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Wednesday
Apr072010

Barcelona 4 Arsenal 1: Match Report

  

Arsenal started well for the first 20 minutes, or did they?

It was clear Barcelona had a plan. They didn't want to blow themselves out after an hour and leave themselves vulnerable as they did last week at the Emirates, so they started more cautiously, moved into first gear for 20 minutes after Bendtner scored a surprise opener, then got the pipe and slippers out for the second half.

Wenger did the right thing lining up 4-1-4-1; it gave Arsenal a stricter shape and allowed players to cluster centrally and win tackles. Diaby did just that on 18, then set Walcott free, but he bottled shooting before squaring a poor ball to Bendtner that made it difficult for him to get a decent connection.

Fortunately, Valdes palmed the ball straight back into his path, but Bendtner did well to get back on his feet and stab the ball home.

At that moment, it seemed like Arsenal could actually do something, but it soon became clear that Barcelona were only toying. They moved into Ferrari mode and creamed Arsenal, with Messi scoring a 21-minute hatrick.

Messi is a phenomenon, an outrageously brilliant talent - but still Arsenal could have defended him better.

His first goal was admittedly unstoppable, although Silvestre gave him the ball outside the box, the finish was stunning.

But goals two and three?

The second goal, Diaby was next to Messi, then just let him go. Abidal's misdirected cross was not cleared by Arsenal centrally, and Pedro slipped it to the unmarked Messi who accelerated past Clichy and buried past Almunia.

Diaby just left Messi to do whatever he wanted. How can you ever win anything important with players doing things like that?

On 41, Messi wrapped the game up when Clichy made a schoolboy error and failed to push up with the rest of the back four. Messi, clean through with oceans of space, lobbed over Almunia for 3-1.

The rest of the game was a non-event. Bojan was replaced by Yaya Toure on 56 to shore up the midfield, and Barcelona simply passed Arsenal to death - sucking the life out of them.

What was most disappointing was that even when Arsenal did win the ball - and they had more of it than they did last week at the Emirates - their passing was shabby and wasteful, and they made the wrong decisions time and time again.

Barcelona were superb at changing focus, from not having the ball to hunting it down and winning it back, and Arsenal can learn so much from that. For all their technique and flair, Barcelona have a fantastic work ethic and do all the ugly stuff, which Arsenal don't.

Messi scored his fourth of the night on 88. Eboue this time played Barcelona's front line onside, from where Messi was slipped in and allowed two strikes on goal, the second through Almunia's legs. He should have had a fifth as well, on 43, Silvestre slipped allowing him to run clean through but his first touch was unusually poor and he squandered a banker.

Full-time: Barcelona 4 Arsenal 1

A lot of people rave about Messi, and rightly so - he's brilliant, but Sky Sports had their tongue so far up his arsehole they'll need a tetanus injection, and still Arsenal could have done a lot more to stop him.

At the end of the day, four of the six goals Arsenal conceded over the two legs were down to the fact that Wenger is incapable of even educating his players on the laws of the offside trap. Over both games, Song, Eboue, and Clichy (twice) all made elementary defensive mistakes, allowing players to run clean through on goal (as has been happening all season).

Messi just finished easy chances brilliantly - but even Carlos Vela can lob a keeper one on one.

To have your team play strikers onside so frequently is outrageously bad coaching. Once is forgiveable, four times is ridiculous - and those were just the times Arsenal conceded, there were other offside failures that we didn't get punished for.

Of course, Barcelona are a lot better than Arsenal, and even if Wenger had a tactical bone in his body we still probably would have lost - but this wasn't just a defeat, it was an embarrassing annihilation. Hopefully, Wenger will have learnt something from this quarter-final and implement some changes to his team's style - it could yet be beneficial.

Still, like root canal surgery, it's over now and the pain is gone - even if the sick feeling might remain for a few days.

—oo— 

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Reader Comments (17)

Very fair assessment. I see that even Wenger is now saying that the defending in both games was crap, almost as if it was not his responsibility!!!!!!!!

Despite being totally outplayed in both legs, we could have won. Bendtner missed 3 chances that a decent professional centre-forward should have taken. (Two headers and the one that he got caught up under his feet). Put another way, nine times out of ten a striker such as Torres, Rooney or Drogba would have scored each and any of the 3 chances missed by Bendtner.

Add to that the fact that the 'defence' (I use the term in the loosest possible sense), gifted 4 goals to Barca and in a proper game we could have reversed the final score-line and won 6-3. The George Graham defence would maybe have conceded 2 goals over both games?

Sounds harsh, but Bendy is being paid a small fortune to be a professional footballer; they are supposed to be better than pub players, i.e. have a conversion rate better than scoring one chance in five. Granted, he did well to score last night given the awful pass by Walcott.

Maybe not his fault that Wenger ended up relying on him as the only true striker in the squad at the business end of the season, but is Bendtner really the best that the 4th richest club in the world can find?

Arsenal at present most resemble a super-fit pub side; nobody wants to defend and everyone wants to attack and the goalie is reluctant to be there.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Robertson

Your analogy to root canal surgery is squarely on point. And I can't disagree with your analysis of the game or your evaluations of the Arsenal players' performances. I also think there is much for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger to learn from Barcelona, not least of which from that team's work ethic and its willingness to do the hard and ugly work that you rightfully extol. In short, Arsene received a master class that even he dared not diminish at the post-game conference as he might have done with a team that parked the bus or tackled Arsenal violently.

Unfortunately, though, Arsene's post-game press conference did contain a few reminders of what is so frustrating about him notwithstanding his remarkable achievements and talents. Specifically, as quoted on the Arsenal official web site, Wenger continues to maintain his stubborn stance that this is still an incredibly young team that might require an addition or tweak but nothing more.

Thus, in this vein, Wenger responds to question if he needs a new centre-back by claiming that "it is a question that is very difficult to answer because at the moment that is not the priority. The priority tonight is to recover from the game. We have played quite well with a lot of character, as ever, but we made too many mistakes. SILVESTRE AND CAMPBELL ARE TWO GOOD PLAYERS. THAT IS WHY THE CHOICE [OF WHO TO PLAY] IS DIFFICULT." That's just insulting our intelligence. The choice of who to play was so difficult precisely because there was no real choice given the self-imposed limimtations; Silvestre is most definitely NOT a good player and, at best, Campbell is now a limited player.

Likewise, Wenger responded very unsatisfyingly on if he might be tempted to dip into the transfer market this summer by resorting to the familiar mantra that "we are at a stage where we develop the players. Today in midfield we had Walcott who is 21, Bendtner up front who is 22, Nasri, Diaby and Denilson are 23, 22. I think they have shown some GREAT qualities and will be stronger every year. We have to add SOMETHING that is for sure but we have some time to think about that." This again is infuriating. Nothing about Denilson is GREAT and, in any event, great qualities do not make for great players. Walcott has great speed, that does not make him a great player. Also, it will not be enough to add something in the singular; we need to add several players in order to compete. These comments imply that, like last year, we will only add a single player because to do otherwise would be to stifle the extraordinary talents of Denilson, Walcott, and Bendtner.

To call Silvestre a good player and to claim there were choices in defense for Barcelona away game is intolerable. To suggest all we need to add is somehting is maddening. By the way, that would be true even if we somehow won the EPL this year (which we won't.) Arsene, I admire you, and trust you but that does not mean I need to suspend all sense of judgment and rationality when you utter absolute BS.

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AT RESPONSE

You trust him? Trust him to do what exactly? He should have repaid our trust last summer, and the summer before that. For all that he has done for this club, the one thing I don't do is trust him, which is very sad.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervillagegunner

Nasri 6? he was shit..
Rosciky 5.5? were you even watching the game... our worst player along with Theo..
Silvestre 5? scandalous.. i hate the bakebean like the nx gooner..but give him some credit.. he played ok yesterday
Bendtner 6.5? no chance.. ive said it all along..he has a first touch of a rapist.. no striker in the land can excel with a 1st touch like that..
Vermalaen shld get a 7...
and Gael Clichy.. i know ive been on his case for the last 2 years..but yesterday was Clichy of old.. superb.. 8 at least..

goes to show we need another decent left back so players like Gael wont be complacent and buck up.. hes been shit for the last 2 years due to lack of competition( Traore is NOT competition)

Eduardo deserves a chance.. why the hell is Arsene not giving him a run.. i juz dont get it.. i juz dont buy into the hype that hes career is over.. fcking Arsene is not giving him a decent run.. hes a million times better then Bendtner..!!!

and thank you wenger for your retard formation of playing with one striker.. fckng wrecked our season.. go back to 442 u stubborn frog..

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AT RESPONSE

I would have given Clichy a 9 if he didn't make that fuck up. He would be a great player for a coach who could teach him defensive discipline - but with Wenger in charge I fear he will make the same basic errors for 10 years.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoni goonah

Bit harsh on Theo. He didn't get a decent ball all game (except for the goal) and diaby should've played him thru a minute later. Wow - imagine 2-0 then...

Eduardo is the most invisible player we've ever had. He has to be sold in the summer. Vela is a better alternative to him.

Yes we got hammered, but come on - 6 players out that would've played last night. We really can't judge ourselves with so many out. Everyone has players out, yes, but how many teams have their BEST 5 players missing? (for the record - Fab, RVP. Arshavin, Gallas, Song)

All will be forgiven if we spank the Spuds next week. The inquests can start if we don't.

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AT RESPONSE

Eduardo is top class, but will never profit from playing in a 4-5-1. Wenger should revert to 4-4-2 and stop pretending Arsenal are Barcelona - then we might see the best of Eduardo with some support around him.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertony

where are all people moaning you didn't know what you are talking about two weeks ago?
i'm worried about spurs now. :(
even though we always shit on them I think arsenal will feel tired and confidence will be zero after that kicking.
a draw isnt be good enough :(

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrealist

Why would anyone want to ditch the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation for a 4-4-2. Remember we are challenging for the title because of a 4-5-1 formation while we are a distant fourth with a 4-4-2. Why do we need two strikers? Our record against the lesser sides have been phenomenal. If we had trouble beating lesser teams then one would understand having two strikers. Our main problem is the big games. And in those games personally i think we have been too attack minded if anything. A good old shut up shop against chelsea/manu would have seen us run away with the title. Either that or we need to learn how to quickly close down oppositions like barca. This team is learning. Players like Diaby, Eboue, vermaelen, bendy and rosicky have been HUGE positives. Also can i say i am proud of arsenal this season. We are realistically fighting for the title until the last day. You cannot ask for more. One cannot complain if you get knocked out of the CL by a fellow big team. We have also knocked out teams like madrid, inter and milan. Wenger was the manager then. Thanks you arsenal and Wenger for a terrific ride this season.

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AT RESPONSE

I agree there has been an improvement from last season, but also our competitors have regressed giving the illusion that we have closed the gap. We perhaps had a good chance to win the title, and maybe would have had Wenger stopped dicking around in the transfer market. Is he really serious about trophies or not? Why does he always stop short?

The 4-5-1 has been a failure in my eyes - Arsenal let in too many goals and Wenger's tactics are so bad in Europe it's embarrassing; as is the way we collapse nearly every time we face a good team.

4-5-1 was for the benefit of Fabregas, but it also deprives us of a second striker. Now that Fabgreas is injured, why bother with 4-5-1? We need more up top and we need a versatile manager who can adapt to our changes in circumstances.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRP7

Not worried about Spurs, after last nights run around it'll be a breeze to face them.

Eduardo is so very poor.
Even against Wolves he offered nothing and fluffed ever chance. I think he's missed 20 sitters in a row this season. He is woeful.

Amazed Eboue didn't start.
Silvestre should never wear the shirt again.

Theo has one shining momnet in the World Cup and some mug will offer us silly money for him and he'll be sold.

Eduardo, Vela, Denilson and Rosicky should all go to, but Wenger's given them bumper new deals.

We need an animal goalkeeper and an animal centre-back partner for TommyV. Chamakh seems a done deal, but why aren't we going for a cut-prive Benzema? Fergie will snap him up in the summer.

Eden Hazard will be great in 3 years but won't improve anything right now.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertom

Arsenal have been poor defensively, in comparison to the top sides, for a number of years now. It's got to the point where I doubt it will ever be properly addressed. If you look at the statistics, the number of times we have conceded 3+ goals against sides that are dangerous offensively is staggering. In addition, when we do take the lead in 'big games' we have repeatedly failed to learn how to hold onto it for longer than the time it takes to boil an egg. We've been trotting out the 'we'll learn this' line for a good few years now, but it's clearly not true.

Going back to the 2006/07 season we lost 1-4 at Anfield when Crouch got a hat trick. The following year we lost 1-5 at White Hart Lane in the Carling Cup, 0-4 at Old Trafford and 2-4 against Liverpool in the Champions League. Last season we drew 4-4 with both Spurs and Liverpool, lost 1-4 at home to Chelsea and 1-3 against Man United in the Champions League. This season has seen 0-3, 1-3 and 1-4 and 2-4 defeats against Chelsea, Man Utd, Barcelona and Man City respectively. That's not to mention the number of other times where we have been cut apart at the back by Drogba, Rooney in the other games or our comedy efforts in Porto.

The thing about Messi's haul last night was that it was so predictable. If Messi was going to run riot, it was going to be against us. Players like Messi, Drogba, Rooney, Torres etc are good enough to beat even the most organised defences. But against us, they have a field day. We give them so much space and leave ourselves so wide open it's infuriating. Bemoaning injuries is also pointless. We have been in this situation too often over the last few years where an injury to Gallas and a full back exposes players like Silvestre, Senderos, Gibbs (I like him by the way) to games which they shouldn't be exposed to. It happened last year against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Man Utd in the Champions League. Even with our current first choice defence (and the rest of our team) we are still very vulnerable without the ball.

Put simply, until Wenger and the training staff do some serious defensive, tactical coaching and a quality centre back (maybe two) and goalkeeper are bought, we will continue to be hammered against the best sides.

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AT RESPONSE

Wenger is 60 now, so I don't hold up much hope of him becoming a master tactician - and he'll never get hired help. I'm afraid there is an ego operating there that is not 100% in the best interests of the club.

His biggest problem is the dichotomy of having a young, immature (not inexperienced) team married to his complete lack of tactical acumen. He can't teach them what they need to know. He talks about perserverance, intelligence, fight - but it's not enough. Thinking positive is only half the battle.

He now needs to buy the sort of quality that will divorce him from his own weaknesses; purchase mature, mentally strong and intelligent players that don't need to be taught what he can't teach. He probably only needs three.

But he should have done that last summer, if not the summer before - and he went back on his word too - as he has for a couple of seasons, so how can he be trusted?

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom

To say that our competitors have regressed is incorrect. Chelsea have IMPROVED this season. There performance in the league is proof. Last season they were out of it in January. The emergence of anelka and malouda this season has given their attack a bonus and drogba is in the best form of his life right now. And so is Rooney. This is his best season. Yes Ronaldo left man utd but ade and toure also left arsenal. Ronaldo replacement Valencia has done well and they play more as a team. Liverpool had a fluke season last year after 20 years!. Obviously man utd have suffered from ronaldo absence but the improvement in Chelsea has been even more massive. So to say our competitors have regressed is simply wrong.
I dont understand why you want arsenal to play 4-4-2 even if cesc is unavailable? Nasri/Rosicky.diaby play well there. It is a system that has helped us easily beat pretty much all the lesser teams. Why change it if it isnt broken. Surely you dont want a 4-4-2 in the big matches. Playing with two strikers will kill us. If eduardo is having trouble playing in a 4-3-3 then tough luck. I still think that with another preseason he will be better as a lone striker. He has signed a new contract with vela so cant see them leaving when chamakh comes. Maybe vela on loan? We will lose 3 defenders so we will obviously get 2 more defenders.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRP7

Good to see that the mouthy yob twerps (nice retro term for them?) who were slagging you off recently have pretty much all disappeared now that 'Wengers dream' is over for another year.

The depressing thing, as you point out, is that a sixty year old ego-maniac is not going to change tack drastically. A few hours after the game the same old tired excuses were being trotted out, e.g. we have a young team, they are learning, we don't need to tinker much blah blah blah.

Fact is that all the raving over Messi is just a tad misplaced; I would back any number of strikers to put in a similar performance and number of goals against us the way our team is set up. I would even back myself aged 57 and with a wooden leg to put 4 goals past our defence.

We all know that until Wenger goes nothing will change. However, there are some intriguing little rumours surfacing about whether he will be offered another contract extension this summer; something to do with whether he can prove to all his doubters that he can win something with his current squad. Could it be possible that some voices of sanity are beginning to be heard within the marble halls? Surely Gazides has been sounding out ex-players about the nutty professors tactics and methods? surely some such as Adams are whispering little home truths to Ivan ?

I can see Wenger going this summer - just a hunch, maybe just wishful thinking, but I would not be surprised if he left in a huff after the world cup to manage France.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Robertson

I didn't really expect us to get past Barca and there is no disgrace in being beaten by a team like them, even if one or two of their goals could have been avoided. Look at the Mancs last night. They are the ones who will feel bitter disappointment this morning. They will see if the risk of playing thier main man through injury, was worth it in the end. Hell, they could even finish 3rd in the Prem if they loose him for a number of their remaining games.

What this has brought to mind though is that no matter how long we remain in the chase for a trophy, be it the Prem, the CL or even the FA cup, when the time comes for our exit, which seems to happen in all competitions, every year these days, I can't draw any comfort from the ride itself. I just wish we would win something - anything - no matter how we did it. How long must we wait?

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDB10

Even though I know you claim you are clear and you're not sitting on the fence, I still don't know where you stand on Wenger. Based on your responses to Tom and TonyB, I can only conclude that you want to see Wenger gone at the end of this season. If so, by all means, say so. As you point out, it's your blog and you can say whatever you think. Bill R clearly wants to see Arsene go at the end of the season. Do you agree? If not, why not? Based on the post-Barcelona comments, I believe AW won't buy the minimum of three mature and talented players you deem necessary to improve Arsenal's results to those worthy of a club of its size and fan base. If you agree, why not come out and say you think he should go? What's holding you back?

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AT RESPONSE

At the moment I am not unhappy enough to say get rid, but neither am I secure enough in my faith in Wenger to approve of him being offered a new long-term contract.

I said earlier in the season I would give him one more summer to convince me with his purchases, and I feel compelled to stick to what I said. Last summer I wanted the team to be competitive this season, and whilst we are not competitive in Europe, in the Premier League we are mathematically still in it with 5 games to go, even if it's never been a convincing title challenge.

His contract is up in 2011, and Wenger will probably leave it late to make a decision. I will have made a decision by then too, because if next season is not an improvement over this, or we slip backwards again as we did in 08/09 - I want him gone. Period.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervillagegunner

With regard to money available to Wenger to improve the team. In addition to the frequent addition of kids who are on an average £2k a week each I believe, and seem to cost £2-3 million each time we acquire one, you also have the extravagant gesture made to Eduardo of what was reported as a five year contract. If Wenger was skint, surely he would not have committed £12+ million in wages to a man who was clearly struggling to get back to any kind of level of performance that he had before Taylor removed his leg?

There is potentially a lot of cash available to Wenger this summer in order to boost the squad if he despatches some of the dead wood; in Silvestre, Rosicky, Eduardo you have 3 crocks who are probably drawing £200k a week between them. Sell Arshavin to Man City and you not only get a good fee but also save a heap of wages and remove a whining brat. By moving on those players who seem permanently injured Wenger could reclaim around £300k a week in wage costs, enough to satisfy the wage demands of 3 big new signings.

Wenger has plenty of cash available from his current budget, it is a question of how he chooses to use it. If anything he looks a bit of a soft touch when it comes to allocating long-term contracts to players; there does not appear to be a compelling performance related bonus scheme available to motivate the players beyond their existing generous wages.

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Robertson

I don't trust Wenger to invest in the squad, and I don't believe a word he says with regard to transfer activity, or his willingness to spend. We've heard it all too many times before.

It looks likely that Chamakh will arrive - other than that, I don't expect any new arrivals unless Gallas leaves. Even then I wouldn't put it past Wenger to try and convert Song to CB on a permanent basis while awarding Silvestre a new deal and bigging-up Djourou - it'll "be like a new signing" to have him back, after all.

There will be no new keeper, no new defensive mid, no recognition that Theo Walcott isn't actually very good at football.

We will be told that we were "very close" to winning something this season, and that the natural development of the existing young players will bridge the gap. In reality, we'll look for another 3rd/4th place league finish, a lucrative run in the CL and disdain the domestic cups as usual.

Is this good enough for the third biggest club in England? It will probably have to be while Wenger's in charge.

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

Pain me as it does, if AW acts as Neil predicts in the upcoming transfer window, then I can only join in the growing chorus that it's time for him to go. Even with his extraordinary track record, his obvious intelligence, his decency, and the extreme and unpayable debt owed him by Arsenal, AW loses me ithis transfer window if he only signs Chamakh and a possible replacement for Gallas.

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervillagegunner

Wholeheartedly agree with villagegunner. If there isn't at least 1 new CB + Gallas or 2 new ones and a new keeper (that can start), then Wenger is in dreamland

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbuzmeg

Almost had me fool when Bendtner scored that goal, I thought we were actually going to go through to the semis. But I forgot we had Silvestre in defence, who forgot he plays for Arsenal and keeps giving to the ball to Messi. Silvestre is a good player!?! He's been rubbish since arriving at Arsenal or he's either a mole for old Red Nose and plays like crap on purpose.

Wenger said he's thinking of buying in the summer. I won't hold my breathe until we have the players (who are not some 16 year old inexperience kids) holding Arsenal shirts. If Wenger decides not to renew his contract and left, it's a kick in the balls for us fans. While, I'm not happy with Wenger because of trophyless season for the past 5 years, I don't want him to go. If he just stop being stubborn and finally admit players like Alumina, Denilson and Walcott are not good enough to be first team and start buying 3-4 quality players in the summer.

What's with the Arshavin bashing? He's just saying what most fans and some of our players are saying, which is enough buying kids and buy quality players.

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArsenal Fan
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