Faced with a compact block, Arsenal struggled to find the fault this Tuesday evening in this eighth return of the Champions League against Porto. Often, it is the artists who unblock situations, and the one from the Gunners is called Martin Odegaard. At the best time to score as some say, the Norwegian played one two with Leandro Trossard, who only needed one look to understand his captain’s intentions. After a first combination, the Belgian called on Odegaard, and he complied by first dribbling the Portuguese defenders, then dosing his ball behind their backs. Trossard concluded this great action which allowed Arsenal to win the match and qualify on penalties (1-0 ap, 4-2 tab).

The Gunners have once again proven that this is not a lottery. The Porto players managed to get what they wanted, the penalties, but they came across someone stronger than them in this exercise. As soon as normal time ended, Raya immersed himself in his revisions, notebook in front of him, alongside a member of Mikel Arteta’s staff. As a good captain, Martin Odegaard also set an example by converting the first shot on goal. The best went first, and Raya just had to do her job. The good student remembered the instructions written on his cheat sheet well, he skimmed Wendell’s attempt to push it back onto the post at first. Then, he stopped Galeno’s shot, the same Galeno hero of the first leg, who had scored a magnificent goal in added time. This time he stole the show.


As usual, Porto took Arsenal into one of their favorite exercises, overtime. The last two times that the Portuguese club qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it was in this context, in 2019 against AS Roma, and in 2021 against Juve. This Tuesday evening, they brought out this old recipe, thinking that it would be enough to bring down the Premier League leader. But they failed. They failed to get into English heads. So once we reached the penalty shootout, the psychological advantage was not Portuguese. Out of 210 minutes played in the two matches, less than one half was really appreciable, all so that in the end, the little one did not overcome the big one. The impression that the teams have wasted time and energy in the wind.

If this impression reigns, it is also because opposite, Arsenal were not killers. The entire 90 minutes of the first leg are to be thrown in the trash, and for the return leg it’s not much better. With an offensive arsenal capable of scoring 34 goals in their last 8 league matches, it is not normal for the Gunners to stall in front of a low block in a Champions League match. Havertz, Saka, Odegaard, Jesus, Nketiah, all these beautiful people failed to convert the opportunities, and cost energy to a group which will still need it in the crazy race for the Premier League title. With these players, Arteta’s men could and should have dynamited the defense led by a 41-year-old Pepe. This double confrontation did not bring any certainty to this inexperienced team in C1. In the next round, it will inevitably be an opponent of another caliber. While waiting for the last two qualifiers, Wednesday, Bayern, PSG, Barca, Manchester City and Real already have their tickets in their pockets.