Why last night’s Arsenal defeat may not be the disaster that it looks




Today on the Arsenal History site: Seven games without a win and Arsenal still won’t sack their manager.

In the 2010s Arsenal played in the Champions League eight times and on seven of those occasions went out in the round of 16.  The other time, 2009/10, it was the quarter-finals.

Of course we are not out yet, but somehow this competition feelt last night like it was too much for the team.   Although we must also note that the refereeing is different, but I’d have thought the players would be ready for that.

Maybe it is because moderate teams from lesser European leagues rest their players, and reduce their effort in the league games running up to the European match, secure in the knowledge that everyone already knows who the final top three in the league will be.

Certainly, there was a strong hint of that from Porto.  Sitting third in the Portuguese league, as everyone would expect, behind Benfica and Sporting, as everyone would expect,  They haven’t finished outside the top three this century.

So everything is reserved for the Champions League, with no thought of what might come this weekend.  In fact it is Gil Vicente, currently sitting 10th in the league, and alerady 30 points behind the league leaders after 22 games.

This is not an excuse for Arsenal; they can read what happens in Portugal as well as I,  and there is every chance of a couple of goals to see Arsenal through next week, but still it is a disappointment.  On the other hand if Arsenal do go out in this round we have the old adage of focussing on the league from here on.

And after all, we have already gone out of the League Cup and FA Cup at virtually the first opportunity.   Plus there is Newcastle on Saturday (at 8pm just to make it even more difficult for people like me who live 86 miles from the ground.)

Since the Unbeaten Season only twice have Arsenal failed to have a shot on target in a UEFA Champions League game: last night and against Barcelona in 2011.  This was clearly not the Arsenal we know.

And we weren’t even playing a top club.  Porto have lost the last five home games in the Champions League against English opposition, 

So what was it?  A one-off?  Or simply that the way Arsenal can play in the Premier League is not the way it works in Europe?

Arsenal are capable of having games in which they don’t score despite being second highest goal scorers in the Premier League at present – and perhaps even more to the point the highest away goal scorers in the Premier League this season.

But the goals are not guaranteed as has been shown in four games this season.   The 1-0 away defeats to Newcastle and Aston Villa, and the 0-2 home defeats to West Ham and Liverpool (the latter in the FA Cup)

So such defeats without scoring are not unknown.   Indeed we also had an array of them last season too.   In fact last season we lost 2-0 in the Europa to PSV Eindhoven, had a goalless draw in the league at home to Newcastle, lost three times 1-0 away to Manchester City, Everton and Nottingham Forst (the Manchester City game being in the FA Cup) and then 0-3 at home to Brighton in the league.

Thus the defeat without scoring is not an anomaly but something that is part of Arsenal’s seasons, even good ones, (as last season is remembered).  The team is somehow thrown out of its stride and a way is found to nullify the normal game.

And indeed it is absolutely not over yet.  Last time we played Porto we lost 2-1 at their place and repaid the compliment (in 2010) by winning 5-0 at Arsenal.   Before that in 2008 we lost 2-0 at Porto, but that didn’t really matter since we had already beaten them 4-0 at home.

So no, it is not all over.  Not by a long way.

8 Replies to “Why last night’s Arsenal defeat may not be the disaster that it looks”

  1. Whenever Arteta sets his sides up to prioritise possession over winning it turns into a mess. Our players simply do not suit or have the technique to play this dire plodding football Arteta churns out so often.
    The last 3 games were demonstrations of the fast pass and attack style that got us better.
    Porto are no mugs and I expect them to score at the Em. Especially as Saliba , even in recent games, is clearly not on top of his game.
    The return leg will be difficult, I would not be surprised to go out at all.
    But then I wouldn’t have a problem with that, not having bought into the Arteta hype.

  2. Arsenal have 60.6% possession this season, the third highest in the league.
    As for “Our players simply do not suit or have the technique to play this dire plodding football Arteta churns out so often,” how can it therefore be that Arsenal are the second highest scorers in the league and have the best defence in the league.

  3. It was quite incredible, not to mention quite debilitating, that Rice was carded in the first minute. It was ridiculous at best and meant him playing with one arm tied behind his back for the whole game. Porto set their stall out very early, one, two or often more of their players throwing themselves to the ground at every opportunity. It was shameful. Yet the ref bought every bit of it. How the hell he saw Arsenal commit 22 fouls in that game will remain one of life’s mysteries.

    It was not a great performance by us but when, from minute one, you can predict what will happen every time you go near an opposition player it is a clear and significant handicap.

    @ Al M

    I haven’t “bought into the Arteta hype” either but I have watched how effective we have been this season and believe therefore, criticism is somewhat bizarre. I’d be interested to know exactly what you would “buy into”?!

  4. The ref was rather different from what we are use to in the PL. It felt as if we were playing some kind of don’t touch your opponent football at times. Porto used this to disrupt any rhytm we could make. I think half of the corners we had were stopped by the ref giving a foul to Porto….
    But what did us most is that we didn’t play with 200% commitment to go out and score a goal. A little bit of playing with the handbrake half on I thougth.
    We usualy struggle when playing in Portugal. So not much change with the past…

  5. I share Mikey and Walter’s views, but it did seem to me that the longer the game went on, the more our players appeared to be losing energy and momentum, looking tired. Conceding possession so casually in the prelude to Porto’s goal was a key example of this.

    I don’t criticise the players, as everyone will have an off-day. It just seemed unfortunate that this applied to a number of our players, particularly our front three, on the same night. I wonder whether it would have been better to bring on any or all of Smith-Rowe, Nelson and Nketiah to inject more energy. It seemed that Jorginho was brought on to secure a draw as a basis for the second leg.

    Let’s hope that there is no hangover for the Newcastle match

  6. I’d disregard AI M comment as clearly has an agenda.But you question these people as to who is the alternaitive manager that can achieve perfection & they avoid the question.They are known as ‘ Les Miserables’.Nothing pleases them.Sad life really.

  7. Do Arsenal need a new striker? I’ve been watching the media pushing the “Toney to Arsenal” stories for the last 3 or 4 months, and can’t help wondering why.

    His off-field behaviour doesn’t seem to suit the character profile of an Arsenal player. It would be a shame if Arsenal splashed the transfer fee of £80-100 million as favoured by the media, only to discover more “revelations” which could then result in a further ban. He will be 28 next month. 80 million seems like an awful lot of money.

    Maybe we already have our new striker, who has scored 3 goals in 4 games for Sturm Graz since arriving from Motherwell in January.

    Sturm Graz’ stadium was previously known as “Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium”.

    I’ll be back.

  8. To go forward to the next round we were going to have to score a goal ( stating the obvious ) we’ve now got to score 2 . I think this team is quiet capable of doing that .

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