Arsenal have had to come from behind before, but Porto are no pushovers.

The last five times Arsenal lost a European first leg & what happened next

Arsenal went to the Estadio do Dragao in February, expecting to do a Bilbo Baggins and return from the dragon’s lair with the goods. The Gunners failed where Bilbo succeeded, though, and got burned to sh*t by Porto’s fiery breath.

After a 1–0 defeat in Portugal, Arsenal will have to be at their free-scoring best in London if they want to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals. Pepe might be 41 years old, but he is still well f*cking scary.

The North Londoners have previous with being behind after the first leg of a European tie. Here’s how the second leg panned out the last five times Arsenal found themselves attempting to overcome a first-leg defeat in Europe, and what happened next.

Villareal 2–1 Arsenal: Europa League Semi-final, 2020-21

It’s quite eerie watching the highlights of this game. Pandemic silence in an empty stadium painted yellow. The Spanish submariners took a 2–0 lead before Dani Ceballos was sent off for a second yellow 56 minutes in, his protests clearly audible in the vacuum of sound.

The Gunners actually managed to claw a goal back, and the game ended 2–1 and 10-a-side as Etienne Capoue was sent off and stretchered off. Villareal held the Londoners to a bore draw at the Etihad and that was that for Arsenal’s European ambitions that season.

BATE Borisov 1–0 Arsenal: Europa League Round of 16, 2018-19

The Arsenal travelled to the Belarussian champions, were undone from a set-piece by a big loopy header, and lost 1–0 to a team featuring Dmitriy Baga in central midfield, owner of one of the dodgiest trims we’ve ever seen — like a bowl-cut hacked out with a dull knife.

Alexandre Lacazette was banned for the home fixture due to being sent off for an elbow in Belarus, but the Gunners pulled a 3–0 victory out of the bag. Can’t stop thinking about Baga’s haircut, though. Less shape than a Sunday League defence.

Rennes 3–1 Arsenal: Europa League Quarter-final, 2018-19

In the very next round, after taking a 1–0 lead in France via a cross from Alex Iwobi that happened to find the far corner (and it was definitely a cross), Arsenal got themselves another red card and capitulated to a Rennes team inspired by Hatem Ben Arfa in a free role, wearing tights under his shorts and causing chaos. One of football’s true pleasures. The Arsenal did Rennes 3-0 at home, and ended up in the Final that year but were defeated by Chelsea. Gutted.

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Bayern Munich 5–1 Arsenal: Champions League Round of 16, 2016-17

A 5–1 loss in Munich, another 5–1 loss in London, and another Arsenal red card. There’s a theme here. Not even close on this one. Lick your wounds, go again.

Arsenal 0–2 Barcelona: Champions League Round of 16, 2015-16

Barca had the MSN up front, and a midfield of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Ivan Rakitic. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Two goals from Leo Messi at the Etihad, followed by a 3–1 routine victory for the Catalans back in Barcelona. In the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes.

In summary, if they can keep eleven players on the pitch, the Gunners have every chance of going through to the next round. There’s something about Porto in the Champions League, though, isn’t there?

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