Emery plays down Arsenal's streak

Arsenal's Danny Welbeck scoring the only goal of the game against Sporting. It was the Portuguese side's first loss at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon in over a year.
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck scoring the only goal of the game against Sporting. It was the Portuguese side's first loss at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon in over a year.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrating his hat-trick against Bate Borisov at Stamford Bridge as Cesc Fabregas gives the midfielder a lift.
Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrating his hat-trick against Bate Borisov at Stamford Bridge as Cesc Fabregas gives the midfielder a lift.PHOTOS: REUTERS

LISBON • Momentum is a curious thing. It takes a while to warm up and can go cold suddenly but, right now, it is fuelling Arsenal.

The 1-0 victory over Portugal's Sporting Lisbon on Thursday was not their most inspiring performance in recent weeks, but they had enough quality to extend their winning sequence in all competitions to 11 matches and stamp control on Group E in the Europa League.

Danny Welbeck was the match-winner who inflicted a rare home defeat on Sporting - they had not lost a game at the Estadio Jose Alvalade since Barcelona visited just over a year ago.

Coming into the game, Unai Emery had talked about his liking for the spectacle, for the panache of the goals in recent victories, but this match was more about sticking at it when their game lacked some slickness.

Afterwards, the Arsenal manager was reluctant to look beyond tomorrow's Premier League trip to Crystal Palace despite the Gunners being three wins shy of matching their all-time record set in 1987.

Citing the "very difficult" task ahead, the Spaniard urged caution, saying: "Three matches, that's a lot of matches. We are only thinking of Palace.

"For us, continuing to win is what we want, but we know it's not easy and we can lose.

"Each match is a big opportunity for every player to show us they can take big responsibility, with personality to play like we want."

Back in London, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri also urged patience with "tactical problem" Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who made the most of a rare start to score a hat-trick as the Blues ran out 3-1 winners over Belarus' Bate Borisov at Stamford Bridge in Group L.

Loftus-Cheek has made only two league appearances off the bench this season, and his treble prompted former England managers Sam Allardyce and Glenn Hoddle to say that the midfielder had to "be selfish" and leave his boyhood club for the sake of his career.

But Sarri insisted that the 22-year-old, who remains below N'Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley in the pecking order, would be better off staying with Chelsea and improving the defensive side of his game.

"We have four midfielders and three of them have the same characteristics," the Italian told BT Sport.

"They are offensive, only one has other characteristics - Kante is defensive. It is very difficult to put in the starting XI two midfielders with the same characteristics."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2018, with the headline 'Emery plays down Arsenal's streak'. Print Edition | Subscribe