For Arsenal boss Unai Emery it should have been a routine night on which his in-form outfit clinched qualification from the group stages of the Europa League by doing enough against Sporting Lisbon at the Emirates.
And with the Gunners drawing 0-0 with the Portuguese side and Qarabag grabbing a 1-0 win at Vorskla Poltava, progress was indeed ensured. But the passage into the next stages was far from routine with the blow sustained when striker Danny Welbeck went down awkwardly in the box and suffered a serious ankle injury.
It obviously took the gloss — such as you can have from a mundane goalless draw — from the proceedings and Emery was quick to assess the gravity of what is suspected to be a broken bone for the England striker. The look of horror on the faces of several Arsenal players may have given fans a glimpse of what was to come after Welbeck was stretchered off in the first half. What followed was certainly lacklustre from a team that still managed to extend their unbeaten run to 15 games.
Emery was quick to assess the gravity of the situation. He said:
“This is the worst news. We think it’s serious. He was working well, doing a good match. He had chances. His injury also affects the mentality of the players. When you are playing football, playing competitive matches, it can happen. We don’t want that. This is our profession. Every injury is different. He has broken something in his ankle. It is a different injury than another.
“There’s been a lot of injuries and unfortunately for Danny he has had a few so we are going wish him the best and we’ll keep encouraging and motivating him to get back.”
Many fans and pundits took to social media after the match to suggest that given the serious looking nature of the injury it may well be the last time Welbeck is seen in an Arsenal shirt. When he was quizzed about the future of the attacker — who has largely been used from the bench under the management of Emery — the Spaniard was quick to switch focus to the humanity of the situation.
“He’s a very good person. His commitment with us is very big. He’s helped us with his behaviour, with his quality and his capacity. It’s a very big injury for him, for us, for all people who like and love him as a person.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaced Welbeck on 25 minutes but even the goal-hungry Gabon ace couldn’t alleviate the frustration and a stalemate came to pass.
Next up for the Gunners is a game in the Premier League against Wolves at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with a kick-off time of 4.30pm.