Unai Emery says Arsenal’s injury situation will limit their tactical options against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday as the Gunners try to make it 11 wins in a row.
Emery seemed to rule out using a back three for a second straight Europa League game after both natural left wing-backs — Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac — were left at home with hamstring problems. Emery played a back three for the first time in the 3-0 win over Qarabag last month, but isn’t planning a repeat.
“Some matches they are a very good moment to try different options,” Emery told a news conference in Lisbon. “[Against Sporting] is not the best for us because our composition with the players tomorrow. I think we are going to continue tactically how usually we are doing, but for the next matches it could be a possibility to do that [use a back three].”
Emery once again brought a near full-strength squad to Lisbon despite the tight playing schedule, with games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday this week. Centre-back Sokratis is back in the team after missing Monday’s win over Leicester, but goalkeeper Petr Cech was left at home despite having returned to full training this week following a leg injury.
Emery made it clear he won’t take the game lightly, as it could go a long way toward deciding which of the two teams wins the group.
“For us first this competition is very, very important and the opposition tomorrow is a very good team with a very good experience in this competition,” Emery said. “Sporting changed players and also the coach this year but for us in this moment we are two teams both in the first position and our mind is to arrive first in this group.”
Midfielder Granit Xhaka had to fill in at left-back for the last 30 minutes against Leicester but could be back in the centre of the pitch against Lisbon. The Switzerland international has benefited from playing alongside summer signing Lucas Torreira this season and credited the Uruguayan with helping improve his game by taking care of the defensive duties.
“You can see that he’s important for us because he’s strong in defence and in duels,” Xhaka said of Torreira. “He can play easily from side to side and going forward, he helps with our balance. He lets me play my game with the ball and go a bit more in front.”