Let me start this by congratulating Arsenal on going through to the second round top of their group. After the start they had (although Liverpool and Newcastle have been worse hit in terms of injuries), they’ve done well with a young squad.
Also, I think they were helped by Porto – when Arsenal lost to CSKA Moscow, they could have been in big trouble, but Porto beat CSKA Moscow and as a result didn’t have to win their home game, which allowed them to go easy on Arsenal in this game.
Having said all this, let’s get to the subject at hand – negative football and what Arsenal did last night against Porto.
Arsenal players (and fans) have been guilty of blaming the opposition of playing negatively – defend, defend, defend, without any attack or even the desire to get out of their own half.
Against Porto last night, while Arsenal were struggling to impose themselves on the game, you could see Arsenal on the back foot mentally – they’d lost the will to attack and win the game and were more focused on avoiding defeat. Arsenal were defending like they had against Villareal in last season’s semi-final. They were out of their element, were outclassed and went on the backfoot very quickly.
Wenger at least was very honest about his side’s poor display, and props to him for that.
There’s one lesson in this for Arsenal that I doubt they bothered taking away.
The next time a Premiership side comes to the Emirates, looks lost and decides to close up shop and defend for the next 90 minutes, Arsenal would do well to remember last night and how they looked lost, had given up on winning and were focused on avoiding defeat. Being obviously second-best in a match does that to you.
I don’t think Arsenal did anything wrong – they would have been top with a draw, they got it, fair enough. If they had lost, the way they played would have been an issue but they stuck it out, got a bit lucky (how many times have opposition teams gotten ‘lucky’ against Arsenal?) and eventually, came out with the point they wanted.
But this is what happens when a team can’t handle the pressure, or if they know winning is more fiction than reality. Pragmatism takes over – Arsenal should keep that in mind the next time a team visits the Emirates. They’re a big club, they’re a strong team, time to start acting like one.
“It was uncomfortable for us and we suffered because Porto played well. They appear to have improved since we beat them at home in the first game.”
Yes, home advantage does that to you. Ask Fulham 🙂
“The game was very fair and both teams tried hard to win. Porto tried to beat us until the 85th minute.”
And Arsenal tried to avoid getting beat. Hey, doesn’t that sound like Aston Villa or Manchester City or Everton to you?