Arsenal 0 Sporting Lisbon 0

Arsenal assured progression to the last 32 of the Europa League despite only managing a goalless draw at home to Sporting Lisbon. The result however was overshadowed with the 25thminute first half  horrific injury to Danny Welbeck who landed awkwardly following an attempted header from a corner. The England man stayed down as Bruno Gaspar fell onto him as they fought for the ball. Welbeck’s right ankle appeared to buckle and after receiving oxygen on the pitch, had to be stretchered off. Unai Emery later described the injury as “very big,” Welbeck who has already fought back to fitness from two serious injuries will now have to do the same again.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaced Welbeck, and on a night when the football was not at it’s best, the Gabon striker hit the bar, and could have had a clear sighter on goal late on, until former Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu impeded Aubameyang and was promptly shown a red card on 87 minutes. The resultant free-kick was just on the D, but Aubameyang was unable to hit the target.

Former Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates was instrumental in snuffing out Arsenal attacks and along with Mathieu the two continually helped Sporting achieve a rare European away leg clean sheet, while inflicting only a second 0-0 for the Gunners under Emery. The Arsenal head coach made nine changes from the side which came from a goal  behind to draw 1-1 with Liverpool last Saturday at the Emirates. Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Alexandre Lacazette were given the night off, with only Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Rob Holding retained from the Reds’ draw.

Despite the Europa League progression, Emery’s first thoughts were with Welbeck.

It’s the worst news tonight, this injury. It’s clear that we are with him in these minutes. He was working well and he was having a good match. He had some chances too. His injury was with the mentality of the players. They [saw] it was a big injury. 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,” said Emery.

The severity of Welbeck’s injury became clearer from the reactions of Matteo Guendouzi and Aaron Ramsey, who suffered a controversial and severe leg fracture from a lunge by Ryan Shawcross at Stoke City in 2010. The former Wales captain was out of the game for almost a year.

Stephan Lichsteiner also went off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Emery was about to bring on Eddie Nketiah at the time, but that changed to the defensive replacement being Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Emery reflected on the concern for Welbeck in the dressing room after the final whistle.

“When one player has an injury like that, every player on the pitch they look at this injury. First it’s in your mind – you think for the player. But I think the players were concentrated on the match and we forgot this injury the next minute on the pitch. But when the match finishes, the first thing they did was ask for him.

Arsenal now switch their attention the arrival of Wolves in the Premier League for a 16:30 kick off on Sunday.