Arsenal must ditch “rusty” dud v Sporting

Arsenal only managed a draw against Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie last week, and will need a more cohesive performance to clinch victory at the Emirates tonight.

The Premier League table-toppers are five points clear in the top flight, and will be confident that current champions Manchester City can be kept at bay to land the first divisional triumph in almost two decades.

But given the strides taken this season, the outfit will certainly have one eye fixed on advancing to the final of the European competition, with Arsenal yet to lift silverware across their distinguished history on the continental stage.

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Drawing in a four-goal affair last time, both sides will know that only victory in 90 minutes will avoid the strenuous stretch of extra time, though manager Mikel Arteta will be bolstered by the knowledge that Sporting have failed to win in any of their past nine away ties against English opposition in European football.

Regardless, the Leões are a dangerous foe, with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur failing to beat them across two attempts in the Champions League group phase earlier this term.

Should Arteta drop Jakub Kiwior vs Sporting?

There is a potential banana skin awaiting Arteta’s Gunners, who will indeed need to channel the imperious energy that has coursed from the Emirates so sublimely throughout the campaign.

And as such, £20m January signing from Italian outfit Spezia Jakub Kiwior must be ditched for the knockout fixture, with his performance against Sporting one week ago leaving much to be desired.

As per Sofascore, the Polish titan recorded a lacklustre match rating of 6.1, the lowest of any Arsenal player on the pitch, and failed to make the impact he would have hoped on his debut for the Premier League giants.

Making a detrimental error after confusion with goalkeeper Matt Turner, resulting in centre-back Goncalo Inacio thumping home a header from a corner, Kiwior did not assert the authority or assurance that Arteta will demand as his side chases glory, with the 23-year-old also losing all five of his duels, hardly the iron-clad presence to divert danger.


Dribbled past on one occasion, failing to complete a single tackle, and substituted in the 71st minute, it was definitely one to forget for the budding talent, who remains an exciting prospect but perhaps should not be entrusted with a successive starting berth in the competition with the north London side chasing silverware across multiple fronts.

Branded “rusty and timid” by the Athletic’s Dennis Esser, Kiwior might be better suited integrating more softly, perhaps coming off the bench to add a defensive dimension if Arsenal require reinforcements to preserve a lead over their Portuguese opponents.

With so much at stake, instilling a more formidable layer over the central defence would be worthwhile, with Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba the first-choice pairing, Arteta might choose to invest in his preferred formula for European success.

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