This encounter at the Estádio José Alvalade was going to be stiff test when you consider that Sporting Lisbon have not been beaten there for 12 months.
Currently sitting 5th in the Premeira Liga, Sporting are no soft touch and Arsenal fans who thought that the gunners would hand out a spanking received a much needed reality check.
The first half performance from both sides could be termed in Portuguese “Como observação de pintura seca“ which in English means like watching paint dry.
Life under Unai Emery has all the hallmarks of measured success with the potential to become something more but the Spaniard knows exactly what is required to win this competition and is wary of fan expectations.
Those of us that raised an eyebrow over his recruitment, have been pleasantly surprised by Emery’s ability to put Arsenal back on track after two early defeats in the season.
His appointment was similar to that of Wenger’s, with fans taking to the internet to find out who he was but they are beginning to warm to him and his ways, which has seen Arsenal roll back the years and turn on the style.
As the season wears on, we will be able to judge the contribution of the new coach on a much wider scale but for now, ‘ the boy ‘dun’ good ‘ seems to suffice.
Taking the Arsenal job wasn’t without a degree of danger. Emery could have damaged his reputation considerably with such a high profile club, in such a prestigious league, had things gone wrong early on.
I’ll be looking closer at Emery over three consecutive blogs and the reason I have digressed, rather than cover the first 45 minutes, is that there was little to pass comment on.
It was a scrappy affair, that saw both sides struggle to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and Mkhitaryan’s effort from a free kick was the closest the gunners came to posing a threat of any kind.
Arsenal are becoming a second half side at present and assuming it’s all square for the first period, they seem to be able to hit the accelerator for the second, becoming more creative and lethal.
It still wasn’t a walk in the park but there was s tangible sense of urgency and endeavour.
Danny Welbeck, sometimes erratic, sometimes inconsistent and possessor of a non functional goal radar, had an evening of fluctuating fortunes.
A missed opportunity, a disallowed goal and an unexpected gift were on the menu for the former United striker, who has struggled to enter phase two of his career.
The goal came eventually, like a tax refund in the post.
Torreira provided a long ball forward, Aubameyang’s flick saw Sporting’s Sebastián Coates fluff his lines, by failing to deal with the ball and up popped Welbeck to power the shot through the legs of Ribeiro.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy on the eyes and at times it was extremely ordinary but Arsenal got a result and are sitting comfortably at the top of their group.
It’s an old football cliche but a win is a win. For so many years, Arsenal failed to do what was required or felt embarrassed to win ugly.
This wasn’t exactly what happened against Sporting but they showed a degree of steel and were resolute in their performance.