from the back. When we don’t have it, we press and defend from the front. When we have the ball, we are all offensive players. When we lose the ball, we are all defensive players.

Mustafi on Torreira’s start…
SM: I’m very happy for him. He played at one of my ex clubs, Sampdoria, so when he came here, it’s of course not easy, because it’s a different type of football in England. You have to give credit to him because he’s someone who works hard, who wants to work hard and who shows that on the pitch as well. Against Liverpool he recovered a lot of balls, and that makes it not only easier for the defenders, but for the whole team. As long as you have the ball, you have more opportunities to score. I think you have to give him credit. I’ve changed a lot of leagues, a lot of countries myself and I know it’s not easy to settle in. I think he’s done it brilliantly well.