Arsenal's youngsters won and lost on a night that saw a weakened senior side fall limply in Porto and a youth cup side win a massive away tie in Birmingham. To start with the positive our youth cup side managed a late winner courtesy of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas which helped defeat a strong Villa side 3-2, however I'm not going to ignore the other game that took place in Portugal.
Firstly to set the scene, Porto are a very strong side, champions of Portugal and undefeated in eleven games at home to English sides in recent years in Europe, this was never going to be an easy game for a severely weakened Arsenal side. Despite what the media say, tonight's line up saw Fabregas, Sagna, Toure, Adebayor, Clichy and RVP all rested, it was closer to our reserve side than our first strength eleven.
Having said that the performance was poor, no one really escaped with much credit other than Manuel Almunia who didn't put a foot wrong, while Gibbs and Wilshere looked tidy as substitutes. It didn't help that Arsene opted for a 4-5-1 formation that so often fails us, leaving the lone striker Bendtner horribly isolated up front. The ball was given away cheaply time and time again by one and all, we just never found our flow, while Porto killed us on the break time and time again.
In the end it doesn't matter much that we finish second, there really isn't a great deal of difference between the winners and the runners up of the groups. The game will have been a great experience for many of our younger players, while we have learnt a bit more about some of our slightly more peripheral players. Diaby appears an enigma, highly talented but frustratingly inconsistent. There's a lot of talent in our young players but they need to realise the level of performance that is required to succeed at the champions league level, this experience will have done them no harm at all. The Boro away game is the one that matters, I just can't get myself too worked up by this defeat, in context it was hardly a surprise. I just wonder if the normal crowd of doom merchants will see it the same way? I doubt it, watch the vitriol fly and the scapegoats burn.