‘The past is irrelevant’: Arteta says poor record will not affect Arsenal at Porto

<span>Mikel Arteta said his team, including himself as a manager, lack the experience of being in the last 16.</span><span>Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Shutterstock</span>
Mikel Arteta said his team, including himself as a manager, lack the experience of being in the last 16.Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Shutterstock

Mikel Arteta says his Arsenal side have no need to feel the weight of history on their shoulders when they face Porto in a bid to reach their first Champions League quarter-final since 2010 on Wednesday.

Arsenal sailed through to the knockout stages on their return to Europe’s top tier this season but their recent record in the last 16 makes grim reading. They failed to clear this hurdle in seven straight seasons last decade, five of them when Arteta was a player at the club. Now, as manager, he believes the past has no bearing on their prospects.

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“I have not had any conversation [with the players] related to that,” Arteta said. “They know we have not been in the competition for seven years, obviously some of them were here and they know the story. And they know that what happened in the past is irrelevant. It is the challenge and ambition that we have now – to go through.”

Arteta recalled two last-16 defeats against Barcelona and three against Bayern Munich in the 2010s but evaded the suggestion Arsenal had suffered a mental block at the time. “Someone called Messi was another obstacle as well, and Bayern Munich who we faced [three times],” he said. “This competition is what it is. Individual quality is extremely important. It comes down to details and you need your players at your best when the occasion arises. Tomorrow for sure we’ll need that.”

Porto are enduring an unremarkable season in the Primeira Liga, with their manager Sérgio Conceição feeling the heat of their seven-point gap – 10 if Sporting win a game in hand – to the lead. But Arteta is aware that Arsenal, although listed in some quarters as third-favourites for the competition, are relatively untested on this stage in comparison to their hosts and views tomorrow’s first leg as a chance to showcase their credentials.

“We don’t have the experience, that’s the reality,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of these players haven’t played in this competition, they haven’t played in the last 16, I haven’t [managed at this stage]. But they have so much energy and enthusiasm to play well: that’s our desire and how we’re going to play the game.”

Kai Havertz could start at the Estádio do Dragão where he scored Chelsea’s Champions League final winner against Manchester City in 2021. None of the recently injured Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey were ready to travel but Fábio Vieira, who has not played since November due to groin surgery, made the trip to his homeland.