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Welbeck winner only highlights Emery’s options as Arsenal’s attacking machine rolls on – football news

As Arsenal touched down in Lisbon ahead of Thursday’s night’s clash with Sporting, the Gunners posted a video on social media of their last training session before leaving north London. A six minute clip showcased a squad in high spirits after 10 successive wins; confident in their ability to get the job done no matter what the data might suggest.

One man who took centre stage during the session was Danny Welbeck, finishing with unerring accuracy past young goalkeeper Dejan Iliev.

Fast-forward 24 hours, and Welbeck was wheeling away towards the corner of the Estádio Jose Alvalade having shown that same precision to net the only goal of the Gunners’ clash with the Portuguese giants after latching onto Lucas Torreira’s through-ball via an error from former Liverpool centre-back Sebastian Coates.

The England international’s 78th minute strike secured an 11th straight victory for Unai Emery’s side, and their third in this season’s Europa League. Many felt Welbeck’s main contributions over the current campaign would come in this competition, and thus far they have been proven correct. But does his form suggest he could be key domestically as well as on the continent?

In his last five starts for Emery’s side, Welbeck has been directly involved in five goals having found the net on four occasions as well as laying on a solitary assist. Not bad for a player who is essentially a third-choice forward.

Welbeck would been forgiven for pursuing opportunities away from the Emirates Stadium. It is unlikely he will move ahead of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who missed Arsenal’s two best chances before Welbeck’s goal in Lisbon – in the pecking order. There are other clubs in the Premier League’s top six – namely those across the capital – where Welbeck would, at the very least, be second in line.

Instead he has knuckled down after a horror run of injuries and made himself a key member of an Arsenal squad that continues to defy sluggish first-half performances and pick up wins.

Again here they struggled during the opening 45 minutes, with a frontline of Welbeck, Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan failing to trouble the Sporting backline, though the three defensive midfielders deployed by Jose Peseiro might have had something to do with that.

Arsenal celebrate 2018-19

At the other end both Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos survived scares, with the latter perhaps a little fortunate that a less lenient team of officials were not in charge after pulling back Fredy Montero as he bore down on goal.

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That said, Bernd Leno was rarely troubled. In fact the Gunners did not concede a shot on target – a first in Europe since their trip to Monaco in March 2015 – as they recorded their first ever win on Portuguese shores in seven attempts.

With Lacazette and Alex Iwobi only making brief cameos off the bench and Mesut Ozil not even required, it is clear that Emery has a forward line the whole of Europe would fear. Having overseen the club’s longest winning run for a decade, the next challenge now is to find the complete performance to go with their raw results.

Whether he can or not remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though – if Welbeck continues his own form they have every chance of challenging for more than just the Europa League this time around.

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‘Liverpool will rip Arsenal to shreds’ – Merson not buying ‘fortunate’ 10-game winning run – football news

Liverpool will “rip Arsenal to shreds”, according to Paul Merson, with the Gunners “very fortunate” to find themselves on a 10-game winning run.

Unai Emery’s side have offered a perfect response to opening their 2018-19 campaign with back-to-back defeats, with Premier League, Carabao Cup and Europa League successes helping to rebuild confidence and raise expectations.

It has been suggested that Arsenal, who slipped out of the top four towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign, could force their way back into title contention this term, so impressive have they been of late.

Merson, though, believes that a return to Champions League competition represents the height of their ambition, with a side that can look like “the Harlem Globetrotters” on their day still considered to lack the consistency and talent to compete with the very best.

The former Gunners star told talkSPORT: “If they finish in the top four they’ve pulled up trees.

“They’ve done well to win 10 games on the trot, don’t get me wrong.

“But when they come up against Tottenham and Liverpool, and especially Liverpool at the Emirates, I would be shocked if Liverpool didn’t win by three clear goals.

“They will rip Arsenal to shreds.

“I’m scratching my head, because Arsenal have won 10 games in a row and in half of those games they could have been behind by so many in the first half.

“But when they get going in the second half, when everything is rolling, then they’re the Harlem Globetrotters.

Mesut Ozil Arsenal Leicester Premier League 2018-19

“I mean look at Mesut Ozil, he was phenomenal [against Leicester]. If he played like that every week, he’d be the best player in the world.

“So no, I can’t buy into it. I think they’ve been very, very fortunate.

“They haven’t played anybody yet, and you can’t play like this against teams like Liverpool.”

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Arsenal are back in European action on Thursday when they travel to Portugal to take on Sporting.

They will then round off their October schedule with a Premier League derby date with Crystal Palace and a Carabao Cup fourth round clash with Blackpool.

November is opened with a visit from Liverpool, while a return date with the Reds and testing meetings with north London rivals Tottenham and old adversaries Manchester United are set to take place in December.

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Emery dodges title talk after latest Arsenal win – football news

Unai Emery would not entertain talk of Arsenal being title contenders after a seventh successive Premier League win lifted his team into the top four.

Although Hector Bellerin’s own goal gave Leicester City the lead at Emirates Stadium on Monday, Arsenal hit back to win 3-1 with Mesut Ozil in fine form.

Ozil swapped passes with Bellerin to equalise before the break and was then instrumental in creating a quickfire brace for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a five-minute spell after the forward’s introduction from the bench.

A 10th consecutive win in all competitions has led to suggestions Arsenal could challenge for the title, with the Gunners moving to within two points of leaders Manchester City and Liverpool.

Emery, though, refused to get carried away when asked whether Arsenal can consider themselves contenders having beaten Leicester to record their longest winning run since 2007.

“We need to be calm,” Emery told a news conference. “For us it’s very important to beat Leicester because they are behind us but near [in the table].

“We are also looking at the teams in front us like Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. 

“We were controlling the match and finding the chances to score. The first 30 minutes was a difficult moment.”

Ozil earned a standing ovation for his match-winning performance having justified Emery’s faith in making him one of five Arsenal captains.

“Very important,” Emery said of Ozil’s leadership qualities. “I think we have a lot of players in the team with this capacity. 

“We have captains. He can play every match with his commitment with or without the armband.”

Nacho Monreal, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Sead Kolasinac all missed the Leicester win, meaning Stephan Lichtsteiner filled in at left-back and rookie Zech Medley was on the bench for the first time.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka then switched to left-back after Emery’s double-change saw Aubameyang and Matteo Guendouzi introduced for Lichtsteiner and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

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Arsenal move on to Europa League action on Thursday, facing Sporting CP in the Europa League, with Emery upbeat Arsenal’s defensive injuries could clear up in time.

“Sunday was a bad day for injuries,” Emery added. “Two in the same position like Sead and Nacho had a small problem. This morning they were not good to play. 

“I hope they can play against Sporting. For Sokratis, he can stay for Thursday, with a lot of matches in a few days it’s important they rest.”

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