The groans at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night when Gabriel Martinelli missed his spot-kick were audible, and it was as if the Arsenal fans knew in that moment their Europa League dreams were over.
Ultimately, it was to be the Gunners final involvement in this season’s competition, but their exit should serve as a blessing in disguise.
Mikel Arteta doesn’t have the squad depth that the teams chasing Arsenal in the Premier League do, and injuries to Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba against Sporting won’t have done them any favours either.
In a season where the north Londoners have set the pace throughout, it would be a great shame for Arteta, his coaching team and the players if they were to run out of steam in their chase for a longed-for Premier League title because of overstretching themselves in Europe.
Under the Spaniard the progression has been obvious, and there’s nothing to suggest that this wouldn’t continue under his able stewardship.
Frankly, Europe can wait.
If the north Londoners can hold their nerve, they’ll deserve all of the plaudits come season’s end. Qualification back into the Champions League will also be a step up in class for Arteta’s young stars, and an environment in which they’d be expected to flourish.
For now, all roads point to the title, and the loss of the extra European games will surely be of benefit to a side that have looked sluggish in some recent matches.
The loss needs to galvanise rather than cow them.