Arsenal fail to take their chances and Benfica will be relishing return leg

Benfica and Arsenal played out a 1-1 draw in Rome tonight, but it we will be gutted not to have secured the win.

The Gunners opted to start with an unchanged line-up from the one that started against Leeds, and fans were certainly excited to see the teamsheets.

While the team looked setup to play positively, what followed was a chess-match. For much of the opening 30 minutes there was very little risks being taken, but our team started to get the better of the tactical battle.

Arsenal should have taken the lead in fact. Hector Bellerin found himself in the perfect spot alongside the penalty box, and slots it perfectly into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang right in front of goal, only for him to put his effort wide.

We ended up going into the break level in the end, and there could be little complaint after the tepid watch we had all endured, as it certainly wasn’t the greatest watch for the neutrals I can assure you.

Things did start to pick up in the second-half however, Arsenal were being much more effective on the ball, and were managing to get more and more spells in the final third, but we just seemed to be missing that final ball.

Then we were rocked. Benfica had a rare splurge at the other end, and Emile Smith Rowe blocks a cross from by the goal line, but his arm is raised and is immediately penalised with a penalty decision, a correct decision I might add…

Pizzi made no mistake in placing his effort low, and Bernd Leno was too slow to react and get down, although it didn’t appear to be the best penalty we’ve ever seen…

Thankfully we didn’t have much time to wallow in our wastefulness as our boys pulled it back inside two minutes.

Martin Odegaard played his ball in perfectly to Bukayo Saka inside the box to level things, and we now looked set to build on it.

We found ourselves in on goal again with around 20 minutes left to play, when Aubameyang’s run saw him break into the box, but he opts to try and pull it back instead of shoot to try and lose the back peddling defender, but he loses possession…

I’m not quite sure how this is the same Auba who we witnessed bury every given opportunity on Sunday, as I believe it was actually three clearcut chances that he squandered.

The win wasn’t to be in the end, and the 1-1 scoreline leaves the tie very much in the air, but that away goal could prove vital when we meet again in Athens.


Tags Benfica Europa League Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang


  1. We wouldn’t win against Man City if we keep wasting easy chances and Benfica’s level are obviously way below ours. Odegaard is still too invisible for me, but maybe he needs more time to gel with his new teammates

    Smith-Rowe played better in that CAM position than Odegaard and hopefully Arteta would start Martinelli on the LW in the City game. My MOTM is Ceballos, because he made at least two defense-splitting passes and a lot of interceptions

      1. We need to make him permanent in the summer

        Partey is excellent in dribbling as a box-to-box CM, but his passing accuracy and vision are inconsistent. Whereas Ceballos can produce incisive through balls frequently and his creativity is unpredictable

          1. GAI, Ayo & Sue.

            SPOT ON !

            At last some sensible comments regarding Dani Ceballos.

            At least you 3 obviously WATCH his performances for us !

            A very valuable member of the squad, who at the very least keeps us “ticking over”.

            Always showing for the ball from the back 4, a very good “link” player.

            But not only that, this guy can play. Make no mistake, Dani has that “killer” ball in his locker.

            Purposeful and busy ’round the park, always putting in a shift whether 100% on his game or not.

            Could he at times move the ball a little quicker, yes, but there are far worse culprits in the side than D C regarding that aspect of our play.

            If fact some of our lot slow the play down so badly, Dani is actually quite quick in transition.

            For me, pushing for MoM last night.

            I simply cannot understand the “Send him back” “Not Good Enough for Arsenal” rhetoric on here ?

            Particularly with this current squad – are some for real on here ?

          2. A J.. Top comment, Sir! 👍
            I’ve always been a fan and for £22m, we should be all over it!! Come on Edu, get it done..

          1. As what I explained several times previously, Xhaka’s forward passes through our left flank and his positioning are essential to the team. Besides, Partey and Ceballos tend to move forward, so Xhaka is usually the only DM that stays behind to protect the CBs

          2. Xhaka was part of all of Arsenals problems tonight, he is so slow, untalented and first thought is always a negative thought. I dont think i have ever in my life seen a player play a ball backwards than him.

        1. I hope we dont. He’s been here coming up on two seasons now. Has only been good during restart period, and the past couple of games. Besides for that he has way too many games he doesnt make an impact. There’s nothing too special about him. I wouldn’t waste the money on him. Why spend money on a player that is part of a squad that keeps us in 10th/11th place? We need to seriously ask if they add value to the squad and can help us get into UCL. Ceballos doesnt do that for me.

          1. he was fine today, not saying he was bad. I dont think he’s a special player though. Arsenal need special players that make a difference at least every other game. Ceballos is not that player. You can’t go months and months without any real contribution and then play a few decent matches and think you’re good enough for Arsenal. I think standards should be higher for someone from Real Madrid who supposedly wants to start for that side. I think standards should be higher for us as well.

    1. Odegaard has really good interventions in attack…our goal come from a really nice pass from him, and there were others…he was better than esr today in my opinion

      1. Smith-Rowe didn’t play in his best position, the attackers didn’t interchange their positions frequently and our goal was initialized by Ceballos’ defense-splitting pass

    2. How on earth was ESR beter than Odegaard last night. ESR hit 30/37 (81 %) og his passes, while Ode hit 44/48 (92%). Key passes: ESR 0 vs. Ode 3. Duels (som): ESR 5 (1) vs. Ode 11 (6).

      I’ve never commented on this forum before, but seeing you week-in, week-out, commenting absolute drible required me to. It has to be said, youre football analysing skills are one of the weakest i’ve seen, yet you express youreself as if you were an Expert.

      Thank you and goodbye

      1. I agree on the Smith-Rowe v Öedegard comparisson. You can see the experience of Öedegard. Creative, skillful, seeing patterns of play and adapting to the second by second demands of a situation. Also, linking up well with likeminded players such as Sakha and Ceballos to make us a bit more threatening and always on the front foot.

        ESR hss got a lot of potential but he doesnt exude the confidence and ability as the guys mentioned above. In quite a few games ive seen ESR give the ball away needlessly, lose his footing be it under a flimsy challenge or none at all, get caught with ball. Just before he conceded the penalty yesterday, id say just seconds before he got caught with the ball after a pass from Cedric. The pass was reasonable and ESR had ample time to clear our lines with a punt or, another creative pass as one of a possible series. No, messed around, seemed to be in six minds and got caught. Thirty seconds later as a result he was giving away a penalty as a result. Like I say, potentially a goog player and good addition but far from the hype he’s received. He has to be mindful not to believe the hype and rest on his laurels that he’s already done enough.

  2. it was an opportunity to test the potency of our winning formular before sunday game. not a bad performance but the attack were average. ESR, Saka struggled physically and Auba,,,,, hopefully we get better

    1. Why do always think attack is average each time we draw or lose. How many chances did you think it took many. City to beat Liverpool 4-1. How many chances were created today? Strikers will miss a chance or two but if we created plenty we are bound to score more. I don’t know who’s responsible for the way Xhaka play but the way he played today draw is the best result we deserve. I can’t count how many time Matin made himself available for pass by coming into the middle and run in the space expecting pass and Xhaka would not pass to him and took more than 45 seconds to decide where to pass to which is either back Gabriel or Cebellos behind him.

      1. Xhaka is a slow thinker he put a pass through when he is sure of himself. my question is, was he the only one responsible for our lack of incisive pass? as far as i know, odeegar should be the engine room for chance creation. you said Strikers are expected to miss chances? really? ok are defenders also expected to lose concentration and let in goal?

      2. @Mob: that is a decent observation. It’s also not only Shaka as such, but the midfield as a whole. (sell a couple of the 17 CBs and replace with top level midfielder plus start integrating academy player Azeez) for It is scary how essential to ALL Saka is proving to be. Arteta did not dare rest him. I had expected hewould have replaced Auba and Saka with Laca and Pepe for this game – may not have worked.

    1. Sue,

      We got an away goal against Olympiacos remember? The second won’t be at the Emirates too.

      Benfica would fancy their chances to be honest.
      And I am sorry, I don’t like Gabriel very much.

      1. Don’t remind me, Goonerboy 😄

        We didn’t even look like scoring and for Auba to have an off day after such a good game on Sunday, was so unexpected…So, in that respect it could’ve been a lot worse…
        Just have to hope they’re all up for it – it’s now or never!

        I’m still really frustrated though….

      2. He doesn’t need your likeness, he’s not your wife. The team played well yesterday give credit to benfica, they defended well. Everything must not be someone’s fault.

  3. I am not happy at all. The game was not half as tough as I thought it would be. Aubameyang again failing to deliver when it really matters.

    We didn’t play well but we should have scored 3 goals at least.
    I love Arteta so much, now I am beginning to doubt him. He doesn’t have much time from me anymore, except there is an explanation as to why Willian plays ahead of Lacazette.
    Lacazette has not played since the Villa game.

    If we lose the second leg, Arteta is to be blamed with his stupid decisions.

    1. Agree. This was such a winnable game. Benfica played with no intensity. Players just look nervous and uninspired. It’s been a pattern for almost the whole season. I dont know what it’s down to but Arteta hasn’t come close to fixing it. This Arsenal side just goes through the motions. Midfield espescially today.

    2. what decision? willian? thats a right decision i think. at that time we are ok with a goal draw, we needed players to keep the ball and retain possesion

      1. adajim

        Lacazette can retain the ball whilst offering more in attack. Willian does NOTHING!

        Aubameyang, ESR should have been out earlier.

        No urgency whatsoever. Memories from last season keeps flashing back, we should have scored more against Olympiacos but we didn’t.

        I really hope it doesn’t happen that way this time.

    3. Exactly , and also there is no urgency from our team to take the lead, willian is coming on as substitute in everygame and there is no impact, mikel arteta’s player management is awful

    4. At Gunner boy, what about if arsenal win our second leg, what would you have done…. Some of you saying Benfica were poor, you are all wrong, we forced them to play to our pattern, they have an attacking player like Everton but their coach benched him because he knows if he was to play attacking game against us, they will be dealt with that was why I played more defensive game… Also some of you have forgotten that they have experience EPL defenders(Vart & Ota) and also a midfielder like Taraabat who has played in EPL before, so for that you can say they are poor but Arsenal played better.
      Also, some fans have been glamouring for Martinelli ( some prefer him as a striker) and Pepe in his Rw, and Arteta used them as you guys wanted but some fans still never satisfied, Willian only played 5mins games( some fans are still angry with Arteta for using 220k/w man).
      Also Lacazzete will soon be in his final year and I don’t think Arsenal is already to increase his contract(there is a sign that he will leave this summer). Please fans allow Arteta to do his job given to him and let us all support him either in good time or bad time and I believe he will achieve for a lot…….

  4. Honestly, it’s not good enough. This didn’t look like a team that needs this competition desperately. I’m waiting for Arteta to show a reason why he’s good enough to manage Arsenal and I’m not getting it at all this season. Sorry, but it’s getting to the point I ask myself every game why he’s the manager…

    1. We all share and feel same pains I tell you.
      To me, Arteta only keeps making the job seem more difficult with his team selections, subs and tactics.
      We may not have world-beaters for our players but I’m certain this team is easily better than what we’re served and Arteta is majorly responsible.

  5. A big opportunity lost tonight against the poorest Benfica team I’ve ever seen. Having said that, we didn’t play much better either, in fact we looked lethargic, lots of misplaced passes and poor up front. Martinelli was the only one who showed passion. Now we have to guard against Benfica getting an away goal in the return.

    1. Declan, agree 100% with your assessment. All to play for in Greece. Aubameyang should have had another hat trick, notwithstanding the poor passing you highlighted. He needs to get his head together again. Xhaka had a poor game, with lapses of concentration. Odegaard took up some great positions in pockets of space, but his team mates did not pass to him. He needs to demand the ball.
      How important will the “away” goal be?

    1. The team played too safe, despite dominating throughout the match. I think they were nervous, since it was a very important game

      1. Why play do safe when we can finish contest right there in Rome. The hallmark of a good coach is the desire to win every game and this is lacking in our coach. I watch four match today our is the only without desire to win.

          1. How been so super safe will then save his job. There must be a winner and if Benfica wants it more in second leg then Arteta super safe approach we get us nothing.-

    2. Lol..Festival of sideway passes..

      Perfectly captures the theme of our entire season under Mikel Arteta..
      It’s shouldn’t be surprising though..Giving MA himself was a merchant of sideway passes in his days as a Player..Why expect him to suddenly develop a taste for actual attack as a coach..
      The sooner we realize Arteta is still to green to be the one to rejuvenate arsenal the better for us and him

  6. Five subs, Saka, ESR, auba, out on their feet and only one replacement by 75 minutes. Backwards passing for most of the second half. City will eat us alive.

  7. Disappointing game considering the line-up. I thought we stated sluggishly and never really got going. We need to play a fast game or it throws our passing and movement out. Benfica were poor and we should have buried them. Half the team looked jaded, including Saka and ESR. Why would nobody pass to Odegaard? I must be watching another game – I thought that Xhaka and Ceballos bossed the game and had great commitment. Although both were prone to misplaced passes they were the two that played like they really cared. Gabriel was so imperious that I thought for a while we were playing with only one centre back!. It was the fowards who were most off key. As for Auba – after the one game where I thought he was back he produces another disapponting one. Tho only good thing is that at least he’s not hiding any more. But if any other forward – Nketiah for example, had missed that sitter we would be crucifying him now.

  8. Difficult to watch … some hope in saka ceballos … mom by a country mile … and ostergaard before he faded (should have been subed around 75 mins).. Cedric was good and should replace bellerin (who was hopeless) against city and Gabriel was solid … as long as Luiz and xhaka are in team we will be playing a lot of our football at geriatric pace in our own half … smith Rowe had a couple of nice touches but should be replaced by Pepe or martinelli on the left … aubemayang had an awful match … there is a very decent first 11 in this squad sadly arteta isn’t the manager to construct it

  9. As a football match, we couldn’t have got much less out of it than we did. It was a game where as we do all to often we gave more than we took. Benfica were poor and didn’t do anything for a goal and we were wasteful and not particularly determined to play on the front foot. As a tie its half time but this type of performance seems to be more of an Arteta trademark than i like, i get bored and hate this style of play. A game that should have been 4-0 all day, inexplicably ended 1-1, plus again i didn’t get Artetas substitutions at all.

    1. Yeah Reggie- I’m with you on that shoreline. If we had showed intensity in our play from the start we would have coasted that game. Benfica are not a good side at all and with the starting eleven Arteta put out there tonight this tie should have been wrapped up.

      1. Phil the most important thing is we go through, if we dont then that would be a disaster after the way it went tonight. Benfica were very poor and we couldn’t beat them. It sounds like a moan, it is but it is also a fact, this happens all too often and it shouldn’t.

  10. Auba party hard for his first hat trick and hangover during the match. By look of his face and the way he play, I can say that. He can’t run, keep falling and can’t score close ball.. We r wasting time wt player like him.
    He play 1 Leeds game well, now disappear again.. He is the worst player on the pitch today.
    Now he have mouth watering midfielder. Love to watch the way they play but player like Auba kill the momentum.

  11. Even for us that was a ridiculous amount of sideways/backwards passing…painful to watch at times and we were atrocious with final balls in the final third…too bad for Auba, as I think he was a little surprised that Saka let it run on to him, but should have potted it…little did he know that it would be the best chance to get another goal…what a waste of a good lineup, but even in the second half there was no real tactical adjustment, minus Xhaka dropping into that false LB role…the spacing between our defenders and two DMs was so ridiculously close at times which made no sense against a team who wants to press, as they don’t have to commit as many players when you have 2 players occupying functionally the same space…as such, it limits your capacity to find lanes for more vertical passing attacks…poor, sloppy & scared performance

    1. TRVL- you have sort of summed it up. We went in with an attacking line-up but were too restrictive and hesitant in the way in which we played. There seemed very little attacking intent against a team who were there for the taking. Why have an offensive team selected if the emphasis is too conservative?
      Arteta is leaving himself open to all the criticism he is getting at the moment.

        1. They were like lambs to the slaughter and we reprieved them. I blame Auba but also Arteta for the lack of abilty to take advantage of the obvious.

  12. It’s shocking that the only real viable long ball threats came from Gabriel, which is why he should be an everyday starter…I would team him with Holding so that he can roam a bit more up the pitch knowing that he has someone beside him that’s generally a defence-first CB…sadly Bellerin’s movement off the ball was much better tonight, but his end product was typically lacking…it seems like he’s been given the go ahead to tuck inside a lot more than usual, which means that Ceballos has to provide cover, much like Xhaka does on the other side, but why wouldn’t you rather have Ceballos getting into those spaces as he’s much more consistent with his ball distribution in the final third…furthermore, on that wet, slow pitch, why aren’t we ramping up the speed of our passes…our passing, for much of the season, has been so slow and deliberate, with very little one touch interplay, that it makes it incredibly tough to breakdown defences that are allowed to always properly position themselves

  13. Aubameyang must be blamed for those pathetic misses. Xhaka as well for his silly fouls and misplaced passes. With that said, we should make easy work of Benfica in the return leg. I just don’t see us getting eliminated by such level of opposition.

    1. Olympiakos? Arsenal can’t just turn up to win, especially when the return “home” leg is in Greece, when the team couldn’t win at the Emirates last season.

  14. I’ve said it fairly often on here and will say it again

    As soon as a team sets up relative deep to defend most of the game, MA really struggles to get a win.

    I will get excited about him as a manager once he proves he can break down teams that sit deep on a regular basis, so far he is inept in this regard.

    e.g. This identical team looked great against Leeds…why…..they don’t sit deep.

  15. I wanted MA to succeed so much but evidence shows he is more an Everton than La masia, Arsenal or mancity student.
    Players cant pass, no movement, cant hold or protect the ball, cant tackle, cant dribble. What are these tactics, having long balls by CBs to the opposition CBs?

  16. How the mighty have fallen.There was a time when Benfica and Arsenal were feared throughout Europe, but not now.A very average game between two very average teams.On a brighter note, Gabriel seems to have regained his authority, but he will face a much tougher test on Sunday.

  17. The team was flat. Aubamayeng omw! That was awful once again. Players looked like they were struggling out there. No urgency, no intensity, no killer instinct. I hope they will have recovered on Sunday.

  18. I thought Luis chose to play for a draw with his slow unambitious habit of bringing on the opposition. He should not have played if that was his ambition. Holding or Mari for me please. His ego brings the opponent on whereas the other defenders play to the midfielders and forwards and that is a serious concern for us.

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