Arsenal face fears of continuing Champions League hoodoo

Mikel Arteta thinks his Arsenal team is removed from the club’s past history of round-of-16 losses from the UEFA Champions League, but if they don’t rise to the occasion, then another one will undoubtedly occur.

The Gunners will back themselves to overcome a 1-0 deficit from their first-leg loss to Porto on Wednesday, but in order to accomplish that, they need to regain the composure and determination that made them strong favorites prior to play.

Arsenal were unusually subdued prior to Galeno’s magnificent 94th-minute winner, lacking the dynamic football that has come to characterize them: they hadn’t had a shot on goal in a game since January 2022, when they lost to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round, which left Arteta enraged. Here, he was given greater consideration, secure in the knowledge that they have three weeks to salvage the situation.

Arteta praised them for their superb defense. But it’s true that we didn’t complete the play, insert the final ball, or make the proper cross when we arrived to specific places. It’s obvious now that the half is over. The goal and strategy, with the help of all of our followers, will be to defeat your opponent in order to advance to the quarterfinals.

Although they will benefit greatly from a boisterous Emirates Stadium in the second leg, like Porto did tonight, they have yet to win a knockout game in this competition since 2015.

This was another instance of the lack of cunning and game knowledge that marked many of those losses. Although Mohamed Elneny is the only player from Arsenal’s previous appearance at this stage, a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in 2017, the players were not the same as usual. Only they can truly answer whether Arsenal’s record of seven consecutive Champions League round-of-16 defeats weighed on their minds.

Maybe it was a case of inexperience speaking. With Kai Havertz playing every game, Arsenal’s starting eleven had played in 16 knockout stages between them. Pepê, a Porto defender, scored 47 goals by himself. The home team was skilled at disrupting the match. This match saw 36 fouls, which is a season-high in the Champions League, with Arsenal being penalized 22 times. Arteta did not overlook that point.

“It’s something we knew and that we had to prepare,” he stated. It is a task that the referee must oversee. We will have to deal with it and play our game because there is nothing we can do about it.[However] even from set pieces, it appeared like every time we made contact with someone, a foul was committed before the ball was even launched. However, we’ll grow and improve.

The winning goal was the result of two things: an incredible individual display from Galeno and a nervous finish in which Arsenal committed far too many errors. Gabriel Martinelli played a thoughtless pass that Otavio intercepted, giving Porto the possession back. Then, as Galeno collected himself and took aim, Declan Rice stood off of him and fired a fantastic long-range shot past goalie David Raya. Everything seems a bit innocent.

“Well, it’s only the last ball, so if in 94 minutes they haven’t had any naivety other than that one, I think it’s a bit cruel to judge it,” Arteta stated. Yet it is accurate to say that it significantly affected the outcome. Many other things they tried here for the first time were excellent. Naturally, we gave the game away at the end by not handling the situation effectively enough, and for that I am very disappointed.

In the Champions League, there are consequences. You don’t lose something if you can’t win it. Even though we had the better of the game, especially in the first half, we lacked direction. You must play forward, break lines, be far more aggressive, and pose a far greater threat to that back line.

We created a lot of situations and did much better in the second half, but we didn’t really produce much. We shall take what we can from it.

Earlier, Rice had unintentionally set the tone for an unusually nervous performance when, in the second minute, he foolishly fouled the ball following a clumsy play to earn a yellow card. With William Saliba and Leandro Trossard squandering good opportunities, one in each half, Arsenal’s only serious threat came from set pieces. Trossard, Bukayo Saka, and Martinelli combined for just two shots on goal during the entire game.

strained to break through. Galeno had two fantastic opportunities to put Porto ahead in the first half, but he blinked on both of them, hitting the post with the goal at his fingertips and missing the rebound. Arsenal has been incredibly effective in front of goal lately—they have scored 11 goals without reply in their last two away games against West Ham and Burnley—but on this particular night, they felt a touch thin on options. With 24 goals in 43 games in this competition, Gabriel Jesus was greatly missed.

Despite Trossard’s quiet performance, Arteta again declined to give Eddie Nketiah the reins of leading their attack. Instead, he made only one change: Havertz went up front and Jorginho took the place of the former Brighton forward. Though there’s no need to panic, one of the last things this young, talented Arsenal team needs to prove is that it can execute when the pressure is on. Arsenal still has time on their side, but they are having trouble coming up with a solution.

Credits: ESPN

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