Yesterday was a game that was played in the manner that the selected team could play it. The result was always a possibility and by resting the majority of the first team coupled with the injuries we had on the books, it was always going to be tough to win out in Porto.
But something I've just found out - because Athletico Madrid, Villareal and Real Madrid all finished second in their group, Barcelona, by finishing first can only be drawn against one of these four teams:
Chelsea, Inter, Lyon or Arsenal
And they’re the form team at the moment – yes it could all change by the time the next round starts but it does get a little bit scary. And of course, by the same token, we could play one of the following teams:
Roma, Panathiniakos, Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Juventus
Who do we want out of that lot? Would Panathiniakos be the easiest? A return for Gilberto?
Okay, back to yesterday’s game.
Porto 2 – 0 Arsenal
Bruno Alves 39, Lopez 54
In a game which saw a reserve side fly out to Porto, it was a makeshift team that took on our Champions League rivals. It was a battle for the top spot in the group and we started with the following team:
Eboue – Gallas – Djourou – Silvestre
Ramsey – Denilson – Song – Diaby
Bendtner – Vela
It was more of a 4-4-2 than a 4-5-1 and we started well. The first twenty minutes saw us get on top and we look good at the back, very good in midfield but a little weak up front. We didn’t really have much going for us up front. Bendtner had another one of those games where he was fairly anonymous. Vela played a little on the left wing, which saw Bendtner often surrounded by defenders.
It was Porto who took the lead – from a corner, unmarked – how many times have you heard that before? This time it was Diaby’s fault – but it was a game where the first goal would be vital. Whoever scored first who change their game into a defensive / counter attacking formation and that’s exactly what happened. The only memorable shot on target in the first half was an effort from Aaron Ramsey.
The second half continued in a similar vein, with Porto defending well and us not really having much in the final third. I suppose it was inevitable by playing four central midfielders that we’d lack width and creativity and all too often, we’d see all four midfielders within 10 metres of each other.
The second goal came through a counter attack and some more poor defending. albeit Lopez finishing well. The game really hung for us on the fact that our attack was non-existent. Vela played well, but a little too deep, and Bendtner, I think had the worst game he’s had in an Arsenal shirt. Arsene, post game, spoke about the inability to pose a serious goal threat:
“We have seen our weaknesses from when we were in a position where we had to come out at the back and put them under pressure, because we lost balls where you cannot afford to lose balls and we were in trouble.
“In the last 20 minutes, they were dangerous every time we lost the ball and we were not effective enough up front.”
He says not effective up front, and I think he’s beginning to realise that Bendtner’s chances are coming to an end. Early season good form pushed him up in our thinking and at one point I thought he deserved a good run in the team, but having had that run, he’s shown most people that he’s not good enough to be considered as a first team regular.
In reality, Gallas, Eboue and Bendtner could well be playing their last season at the Emirates.
When Arsene was asked about his team selection, he said:
“We had some injured players at home, but we have played five times now out of six a game away from home in the Premier League after a European game. This was the only match we could try to protect our next fixture in the championship, that is why we did it. But many of the players who stayed at home were a doubt any way.”
And you’ve got to consider that winning this game had less importance than winning against Boro on Saturday. Hopefully, that is, we will win the game on Saturday, but let’s wait and see. We should have Ade, VP, Cesc, Clichy and Sagna back, and that’s a lot of extra strength to our squad.
But hat’s off to Porto, after a nervy start they really did get into the game and deserved their win. One to forget tonight, I wouldn’t worry too much about the performance or result tonight, it was a tough game to play mentally.
Let’s beat Boro on Saturday and then we’ll all have a smile on our faces.
FC Porto:Helton, Fucile, Rolando, Bruno Alves, Pedro Emanuel, Lucho Gonzalez (Costa 77), Fernando, Raul Meireles, Lopez, Hulk (Guarin 88), Rodriguez (Mariano Gonzalez 78).
Subs Not Used: Nuno, Stepanov, Lino, Sektioui.
Booked: Lucho Gonzalez.
Goals:Bruno Alves 39, Lopez 54.
Arsenal:Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Silvestre, Djourou, Ramsey (Wilshere 59), Diaby (Gibbs 59), Song Billong (Randall 78), Denilson, Vela, Bendtner.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Hoyte, Merida, Simpson.
Ref:Kyros Vassaras (Greece).]]>