That was a tough one to take in the end and I don’t think I’m the only Arsenal fan that feels a little shell shocked by the way we lost that game away to Porto last night in the Champions League. Like, I’m not even angry or ready to pile in on the team, I’m just a little bamboozled that we contrived to pick up that ‘L’ having been in what felt like control for large parts of the game.

Arteta named the same side and given that this was the team that has played two-and-a-half matches by bagging 13 goals in it, the expectations were that we might get one or two against a Porto side that is currently sitting in third in the Portuguese Super Lig and has not been without it’s problems this season. But Porto at home are a force in the Champions League; I think I heard the commentator that they haven’t even conceded a goal for 14 months in the competition at home, so we always knew this wouldn’t be the same swashbuckling football that we’ve seen in the Premier League of late.

But I don’t think any of us were prepared to see another low block approach, especially from a Champions League side, with one person I follow on my timeline likening this to a Sean Dyche Everton display. At the time of reading that I think it was 15 – 20 minutes in to the games and it made me chuckle, but I wasn’t laughing at the final whistle, because that’s exactly what it felt like had been done to us in the Dragao Stadium. Porto were impressive in keeping their shape and structure, they worked hard to close spaces down, then they looked to take advantage of the few chances they would get and probably should have been one-up in that first half anyway. The guy who scored their goal – Galeno – was the culprit for two super-quick misses off the post and then wide, but as we all know he would eventually turn out the hero with that wonder strike right at the death.

Porto made the better chances, we have to admit that, but I don’t think it was an Arsenal team that looked that troubled for most of the evening. As I said already they kept their shape well, they pressed us in the right moments, showed energy and then when needed to they were in a low block and compact and we couldn’t respond with end product. That feels like the story of our performance last night, because I thought we weren’t very good in the final third at all. Arteta said it afterwards – that we carried no threat – and those guys with whom we’ve been waxing lyrical over their movement and rotation, just weren’t on it. I thought Trossard was pretty anonymous save for a very good chance at the back post that somebody with his technique normally you’d expect to be able to hit the target. Martinelli probably had his worst game of the season which culminated in him being at fault for their stoppage time winner after an errant pass to Saka was cut out. Then Havertz didn’t really deliver for us at all. I thought Havertz was a little more prominent than Trossard on the night, but not by much, then on the far side Saka wasn’t getting any joy from their left back Wendell.

I don’t think we were terrible though. I just felt that the players were a little…well…off. The Arsenal players moved the ball around in the middle third and at the back with a fair bit of ease, we just didn’t seem to have the answer when it came in attack and when you don’t create chances that test your opponent, you always leave yourselves open to a wonder strike like Galeno did. We did the same thing in Lens earlier in the season and were punished with a wonder strike there too.

So all in all it wasn’t great from the lads and I think I wanted to get that across before I talk about the play acting and histrionics, because let’s face it, there was plenty last night. The problem with a referee that doesn’t act on players playing up early like Porto did last night, is that it sets the tone for the game and after the first couple of corners were just waved away, you knew that Porto players were going to be pushing and shoving all night, then as soon as the ball is played in they would hit the deck. There were a couple of hilarious moments where five of the Porto team had fallen down feigning injury after a corner had gone out, then jumping up as soon as they knew all was clear and a goal kick was given, then also when the Porto goalkeeper complained about having his foot stepped on when in w=fact it was one of his own players. And the referee bought it again and again. One moment in the second half Havertz – having already been booked for a nothing challenge – held his hands high in the air, made it very obvious he wasn’t touching the Porto player, who subsequently went down. He even called the medical team on even though he wasn’t touched and when you’ve got the commentators saying “he’s probably got the medics on the pitch to wipe the redness from his face” you know that it was becoming a little farcical.

I said at the end of the game that we needed a strong referee in the second match and I really hope we get one, because we all know that Porto will do all of this all over again at The Emirates. Their game plan is set; low block, try to spring counters, feign injury and time waste at every opportunity. We have to be savvy and wise to this and perhaps you can accuse the team of lacking a bit of wisdom in the way we played out that final minute in which we conceded. Martinelli doesn’t need to make that Hollywood pass, Rice should probably close down the player more and Saliba wasn’t entirely blameless.

So we had a few players with off nights and that sucks. But we have a second leg to right the wrong and we have to hope that we’ve got our shooting boots ready and available then. Until that game, however, there’s the small matter of Newcastle at home to refocus our attention and Arteta needs to get the lads back to London Colney and do a debrief and look ahead to the arrival of the Geordies.

Catch you all tomorrow for some thoughts ahead of that game.