Porto. Not exactly an eye-catching draw, not compared to those awarded to the other English representatives in the Champions League, but potentially a dangerous one.
That was Arsène Wenger's view, if not that of the media who quizzed him yesterday. After Wenger suggested Arsenal had a 50-50 chance it was put to him the draw was "kinder" than that. Did he really see the Portuguese champions as "a big threat?"
"Yes," said Wenger. "They make it always difficult, they're strong at home, they're always good technically, they always have good strikers, they have a good midfield.
"The advantage is we have a second game at home. It's important we try to score away from home but it's a difficult draw. It's a cup game now. Difficult but feasible."
Arsenal have played Porto twice in recent years, winning both games at home but failing to score in the Estadio Dragao.
By the time Arsenal go there Wenger hopes to have a new striker to cover for the stricken Robin van Persie. He is encouraged by his record in the January transfer window but aware it will not be easy to find the right player. "We found Andrei Arshavin last season and he was a good signing," Wenger said. "Two years before it was Emmanuel Adebayor so we have made some good acquisitions in January. But it is more difficult than in the summer."
Not that Wenger expects much competition, in theory. He again expressed his concern at the English game's financial situation. "In England, in football, the financial situation overall is very poor. So do not expect a very busy transfer market. If you look at the number of clubs who struggle in the Premier League and in the Championship in England then it's time for us to get a wake-up call.
"It's certainly the worst financial situation in football in 13 years [Wenger's time in England]. The terrible thing about debt is at some stage you have to pay the debt back, someone will knock on your door and say 'Please can you pay me back.'
"Could a club end up going bust? I don't know. I hope not. But what's happening at the moment is all the clubs live in debt until a rich owner comes and buys – that's what happened at Chelsea; that's what we thought happened at Portsmouth but then you find out that not everybody has the resources needed to survive today in football. Compared to 10 years ago, the amount of money needed to buy a club is much higher and the amount of debt you find is much higher."
In the Championship, he added, it was often worse. "Many clubs there struggle. When you give players out on loan they struggle with the wages, it is difficult." And, he added with foreboding: "This is the first time I see empty seats [in stadia]."
Not that there will be any at the Emirates today when Hull City visit. This fixture was one of last season's more notable. Hull's league win at the Emirates prompted Arsenal's indifferent autumn form and launched the run of four Hull victories which ultimately kept them up. The later FA Cup tie ended in acrimony with Wenger refusing to shake hands with Phil Brown and an allegation, later dismissed, that Cesc Fabregas spat at Brian Horton, Brown's assistant.
Wenger was in forgiving mood. He would be shaking hands with all and sundry. But he wanted three points. Denilson returns in time to replace the injured Fabregas (who will be at the ground) while Brown adds Daniel Cousin to the Hull squad.Reuse content