3 standout players from Arsenal’s defeat to Porto

FC Porto v Arsenal FC: Round of 16 First Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
FC Porto v Arsenal FC: Round of 16 First Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Diego Souto/GettyImages

After a long spell out of Europe’s top-flight competition; the UEFA Champions League, Arsenal returned to the knockout stages. However, it was not the return the Gunners may have expected as they were defeated by Portuguese side FC Porto 1-0.

Despite their resounding victories over the last five matches, the north London side weren't able to pull through on the continental stage. While they controlled most of the game, it simply wasn’t enough and Porto ended up taking their chance which won them the first leg.

However, there is a return fixture still to play which will see Arsenal host and that will surely play to their advantage. As for Wednesday night, there were positives and negatives to pick up from the game, among them, the fact that the Gunners looked nervous was perhaps a crucial factor which saw them suffer a loss.

3 standout players from Arsenal’s defeat to Porto

Declan Rice, Martinelli
There's work for Arsenal to do in the second leg / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Here were the three standout players from the game.

1. Declan Rice

In a rather neutralised Arsenal midfield, Declan Rice stood apart as a slight shine. While he was not able to directly contribute to the play in the final thirds of the pitch, he was extremely influential in the build-up.

Despite taking a yellow card early on from a challenge where he tried to cover up for a loose ball, Rice was one of the better performers in the squad. In the 66th minute, he made another crucial block to stop Porto from scoring a goal.

In a game ridden with fouls, the 25-year-old managed to keep his tackles fairly spot on (other than the yellow card of course). His decision making was simply what you would expect from someone debated to be the best defensive midfielder in the world right now. Yet again, Rice has proved why Mikel Arteta was ready to splash £100m to bring him into his Arsenal squad.

2. David Raya

David Raya has slowly melted into the team and proved to everyone why Mikel Arteta chose to make him Arsenal’s #1 goalkeeper. His ability to handle the ball in threatening situations help the Gunners maintain control. 

Raya’s calm circulation of the ball from the back and recoveries massively helped Arsenal. His distribution in this game yet again, is another talking point. However, this is something we can expect from the Spanish Goalkeeper regularly as his performance in the loss was simply the form he has been carrying from the previous games.

The 28-year-old has once more demonstrated why he deserves to be chosen over Aaron Ramsdale. His composure under pressure, ability to stay calm in unexpected situations, and knack for regaining and maintaining control are truly commendable.

3. Bukayo Saka

Arsenal did not quite have their best attacking day yesterday, which is something that comes as a surprise considering the Gunners had netted 21 times in their last five games (before the Porto game). While yesterday was an unusual showing, Bukayo Saka did not miss the chance to show his quality yet again.

Despite not having scored or assisted a goal, Saka was consistently a threat to the Porto side. He kept on frustrating the opposition defenders by moving past them and also registering a total of 11 crosses.  

Saka's presence created openings for his teammates, contributing to Arsenal's overall attacking presence despite the absence of goals or assists directly attributed to him.