Before the World Cup Arsenal’s defensive superpower had been their solidity when a dead ball flew into the box. Only two goals were conceded from set plays, one a Douglas Luiz corner that Aaron Ramsdale might well argue should have been disallowed for the vice grip in which Boubacar Kamara held him in. Every once in a while a giant such as Luuk De Jong is going to rise too high for anyone to defend but the Gunners were exceptional at winning the first header and blocking out opposition runners.
That has changed in emphatic fashion since 2023 dawned. Goncalo Inacio’s unmarked header in the 34th minute was the fourth goal from corners that Arsenal have conceded since the start of the year to go with the wide free kick from which Brentford earned a point at the Emirates Stadium last month. The Gunners drew Sporting 2-2 in their Europa League round of 16 first leg.
One might make the case that the answer to this is little more than statistical variance, that no one can keep their set play defense under lockdown as Mikel Arteta’s side did in the early months of the season. Heck, sometimes you just run into a collection of very tall footballers wearing the colors of Everton and Brentford.
Man United vs. Real Betis: When and where?
Man United host Real Betis at Old Trafford on Thursday, March 9. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. local time in the UK (3 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. PT in the US, and at 7 a.m. AEST on Friday, March 10, in Australia).
How to watch the Man United vs. Real Betis game online from anywhere using a VPN
If you find yourself unable to view the game locally, you may need a different way to watch the game — that’s where using a VPN can come in handy. A VPN is also the best way to stop your ISP from throttling your speeds on game day by encrypting your traffic, and it’s also a great idea if you’re traveling and find yourself connected to a Wi-Fi network, and you want to add an extra layer of privacy for your devices and logins.
With a VPN, you’re able to virtually change your location on your phone, tablet or laptop to get access to the game. So if your internet provider or mobile carrier has stuck you with an IP address that incorrectly shows your location in a blackout zone, a VPN can correct that problem by giving you an IP address in your correct, nonblackout area. Most VPNs, like our Editors’ Choice, ExpressVPN, make it really easy to do this.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta made six alterations here, partly informed by illness striking Martin Odegaard and Kieran Tierney while Leandro Trossard (groin) and Eddie Nketiah (ankle) also left back in London. And despite a flurry of excitement, Gabriel Jesus also did not travel as he nears a return from knee surgery.
Jakub Kiwior was handed his debut while Reiss Nelson came into the line-up after his last-minute heroics against Bournemouth at the weekend. There was inevitably a little less fluidity to Arsenal’s play — especially with so many key players, including Gabriel, Thomas Partey and Odegaard, not involved from kickoff — and at 2-1 down, Paulinho missed a glorious chance to give the tie a completely different complexion.
But as it is, a draw with home advantage to come makes the Gunners favourites to reach the last eight.
It is hardly worth panicking about Arsenal’s set pieces at this stage, but after losing 1-0 at Everton to a goal from a corner, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said: “It did worry me a little bit, [Arsenal’s] handling of set pieces, not just that but your handling of crosses into the box. Once other teams, analysts and coaches see a potential weakness, you are going to have to nip that in the bud.”
“It’s an inswinger, you’ve got to come and use the pace of the ball to get something on it. As a goalkeeper, you’ve got to command the area.”
He was not alone in handing Inacio an all too easy opportunity to draw Sporting level after William Saliba’s opener from similarly sloppy set-piece defending. Gabriel Martinelli had the center back in his clutches but let him slip away all too easily. Jakub Kiwior’s efforts to clear the ball amounted to little more than a shrug as the cross flew towards him. Had it not been for the hash made of the corner, this game might have gone rather differently. Sporting had been putting Arsenal under pressure. But for most of this contest, the visitors were in the ascendancy, dominating possession and leading the battle for shots.
Sporting made the most of the chances Arsenal gave them to hit the sucker punch, a strong start to the second half undone by Paulinho on the break. It says everything of the fortitude of Arteta’s side that they were not blown off course at 2-1 down, the effervescent Gabriel Martinelli denied only by a last-man sliding tackle by Jeremiah St. Juste after carrying the ball from his own third of the pitch, beating three defenders and rounding Antonio Adan. If there were any justice that would have stood as Arsenal’s goal rather than the Granit Xhaka through ball that spooned off Hidemasa Morita.
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