There’s little time for basking this week, as Champions League is back on the menu and tomorrow night Arsenal take to the pitch in the first of our two-legged tie against Porto for a spot in the quarter final. It’s an old-familiar foe for us; during the consistency years of always finishing fourth under Wenger, it felt like we played Porto every other season and in some instances it was a lot of fun like when we beat them 5-0 in 2010 with a Bendtner hat trick, but other times it has been less so, like when we’ve gone to theirs in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and picked up two defeats and a draw.

Arteta will be very mindful of the threat that Porto pose when we play tomorrow and I suspect that this evening when he gets in front of the microphones he’ll be very keen to stress that this is going to be a tough match in the Portuguese capital. It seems any time we go to Portugal we have a tough evening; last year we drew against Sporting and then eventually went out in the home game, then there was a couple of year’s back when we drew with Benfica away but managed to pick up the win at home to get us through. We drew against Vitoria Guimaraes the season before that and you have to go back to the season before that – in 2018 – before we get to an Arsenal win out there. So it’s hardly a happy stomping ground and therefore when Arteta is asked his questions at the press conference, I hope he gives us lots of good vibes via positive team news and mood in the camp.

Porto themselves are lagging a bit in their league behind Sporting and Benfica but they are unbeaten in their last 10 games in all competitions, so we’re going to get a side who is certainly playing with confidence and swagger. Admittedly the league their in affords them the ability to play significantly weaker teams than we face in the Premier League, but with the way we’ve been playing of late, you’d hope that the mood is such in the Arsenal camp that the players approach this game with a heck of a lot of excitement and belief.

The big question I’d like somebody to ask Arteta this evening is:

Can you change a winning team? Should you?

That’s the $1million question that I think a lot of us are asking right now. A possible return of Gabriel Jesus to the starting line up – or even the squad – would be welcome, but the way that Trossard and Havertz have been alternating and rotating in their positions right now makes you think that it must be very tempting for Arteta to just say “nope – we stick with what we’ve got for tonight” and to do it across the whole team too. Jakub Kiwior, for example, must be thinking that he has done enough to keep his slot. The challenge he will have, I think, is that Arteta has always loved that inverted full back role and it’s the reason KT is no longer at the club in all but name and loan fee. Kiwior has done a great job in the last couple of games and he’s shown that there is more than one way to skin a left back cat. His version of that position is different to Zinchenko, but you have to say it is by no means less effective and with the confidence of playing back-to-back games, you wonder if Arteta might be looking at tomorrow night’s opponents and working out who will play on that right hand side for Porto, deciding whether or not he needs to have a more natural defender to go up against. Prior to his injury it did feel like Zinchenko was being targeted more on our left hand side and whilst teams have looked to do that a little since Kiwior came in, we’ve not really seen much of him being tested other than a few early moments against West Ham.

So if I was in Arteta’s shoes I’d be sorely tempted to stick with what is working and when you’ve scored 21 and conceded two in your last five games, it does feel like you might be tempting fate if you start to tinker right now.

The counter to this argument is of course the fact that rotation at this time in the season is important to get right. There’s no point in building a squad of 16 – 18 players and then not using them, because you won’t be able to juggle the games well enough, so at some stage he will have to move things around – winning team or not. With the way the Premier League is a defeat or draw to Newcastle on Saturday evening probably isn’t enough to keep pace with City and Liverpool, so you need fresh players who can come in. So whether he decides to rotate a little tomorrow and then a little on Saturday remains to be seen.

The good news is that the hammerings of the last couple of weekend’s has at least enabled him to bring off some of our key players with 15 – 25 minutes to go. Who knows what kind of marginal difference advantage it might have, but it can’t hurt, for which I’m certain that Arteta was also very happy to have been able to do. I guess in an ideal world you have a similar situation tomorrow evening but I don’t think any of us believe that Porto will be as bad as West Ham and Burnley were. For one thing they don’t play in claret and blue… 😉

But this Arsenal team has been clicking for a few weeks now and if they continue with the form we’ve seen of late you never know; we’ve seen this season that teams who open up against us often fall foul of a rampant Arsenal. That’s why we’ve had some joy in the Champions League already, because teams who we come up against are used to winning games and don’t just instantly switch their tactics from attacking football in their domestic league, to Low Block FC in the Champions League. I suspect Porto will want to come at us tomorrow evening and that might be good for us.

More of a match preview and some thoughts from Arteta’s press conference tomorrow. For now have a happy Tuesday and I’ll catch you all on match-day.