Porto 1-0 Arsenal: 3 talking points as Gunners beaten in Portugal

  • Arsenal slipped to a drab 1-0 defeat away to Porto in the UEFA Champions League after Galeno's stoppage-time winner
  • His neatly taken goal capped a night when Bukayo Saka struggled to live up to "world class" billing and William Saliba looked fatigued.

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 / David Ramos/GettyImages
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Losing the first leg of the last 16 tie against Porto by a single goal isn't a disaster for Arsenal, but the performance at the Estadio do Dragao was stale and tired. In particular, leading lights Bukayo Saka and William Saliba showed signs of fatigue.

Keeping a clean sheet in European competition is noteworthy, but Arsenal played anything like heavy favourites against a Porto team in distinctly ordinary form domestically. Instead, the Gunners lacked pace and ingenuity between the lines, as well as composure in the final third.

It didn't help the home side made it a scrappy affair, wrecking momentum by coaxing numerous borderline free-kicks. Speaking of set-pieces, Arsenal were too reliant on dead-ball situations to create chances against a stubborn Porto rearguard.

The Gunners' lack of impetus moving forward was punished when Galeno beat David Raya from some distance with a special strike that, frankly, belonged in another game.

Things might have been different had Saka and one other key attacker been on form.

Porto 1-0 Arsenal: 3 talking points as Gunners beaten in Portugal

Here are the talking points from Wednesday night's defeat.

1. Gabriel Martinelli was missing in action

Saka's electric form pre-Porto was powering Arsenal's Premier League title challenge, but fellow winger Gabriel Martinelli continues to be missing in action. The Brazilian isn't finding the net with the same consistency and was close to a non-factor in Portugal.

Martinelli's timid showing was surprising given how well he'd performed in Europe this season.

His pace is usually a threat, but Martinelli rarely got behind a well-structured Porto back line. Just as concerning was how little time the 22-year-old spent in obvious goalscoring positions.

Martinelli's ability to hug the touchline and exploit width is a key part of how Arsenal attack teams, but a finisher with his quality should be on the end of forward moves more often. Getting Martinelli to find the net regularly again, in support of a prolific Saka, is vital for Arsenal's chances of ending the campaign with silverware.

This limp performance is a reminder Martinelli still has a ways to go before he can join the ranks of the elite. Saka is a lot closer, but there may be a little more work in his immediate future.

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