On paper at least, this was another step forward for Unai Emery’s Arsenal, who have achieved their primary objective of qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages. The reality, though, is that any feeling of triumph was wiped away by a traumatic and severe injury to Danny Welbeck, a striker of relentlessly bad fortune.
Welbeck’s latest injury, a suspected broken ankle, saw him rushed to hospital while his team-mates were still playing and still trying to come to terms with the sight of their striker writhing in agony in the penalty box.
Some of the Arsenal players were visibly affected by the incident, which was as innocuous as these things come. Welbeck challenged for a header and simply landed awkwardly. At first, it seemed unclear what had happened. Within moments, he had an oxygen mask strapped to his face.
“It is the worst news tonight,” said Emery, who added that the “mentality” of his players had been affected by Welbeck’s departure. Indeed, there can be no denying that it changed the mood at the Emirates and the tone of the performance against a Sporting CP side who celebrated a point as if it were a historic victory.
“When one player is having an injury like that, the players on the pitch, they look at this injury,” said Emery. “First in your mind is to think for the player, but then the players were concentrated for the match.”