William Saliba serene amid the chaos! Arsenal winners & losers from wild Europa League draw against Sporting CP

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William Saliba Fabio Vieira celebrate Arsenal Sporting CP 2022-23
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Mikel Arteta's side will take a 2-2 draw back to Emirates Stadium for the second leg in London next week

Arsenal were far from their best at Sporting CP on Thursday night, but Mikel Arteta's side will go into the return fixture in London next week in good shape after a hard earned 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 clash.

There will be parts of this performance that will have worried Arteta, who saw his side once again concede from a set piece, but the Gunners boss will have been pleased with the character shown by his side to fight back from a 2-1 deficit to snatch a share of the spoils in the second half.

Arsenal's manager made six changes from the team that started against Bournemouth on Saturday and things seemed to be going relatively smoothly when the impressive William Saliba powered a header home from Fabio Vieira's first half corner.

But a combination of poor goalkeeping from Matt Turner and slack defending from debutant Jakub Kiwior allowed Goncalo Inacio to equalise before the break. Paulinho then pounced from close range to give the hosts the lead soon after the interval.

At that point Arsenal looked up against it, but they responded well and got themselves what could prove to be a crucial equaliser, when Granit Xhaka's attempted pass to Vieira deflected off the unfortunate Hidemasa Morita and snuck into the bottom corner to earn the visitors a 2-2 first leg draw.

GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from the Jose Alvalade Stadium.

  1. WINNER: William Saliba
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    WINNER: William Saliba

    Arsenal’s best defender on the night by some distance.

    It was not easy for Saliba alongside Jakub Kiwior, a player who he has never played alongside before at centre-back.

    But he performed well, even though Kiwior looked understandably nervous at times.

    Saliba was the one calming presence at the back for the visitors and made several excellent blocks and tackles to frustrate the hosts throughout a commanding performance.

    And he once again showed his threat at the other end when he rose highest to head home Fabio Vieira’s corner in the first half.

    This was far from a vintage performance from Arsenal, but they had the game’s outstanding performer in the French centre-back.

  2. LOSER: Matt Turner
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    LOSER: Matt Turner

    This was the American goalkeeper’s first appearance since the FA Cup tie at Manchester City in January so it was perhaps no surprise that he looked rusty.

    But Turner will still be disappointed by some moments in the game, especially Sporting’s opening goal from the corner.

    It was an excellent ball in by Marcus Edwards, but it landed inside the six yard box so Turner really should have come off his line and cleared the danger before Goncalo Inacio got his head to it.

    Arsenal’s keeper was then very fortunate not to give the hosts a second goal just before half-time when his poor pass out from the back was intercepted.

    Turner has proven himself to be good back up to Aaron Ramsdale this season, but this was not one of his more assured performances.

  3. WINNER: Fabio Vieira
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    WINNER: Fabio Vieira

    Arsenal’s Portuguese playmaker had a good evening back in his homeland. 

    While a number of his team-mates struggled to make much of an impact, Vieira was always lively and looked like he could make something happen.

    His delivery for William Saliba’s opening goal was excellent and there were several moments when his clever movement caused the home side problems.

    Vieira always felt like the player most likely to open up the hosts and he was very close to getting himself on the scoresheet with an effort that fizzed just past the post in the second half.

    This was a big opportunity for Vieira to impress and it was one he certainly took as he looks to move in front of Granit Xhaka in the pecking order at Arsenal.

  4. LOSER: Jakub Kiwior
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    LOSER: Jakub Kiwior

    This was always going to be a tough ask for Kiwior, who has had to sit on the touchline kicking his heels since joining Arsenal in January.

    These were the Poland international’s first competitive senior minutes since the World Cup and so it was perhaps no surprise to see him look a bit off the pace.

    He did have some good moments, but the way he failed to deal with the danger for Sporting’s first goal was disappointment.

    Even if he did get a shout from Matt Turner as the corner came in, he never really looked like he was ready to deal with the danger and that allowed Goncalo Inacio to have a free header inside the six yard box.

    When he looks back at the replays, Kiwior will certainly be disappointed with his part in the goal.

  5. WINNER: Takehiro Tomiyasu
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    WINNER: Takehiro Tomiyasu

    He may have only been on the pitch for around half an hour, but this performance will have done Tomiyasu a lot of good.

    The Japan international really struggled against Bournemouth at the weekend and was substituted at half-time, with Mikel Arteta bringing on Ben White for the second half.

    That will have hit Tomiyasu’s confidence, so he deserves a lot of credit for the display he produced after coming off the bench against Sporting.

    Arteta brought him on at left-back and Tomiyasu immediately shut down Sporting’s threat down that side, dealing really well with Marcus Edwards.

    And he also looked a danger at times at the other end. He did exactly what Arteta would have asked from him when he was introduced. 

  6. LOSER: Sebastian Coates
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    LOSER: Sebastian Coates

    The Sporting skipper did not play badly, but he did get himself booked in the first half. 

    And that could prove to be a massively important moment in the tie as it was a booking that rules the defender out of the second leg in north London next week.

    That will be a major blow for Coates and for Sporting, as the 32-year-old is such an influential player in their side.

    You could see the disappointment on his face when he was shown the yellow card.