The two goals Arsenal conceded against Porto were more pathetic than my Spanish. I had been in Mallorca since Monday, and could probably say my weak attempts to ask questions in the native Catalan tongue were as sad as the way Arsenal went down in Portugal. Once again, the Gunners will kick themselves for a game lost, and despite Wenger´s rant at the injustice of Porto´s winning goal, the fact remains the players on the pitch should have done more to prevent it in the first place.
On Monday evening, seated around the table with a group of Spanish people, most of who I´d never met before and most of who didn´t speak English, I was still entitled to a mass mocking when it was revealed I supported Arsenal. The words ´Cesc Fabrregash´,´Champions League Final 2006´, ´Barthelona´, and ´Sol Campbell´, were enough of a conversation to receive a laugh at my expense, as I sank lower into my rack of lamb and sweet potatoes.
I´d been cycling with friends around the coast of Mallorca yesterday. We had rode quite far from the city centre and didn´t really account for the journey back on bellys full of beer and caffe con leches, so by the time we reached the British Pub, it was already half-time. To my surprise Campbell had scored and it was the pasty Englishmans turn to laugh, reminding my Spanish Barcelona-supporting pals of his excellent heading ability – consecutive Champions League goals over three years apart is quite something.
The second half was an open affair, the type of game Wenger loves and trains his players for. This was evident at the final whistle when he shared a smile with FC Porto´s manager, Jesualdo Ferreira, at what I presume signaled their pleasure at the entertainment both teams had just created. This is what left me most disappointed, that Arsenal couldn´t capitalise on conditions so well suited to them, far from the deep defending of Stoke and all our incessant moaning that goes with it.
For all the space available to Arsenal on the counter-attack, they didn´t really threaten the Porto goal as much as I expected. Usually with so much room to make runs into, picking their way to the goal is merely dress rehearsal for Arsenal, but on the stage, Bendtner, Fabregas, Nasri and Rosicky just couldn´t deliver the punchline, despite the costume looking good.
Equally disappointing were the goals gifted to Porto, not only because of their soft nature but because it excited the fat, sun-burnt, old Geordie couple perched at the bar like some cheap lager-bathing leeches. ¨Wait til we gettaholda this lot down New-astle next year man, it´ll be 13-0¨. Clearly he needed reminding of the joke state of his club, but I wasn´t going to sink to such lows by indulging his quest for a reaction.
Still, for what I thought was a brave performance defensively from Arsenal, they couldn´t gee themselves up to come back from a quick-thinking Porto goal. On the night it was the best and worst of Campbell: an equalising header (classic) but that ghost from the past who rolls his eyes and feels the weight of the world on his shoulders when he makes a mistake.
Fabianski must also heed some blame. If this was Manuel Almunia, the guillotine would be wheeled out. The Polish keeper is young though and might be excused more than the Spanish one has been this season. Aside from the silly mistakes, he and Campbell generally had quite confident looking games. Fabianski showed his strong mentality to make two good saves after the sloppy errors beforehand, but there certainly is no room for another.
Fabregas was right in the post-match interview, that Arsenal were not strong enough to get back into the match and double their away tally. There was irritation in his voice aimed at the frailties of the squad. It´s the type a fan doesn´t like to hear, especially when it comes from Fabregas, who has a hungry pack of vultures constantly sawing above his head, waiting for a lowness in his tone to begin pecking away at the stability of the lads Arsenal future.
Fear not though because I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth (maybe donkey is more fitting, which is burro in Spanish) when Xavi actually told me Barcelona don´t need Cesc. OK, this Xavi had a long pointy chin and beard, shoulder-length hair, chain-smoked and was slightly more rotund than the Barcelona midfielder, but the fact remains, their fans feel that Cesc is not a necessity, which was good enough for me, and let´s say his frustrations on the night were also a necessity to be heard publically by his team-mates, if things are to change.
The other good news is that Porto now come to Emirates. Last time we gave them a north London battering and qualification to the quarter-finals this time round is still a strong possibility. Porto are a sharp, aggressive, well-drilled unit who posses threatening individuals. Often though, these teams don´t fair the same away from home. Arsenal I´m certain can take advantage of this.
The only other Londoner in the British Pub certainly believed so, bold in slapping hands and locking knuckles with me, and adding a “wagwan blood”. My concern over Arsenal was relaxed by his buoyancy , until I left him making a 50 Euro bet with some local on Campbell scoring for a third consecutive Champions League game. Now I´ll just wait and see. Buenos dias from sunny Spain.

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