3 things we learned from Arsenal's penalty shootout win over FC Porto

  • David Raya was Arsenal's hero
  • Lack of control and cutting edge
  • More efficiency required as we progress through the competition

Arsenal FC v FC Porto: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Arsenal FC v FC Porto: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Arsenal have made it past the first stage of the Champions League knockout rounds as they triumphed against FC Porto on penalties. This is the first time in 14 years that the Gunners have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Despite some shaky moments, Mikel Arteta’s men were resilient and fought back hard to undo the damage done to them in the first leg of the tie. A goal from Leandro Trossard helped the Gunners restore parity before the contest drifted into a shootout.

Eventually, a heroic performance from David Raya between the sticks thrust Arsenal into the next round, and here are three things we learned from the Gunners' victory.

1. David Raya is the hero we needed

I have made a similar point before and I will make it again: David Raya deserves to be Arsenal’s #1 goalkeeper and the two parties are simply a perfect pairing. Raya joined the north London side before the start of the season and has proven his worth despite the questions raised against his abilities.

This is the kind of player that Arsenal need: a mentality monster. The Spanish goalkeeper put up an excellent performance to help his side fight and emerge triumphant. Arteta praised Aaron Ramsdale’s attitude this season just last week, saying: “He’s been brilliant, he’s been really good, really supportive, really pushing everything in training like I expected and it’s a joy to have two top goalkeepers in the team.”

Raya won the Man of the Match award for his performance and all fans would agree it was well-deserved.

2. Arsenal need to learn to control the game on nights like these

By nights like these, I refer to the Champions League stage. We are used to seeing the Gunners play extremely fluid football, dominating possession and not letting the opponents have a moment to breathe.

However, in both legs, Arsenal struggled to dominate possession. While the goals are more important, possession directly indicates the amount of control a team has had in a game. For a team Arsenal, control is highly valuable.

The north London side often gave away and let relatively easier chances slip by. While the game ended with Arsenal having 58% of the ball, it simply didn't look like the Gunners controlled the game as they usually do. Porto had properly nullified their opposition and it can be said they were unlucky to get away with a win.

3. There is some work to be done on transition based attacking

As mentioned before, Arsenal were completely nullified by their opposition. In games such as these, picking your moments and capitalising on them is crucial. Porto were simply the beginning. As they progress deeper into the competition, the challenges will be much bigger and the Gunners will have to be highly efficient in attack.

Mikel Arteta’s men had a total of 13 shots, of which 4 were on target and one was converted into a goal. There could be questions asked about whether Arsenal need another attacker who can replicate or support Bukayo Saka’s output in the team. However, as Arteta loves to imply, we must control only what is in our hands.

The north London side need to work on their counter-attacks, not in terms of the transition but in terms of their ability to end these counters with a goal. Despite the celebrations, this is a point that must not go under the radar.

At the end of the day, the Gunners still managed to stay calm in a high-pressure situation and exerted just enough control to be able to seal their spot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. It is an exciting time for every Arsenal fan as they see their team progress through the big stage and everyone will surely be looking forward to the upcoming fixtures.