After 25 games Arsenal and Porto were equal. But now…




By Bulldog Drummond

This season, more than any other, has shown that all is not well within football.  To take one example, the regulation stopping clubs loaning players to and from other clubs owned by the same company failed to get passed, so is still legal.   

That means Arsenal and Colorado Rapids can loan players back and forth as much as they like, which might help some young Arsenal players get experience, and for Arsenal to pick up the occasional American talent.  But it also means Manchester City have access to the players of 11 other clubs in their group, including Girona, currently sitting second in the Spanish League.

However, that arrangement will probably be seen as a minor detail compared with the Premier League and the Football League failing to agree a financial deal which would have given the Football League a lot more money. 

With the British government about to set up a football regulator, that is probably going to be near the top of the agenda (although as I have mentioned before, I’d love the “accidental” loss of the medical records of children at football clubs to be the top item).  

As for the vote on reforming the funding the Football League, the government has been telling football clubs that they must do this.  Of course this current government will probably not last much longer, but whoever comes in at the next election is very likely to be picking up on this story.  So maybe something will be sorted.

But let’s move back to tonight’s game…

Between 1969 and the start of this season Arsenal have played 18 games against clubs from Portugal and have won just under half of them.  Six have been draws and just four were defeats.  Which is what made the defeat in the first leg of tonight’s game something of surprise, although as we have noted (and no one else has) less of a surprise when one sees how many fouls the referee imagined Arsenal had committed.

What we can note is that before that game in Portugal a couple of weeks back Arsenal were undefeated in six games against Portuguese teams (three victories and three defeats).

But as we know Arsenal did indeed lose the first leg of this match committing a level of fouls (allegedly) that even exceeded what we saw the club doing under Unai Emery.  So tonight Arsenal need to be ready to play the referee as much as play the opposition.

Now in a major change of approach Football.London has abandoned its wild and whacky notion that it is actually nicking time on a supercomputer (and thus putting the defence of the realm at risk as well as hindering the ability of the Met Office to predict the weather) and instead done a simulation on  EA FC 24 (which costs around £50 as opposed to $325m the US Department of Energy spent a few years back on two 150-petaflop supercomputers – and so is quite a saving).

In their simulation, it was goalless at half-time, but Arsenal then put on the pressure, went 2-0 up and wrapped things up with a penalty close to the end to make it 3-0.

They predicted


White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior;

Rice, Havertz, Odegaard;

Saka, Jesus, Trossard.

The Evening Standard however does have quite a variation and gives us 


White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko;

Odegaard, Jorginho, Rice;

Saka, Havertz, Jesus

Opta Analyst also chimes in with some thoughts, noting, as much as the media do, that “Arsenal have been knocked out of nine of their previous 10 UEFA Champions League knockout ties when losing the first leg, though the exception came against Porto in 2009-10.”

But their analysis loses some its viability when one reads also that in the first Porto game, “Arsenal produced an uncharacteristically toothless performance, failing to record a single shot on target.”  So yet again no mention that in that match Porto’s fouling rate when off the charts.

I do wonder why writers are so afraid of mentioning referees.  After all, they dig up statistics such as Arsenal becoming “just the fifth team to lose five successive Champions League knockout games.”  But I suppose these writers and editors know what they are doing.

And they do at least acknowledge that Havertz has scored four goals in his last four games.   

In their relative leagues, as things stand Arsenal have played more games than Porto, but we can take Arsenal back to the time when they had played 25 games as Porto have now, (23 February) and see how things compare.   And the result is rather interesting…


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
3 Porto today 25 17 4 4 46 17 29 55
3 Arsenal 23 Feb 25 17 4 4 58 22 36 55


The points tally is the same but Arsenal have a better goal difference by having scored 12 more goals, although also conceding five more.   Of course, since game 25 Arsenal have played three more, and won the lot scoring 12 and conceding 2, so the current form also goes in Arsenal’s favour.

We shall see.  If like me you have a ticket, have fun.  If not, try telling TNT to be a little less biased when showing Arsenal than they were in the first leg.  They won’t take any notice, but it helps pass the time.

13 Replies to “After 25 games Arsenal and Porto were equal. But now…”

  1. Call out the ref as much as you like in the away game the facts are we were slow, uninventive, shotless, pretty damn pathetic all in all. The ref didn’t stop us shooting or indeed actually running and creating space
    My fear is not the ref but but another slow Arteta CL display.

  2. Al m, to say “The ref didn’t stop us shooting or indeed actually running and creating space” is just an assertion and needs evidence. The fact is that when a referee blows for a foul on over double the number of tackles that normally occurs, this affects the players’ ability to play their normal game. They become afraid of tackling more because they know that each tackle is liable to give a free kick to the other team. So suddenly they are questioning themselves and wondering how to counteract not just the opposition but the other team. As a result the team looked to you as being slow, uninventive etc. to me they looked like a team desperately trying to find a way of handling the game while not being able to tackle.

  3. Well done, lads!

    I am curious, though…Because our match was postponed, we don’t play this weekend. I wonder if they will have some days off…would be a nice break! They could do some film work for Man City , I suppose…

  4. Porto are a very difficult (and nasty) side to play against. Luckily the ref didn’t fell for it like in the first leg. Raya what great saves he made in the penalty shoot out after having not much to do in the match. Well we are with the best 8 teams of Europe. Great feeling!

  5. I think we kept them at bay most of the time , although they were good on the counterattack. But that must have been very tiring to win it on penalties .
    But well done the lads .
    May this streak keep on going !

    Up the Gunners !

  6. Just consider the cost of Odegaard and Trossard… I mean…. getting them was pure genius

  7. Chris

    Just what I was saying to Mrs N last night.

    Odegaard £30 Million

    Trossard £20 possibly rising to £27

    So lets say £57 Million for the pair.

    Absolute steel the pair of them. Lets hope we here as much about that as we do the ones we get wrong, which happens to everyone by the way.

    After a run of ‘walkovers’ for want of a better word, we have just had 2 of the toughest matches of the season and managed to ‘find a way’. Hopefully more evidence of the immense character and never say die attitude that Arteta this squad has built over the last few years.

    Not saying we are the best team in Europe, or even this Country, only time will tell on that one, but we are now genuinely back up there at least amongst the elite of Europe.

    It feels good.

  8. When I pay for a pint in a pub I don’t expect to be given half a pint
    Porto away only 51 minutes of active football was played.
    Brentford, manager Frank copying Porto’s tactics, it was down to 49 minutes.
    With fans moaning about 8/10 minutes extra time now being played they don’t seem to realise how much they are being ripped off
    Especially with soaring seat prices.
    The stats are there for the media to use but they seem very reluctant to point this out & refuse to print out the actual time played.

  9. I think the referee failed to protect us at set pieces in the first leg from foul play-and in the second leg from deliberate tactical fouling. That’s a big handicap. Nevertheless Porto did their homework on Saka and basically stopped him for 90% of the time and we need to try to create other avenues for him. We also missed Martinelli at home.

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