Football but not as we know it as Arsenal win the second battle with Porto



By Tony Attwood

I can’t imagine how the players felt, but I was utterly exhausted and happy – although presumably not as happy as Leandro Trossard who is now only the third player to score in each of his first three Champions League home games for Arsenal.  The other two were Alexis Sánchez and Bukayo Saka.

And I guess we just have to keep on expecting the assists from Ødegaard.  That makes it seven this season – as many as he got lost season and we still have at least 12 games to go.   Our Martin meanwhile has seven assists for Arsenal this season in all competitions, with last night being his first in the Champions League.  And he has scored nine goals.  I wonder why Real Madrid let him go.

But the fouling we noted in the articles after the first game and in the build-up to this match continued.   At 74 fouls across the two games, this was the most fouls in a Champions League game for eight years, almost equalling the 76 between Bayern Munich and Juventus in one previous game of noteriety.  At least Arsenal were seemingly more prepared this time both for the fouls and the referee’s reactions.

And of course there must be a word about Pepe who became the first outfield player over 40 to appear in any Champions League match – although it is hard to find a word that is not so rude, it might cause readers of a more delicate nature to turn to another site. 

For here we have the man who once attacked Javi Casquero with what he called an ordinary tackle and which the tribunal said was worthy of a 10-match ban.   The Telegraph offered him a “certain degree of grudging admiration,” which is a lot more than I offer the Telegraph.

But the trouble for Porto is that their central activity is what the media sometimes call “the dark arts” in order to hide the fact that it is basically cheating and duping the referee.   “Dark arts” can make it sound almost attractive – which it certainly ain’t.  Goodness knows how long they took over any sort of set piece, but if that is how it is in their league matches they must be the most awful team to follow week after week.

Perhaps that is why the traveling support focussed most of its effort on smuggling flares into the ground – which once again they did very successfully.  But the stats are disturbing.  Arsenal commit an average of 9.5 fouls a game according to PGMO referees but in this game were adjudged to have committed 17 – almost double their normal average.  Mind you I suppose they had to up it a bit given that Porto committed 20 fouls.  

The Telegraph referred to the Portovian approach as “dark arts” which is one way to put it but basically, it is fouling and trying to get away with it by protesting at every whistle.   Still at least the Telegraph did recognise what was going on by calling the opposition as “a scheming, sometimes plain dastardly Porto side.”    Their approach, led by Pepe, is obvious: argue with the referee from before the first whistle until after the last, but somehow get away with it.   Just as Pepe got away with falling down when any Arsenal player came within five yards.  It will be good to get back to football sometime soon.

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that some lower-level clubs in the Premier League will watch the film of this game and think, “we can’t beat them at football, but Porto beat them in one game in the Champions League… let’s try that approach.”    Whether PGMO officials would be willing to stand up to them, I am not sure.

Chelsea commit 12.4 fouls a game on average in the league – while there were 37 in this one.   One can only hope that Chelsea and their fellow lower-leaguers were not watching and instead of seeing this as the anti-football it was, see it as a blueprint for survival.   Again I am not sure PGMO officials would have any idea how to cope.

So it is over and we can look forward (???) to the next battle in the competition.  I suppose it is football, but not really football as we know it.


12 Replies to “Football but not as we know it as Arsenal win the second battle with Porto”

  1. Due to health I was unable to attend and had to settle for the pain that is TNT . I was continually irritated by the commentators praising the ref. And incredulous tbh. ‘Letting the game flow’ was their conclusion, exactly the opposite of what was actually happening as time and again any flow was abruptly stopped. As for the paucity of yellow cards, well I can only surmise gbh was required.
    For teh game, agony to watch such was the tension. Thank heaven for a moment of Odegaard genius. Saka has looked poor last few games. Surprised he lasted the wholle game. At least the Ramsdale debate is dead after the last two games! That had become tedious and borderline embarrassing

  2. Rinus Michels, the coach of the Dutch team in 1974, once said: “football is war” . I think Porto played a bit to this notion…. Glad football won

  3. I only heard the odious TNT commentators occasionally as I was listening to the commentary, and every time I did they were praising the referee for his performance and telling us how everyone must of been enjoying his performance as he was letting the game flow?

    I mean really?

    Allowing a team to kick the other is not allowing the game to flow it is allowing the other team to cheat. They kept praising the left back for how he ‘handled’ Saka. HANDLED! He was kicked from pillar to post with zero protection. Luckily for us Saka is an extremely tough cookie, but understandably when these assaults are allowed to go unchecked it does impact on his game.

    Plus, allowing teams to kick one another has the exact opposite effect of ‘letting the game flow’ as it becomes ever more stop start as players are either genuinely hurt and down or feigning injury and down.

    Not sure how long the ball was in play but I would imagine it was similar to the first leg.

    I usually like this ref but I thought he was poor last night.

  4. Agree Nitram. The tackle from behind on Saka in the first minutes of the game should have been a yellow card and then they would know they couldn’t get away with it. Now he just let it go and that was the signal to some more kicking. But all in all he was a lot better than the ref of the first leg who was really terrible

  5. Walter


    As I say, I think he is a good referee and I think we can all see his assertiveness and communication with the players is exceptional. I just think he got the balance wrong.

    It’s possible he saw how badly the first game was handled with endless stoppages and decided he was indeed going to ‘let the game flow’. Unfortunately that just gave Porto even more latitude to employ those notorious ‘Dark Arts’ and we ironically ended up with just as many stoppages.

    The bottom line is. Porto’s tactics are ‘destructive’ and however the referee chose to handle the game they would still attempt to destruct the match.

    No different to the tactics employed by Stoke and West Brom etc. back in the day.

  6. Whichever way Porto played, one thing stands : the Gunners found a way.
    A moment of brilliance from Odegaard, a moment of total composure and talent from Trossard et a penalty shootout where fear was not part of the equation, neither by the shooters nor by the goalkeeper.

    This is a team that is maturing each week, each game, in front of our eyes. Players getting better. Finding solutions as a team. And, what impresses me a lot is how the ‘mix’ that Mr Arteta is putting on the field ends up capable of solving the riddles.

    Who would have thought Jorginho would being so important in some games ? Or that Kiwior would end up being as good ?

    I’d just like Eddie and ESR would be able to get back to the top…. then again, places are expensive and I undestand how complicated it is. Changing a winning team is not a simple thing. This is not Fantasy Football

  7. According to the stats, one side was whistled 20 times, the other 17. Letting the game flow?

  8. goonersince72

    Exactly, ‘letting the game flow’ just gave Porto even more latitude to do their thing.

    The only way to deal with tactics employed by teams such as Porto is as Walter said earlier. That first agricultural tackle from behind on Saka should of been a card. It wasn’t issued.

    From then on they knew they had latitude to do as they wished, and in the end that attempt to ‘let the game flow’ had the exact opposite effect.


    Well said

    It has been, is in fact, an absolute joy to watch this team evolve.

  9. I had to mute the commentary. Ally McCoist couldn’t shut up. If he thought Turpin had a good game then I must question his judgement of officials. Did he think waving an imaginary card and kicking the ball away without caution constituted an acceptable performance. Turpin allowed the usual demolition of Saka’s ankles and legs to be routine. So glad we were able to overcome a Porto side which gave a “Mourinho masterclass”.

  10. One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned in the press is the fact that our captain (Martin Ødegaard) stepped up to take the first penalty.

    Contrast that with Martinez for Inter Milan vs. Atleti tonight.

  11. Porto compares favorably well with Stoke City of old ! Bet this game , has prepared for our next.
    And thank God we playing in London in March ! And it was not raining !
    Up The Gunners !

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