Barcelona 4 – 1 Arsenal: Magnificent Messi and Daft Defending

There were no surprises on the night then. Sadly for us gooners, Messi rose to the occasion and when the best player in the world is on top of his game there isn’t much the opposition can do.

We started the second leg far better than the first one pressing high up the pitch and forcing mistakes from the Barca players. The home team still had all the possession but their passing didn’t look as intricate or dangerous as it did in the first twenty minutes at the Emirates.

It seemed like Arsenal have some hope. The start turned into a brilliant one when Diaby wriggled through the attentions of four or five opponents and played Walcott in behind. The youngster looked tentative and his pass wasn’t the best but Bendtner made the most of it and was quicker to react to the rebound. One nil to the Arsenal! Wonder how many expected that?

Barca roared back like a wounded animal while Arsenal made the mistake of pushing too many men forward in excitement. The correct tactical approach would have been to soak some pressure and continue the way we’d started.

Instead Messi found a lot of space in front of our box and equalized with a sublime finish. The gap between the diving Vermaelen and sliding Silvestre wasn’t big but the wizard smashed it past them and Almunia with nonchalance. While I don’t deny the quality of Messi’s finish there are questions about what Silvestre was doing when he played it back to the young Argentine. This is the kind of panic defending that has put us in trouble consistently. At that point I’d expect the central defender to either stop the ball dead as he didn’t have anyone within two yards of him or he should have hacked it clear. The half-cock effort didn’t help our cause.

Another player at fault was Denilson who was goal side of Messi when he took his first shot. Then he turned around to watch the ball instead of tracking the lethal striker. If he’d been with Messi he could have blocked the shot. I don’t want to blame the individuals as we’ve seen such mistakes from pretty much each Arsenal player.

The second goal was even worse. When the cross came in Vermaelen was in a position to knock it out for a throw or a corner. Inexplicably, he played it back in play. If you watch closely he actually wraps his foot around the ball and tries a really difficult reverse clearance. when he could easily have kicked it away. As I’ve said often in the past, it seems to me that our players are really scared of conceding corners and end up trying suicidal clearances. Once again there was a question why a midfielder wasn’t tracking Messi.

After the second goal the tie was balanced and we should have just played the way we started. In a somewhat immature manner our players pushed high up in search of the equalizer and when you give Messi that kind of room to run with the ball he will finish you off every single time. Once again Vermaelen went for a header that even if he’d won wouldn’t have given us any advantage. As the Belgian lost his balance the route was clear for Messi. There was no way Silvestre or any of the full backs was catching up with him.

After the third goal Barca played the ball around as our players tried hard but just couldn’t sustain possession. The final goal was just icing on a sumptuous Catalan cake.

You have to give credit to Barcelona for the tactical awareness that they needed to focus on defending. If they’d continued pushing men forward after the third goal Arsenal might have scored on the counter. That was the only way we were going to score against this well organized Catalan side. Arsenal did have some half chances but we didn’t have Messi to convert them.

I don’t want to take any credit from Barcelona but Arsenal could have done better in this game if we had better tactics. Walcott was wasted on the wing as his options were limited, Nasri had no influence through the middle as it was always crowded and we hardly got the ball to Bendtner in the box. Arsene will have to really reconsider his options for the big games.

I know we had too many first team players out injured and Messi does make Barcelona the best side in Europe but that doesn’t mean we don’t analyse how things could have been different.

In the first leg we were tight on Messi and that gave the other players a lot of room to manoeuvre and in the second leg we made it difficult for the others but Messi tore us apart as he found a great deal of space.

I don’t want to dwell on this too much right now as I’ve often discussed the weaknesses of this formation against the big teams and our collective defensive weaknesses. The best time to get into these details once again will be in the summer. Right now we just have to focus on the next game and hopefully we’ll have better news on the injury front.

At the end of the day, I’m happy we went out to a proper football team and not to anti-football. I’ll support Barcelona in their quest for a retaining their title. Here’s hoping they can get past the Dark Lord in the next round and we can win our remaining games in the league.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Didn’t do much wrong yet conceded four!

Sagna: Efficient and hard working. Wonder what would have happened if he’d started at centre back.

Vermaelen: Very bad mistake for the second goal. Worked hard and cannot fault him for effort.

Silvestre: Not bad for a sixth choice centre back! Should have cleared the ball that led to the first goal, although to be fair, it came to him with a deflection from Vermaelen and he didn’t have a lot of time to react to it.

Clichy: Top Class. His form has been the biggest positive of the two games.

Denilson: Worked hard but didn’t have any impact when in possession.

Diaby: Much better than his performance in the first leg. His passing and awareness in the final third need a lot of improvement. Once again can’t fault him for effort.

Nasri: Another one who didn’t have any impact when in possession. Hardly got any time on the ball. Not sure if it was a good idea to play him through the middle. Any team that can stop Fabregas can certainly stop Nasri.

Walcott: His pace was always a threat when Barca were pushing forward. We just didn’t use him well enough in that period. Once they retreated he became ineffective. Should have made some runs through the middle.

Bendtner: Great tenacity for the goal. Missed a glorious chance to bring it back to 3-2. Big learning curve for him.

Rosicky: Our worst player on the night. Not sure if he was fully fit or not. His touch wasn’t very good and his passing was poor by his standards.

22 Responses to Barcelona 4 – 1 Arsenal: Magnificent Messi and Daft Defending

  1. Nischit says:

    No complaints with the assessment or the result. We were played off the park by a superior team, and conceded 4 goals to the world’s best player. In fact, if he keeps this up, he might end up as the greatest player ever. Barcelona have a long and glorious future ahead with him, assuming he sticks around. If eden hazard is even half as good, arsenal should really snap him up before someone else does.

    I was tentative today as I knew Barcelona would not make the same mistake twice and that showed. They killed the game effectively in the 2nd half, and while things may have been different if nicklas had taken a better touch and provided the finish, the reality is he didn’t. I thought he was good today or as good as he could be. His first touch looks nervy at times or maybe he just doesn’t have that great a first touch.

    I wonder how different the game would’ve been with RVP, cesc, arshavin, and gallas. Here’s hoping for a repeat next season and we have our entire squad fit. It was a great watch over two legs, although, I must admit it was disappointing.

  2. Steve Biko says:

    Lets face it. Losing to the world’s best team is no disgrace. Conceeding four cheap goals is a disgrace. Arsenal’s defence this season has been poor especially againist good sides. Our defenders especially Vermallen are too attack minded and are often caught out of position. The goals we conceded today are not much different from the silly goals we conceded against Manure, Man Shi*ty and Chelsea. The problem with Arsenal IS NOT ATTACK! Even if we had Fabregas, Asharvin and Van Persie our defence would still have cost us. While their is debate about Silvestre there is no doubt that our mauling againist Manure and Chelsea came when we had our first choice defence playing.

    Why did Wenger when he realized we had a problem in defence (especially with Djorou out for the season) buy a player who can not play twice in a week? Wenger has always gambled in defence. Silvestre was a gamble and so was Campbell. Vermallen lets face it was also a gamble. In the beginning of the season Asharvin wondered whether Vermallen coming from another league would settle quickly in the EPL. Asharvin suggested that Wenger buy an experienced CB. (I know Asharvin has not had an influential season but his advice was correct. In the final analysis Wenger can learn something from David Moyes of Everton. Arsenal does not necessarily need a 30 million pound defender. But seriously look at the frugal Moyes and his assembly of defenders such as Jagielka, Distin, Heitinga among others. That defence in just two months neutralized Drogba, Rooney and Tevez. By contrast those three guys tore us to bits earlier in the season.

    In conclusion, Wenger’s philosophy in attack is reasonably good. He can assemble a great attacking lineup. When it comes to defence Wenger is out of depth. He is willing to invest in band aid and inexperienced adhesive when some like Mourinho at Inter invest in Cement and Steel. Wenger invests quality in attack. Its like he buys diamonds in attack and when it comes to protecting those diamonds he invests in second rate security systems. The result?
    Arsenal diamonds in the form of Fabregas and Nasri sooner or later decide to leave for pastures new.

    End of rant.

  3. abishkar says:

    Sometimes you just have to hold your hand up and say you got outplayed by a better team over two legs. Barca would probably have beaten us even with our full strength squad, never mind the bare bones we had in some positions today.

    It’s time to move on. Ifs and buts don’t get you anywhere. It’s the NOW that matters. That’s the league.

  4. Ajinkya says:

    man, clichy was on fire. we lost, but to another great team. it is about the premiership now.

  5. Joe says:

    Dream On! In 5 years and Wenger is still the manager and he will keep on using his so-called youth policy. And then when something like this comes around, he’ll blame the injuries and the naivety of the players.

    Hahaha. Against an improving and almost full strength Spurs, I just think Redknapp will punish Arsenal heavily. Perhaps another trashing.

    • Jibzi says:

      First of all, you say Sp*rs will give us a thrashing. Well, let alone a thrashing, when is the last time you beat us in the PL – yes way back in 1999 when we had 9 players on the pitch. Better to be in the CL (which we get to every year) and get beaten by the best, rather than not being in it at all, who the hell are you to start analysing how we do in the CL?

  6. Dushyant says:

    Just a thing…I believe we were so focused in the 1st leg to contain Messi (nd we did contain him!!) that we ended up giving too much possession to them. Last nite’s match was exactly opposite….we were better in possession and pressing, seems that was our focus, but totally let Messi run the havoc. Guess we should have had a balance of two.

  7. Adamwarlock says:

    Keep your dreams on! In 5 years, Joe is still in the D&G brigade and will keep on his rants. And then when something like this comes around, he’ll blame Arsene Wenger.

    Hahaha. An improving and almost full strength Tots? Punished heavily? Trashed? Dream on, Joe!!

  8. Hong_gunner says:

    If and Buts have no place once the match is over, but looking back at the game, we were well beaten by a superior side(with the world’s best player in it) and our own tactical mistakes. Starting two left footed centre backs against a fluid team took my heart aching before the kick-off and it showed clearly for the 2nd goal why. We didnt need a physical presence against barca, and why sagna didnt start at centre back was strange. May be sagna could’ve been caught off guard with his positioning if he’d started to give us another thing to moan about, but it was known silvestre doesnt have the legs, particularly his right(neither does Vermaelen for this matter), to keep a good balance at the back. Wenger needs to know he got this one wrong. But having said that, we were out-classed by a better team. I was jealous of barca when pedro lost the ball in our half and ran the pitch to their half to get back the ball. And their off-the ball pressure. We have room to improve, but we need to bounce back in the league now.

  9. amit says:

    wenger should now realize his mistakes and buy some players…pathetic show by silvest..i cant understand why wenger bought him…just imagine if arsenal would have controlled those 10 mins from the point when bendy scored…but the jackass that silvest is it had to happen..

    le miser once again is pointing out about the young team..he says that the team is young, i m hearing that since the last 5-6 years and nothing has changed…wenger is trying to run arsenal like a business and not as a football club…

    buy players who are not well known and polish them into good players and sell them at a higher price..this is what is happening…he has created a mirage of some sorts and sadly the fans are falling for his actions…i agree that youngsters are essential for a club coming and developing through ranks but there is also a need to infuse some stars into the team as well…

    if le miser had spent some money to bring in chamakh, a central defender and say akinfeev the entire thing would have been different….the season is over for arsenal…quarters in CL and 2nd or 3rd finish in the league…thats it…

    “the great masses of people will fall for a propaganda more easily than a single person” – Adolf Hitler | Mein Kempf

  10. chika says:

    wenger should please throw silvester into the bin cos he is an absolute waste of space

  11. critic says:

    dude, silvestre cudn’t do anything for the 1st goal, ball struck him on his leg too quickly.

    calling defeat a brave one coz we didn’t play anti football is lame. There was no organisation in the team after we scored 1st goal as u pointed out.

    Again going out at last hurdle, no title this season too.

    If wenger ddon’t win any title next season he must go.

  12. critic says:

    i think u guys want arsenal to be 5th 6th best team in europe and are happy with 3rd best tag in pl. B’coz that’s actually what arsenal are.

  13. critic says:

    Go mourhinhio fcuk barcelona….

  14. Vermaelen says:

    There is no point calling for Wenger’s head… our players are young, that’s why we’re only going to get better. We’ll win something eventually, just have to be patient, and when we do, we’re going to dominate the league.

    I feel that if we had Ramsey instead Nasri, we could have a better chance. Remember when Fabregas said that Ramsey was pushing for his place, I don’t think he was joking. Give me an unfit Fabregas(like last game) and Ramsey, and I’ll choose Ramsey everytime. He has improved a lot this season given his limited times playing.

    Which is why we really are unlucky, especially with injures. Changing the manager will not miracullously make our players fit, nor will it end our trophy drought. You must realise that a new manager will need a season or two to settle in and get used to our players and with our young squad already challenging for the title this season, they’re only going to improve, so a change in management would actually prolong our drought.

    As for the reason of buying Silvestre and keeping him… he was only ever going to be a cover, behind Gallas, Vermaelen, Campbell, Senderos(maybe), Song, Djourou. In fact, he’s not bad for a 7th choice centre halve.

    One last point, Eboue should not be a right back for such games, he has a lack of understanding with the other 3 defenders shown when the other 3 stepped up together but he didn’t, playing Messi onside for his 4th goal. Instead, he would be more effective as a right midfield coving with Sagna while going forward dangerously without worrying overly much about defensive duties.

    Ok, that’s it, I know they’re just my opinions and probably wrong, so any critics(no pun intended) welcome.

    ps. I would also go for an Inter win xD

  15. oleguer says:

    will any of you admit that some of your players are average at best? or will you continue to think that they’re ‘world class’? how long will you carry on bleating about their potential? players like almunia, silvestre, campbell, eboue, denilson, eudardo, vela, diaby, walcott, rosicky and bendtner are mediocre at best. would any of these players get a game for barcelona? would they hell. it says a lot of your manager’s arrogance and ignorance that he’s persisted with these bunch of clowns for this long, whilst getting rid of players who would actually have made the difference last night: toure, flamini, hleb and adebayor. granted some of them wanted to leave but the way your club is run is it a surprise?

    • Vermaelen says:

      You have perhaps forgotten that at the start of the season, if we had played Barcelona, we could have beaten them. First day, Everton 6-1 Arsenal, a beautiful ruthless performance, and we carried on playing well until the Van Persie injury. The lost to Manu was because of a stupid own goal while we played them off the park at Old Trafford, if you watched it, you’ll have to agree with me there. Since that injury, we haven’t played as well, but we still managed to hold on within touching distance of the title. This is achieved by your so called “Mediocre” players.

      You listed: Almunia, Silvestre, Campbell, Eboue, denilson, eudardo, vela, diaby, walcott, rosicky and bendtner

      Would any of them had started as a first choice apart from Almunia and Diaby? Probably not, this shows depth of our squad, and we need them because of so many injuries. Are there anyother teams with so many “Mediocre” as cover for our first choice? We could probably put out a 2nd team who would finish in the top 4 with us:

      1st: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Van Persie

      2nd: Fabianski, Eboue, Djourou, Campbell, Gibbs, Denilson, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Eduardo, Bendtner

      Reserve; Mannone, Szczesny, Silvestre, Senderos, Traore, Eastmond, Merida, Wilshere, Vela

      Anyone else agree with me that our 2nd team would probably finish 4th this season? Afterall, we have basically played many of them for at least half a season already.

      • oleguer says:

        During the first leg your so called 1st XI only had RVP missing until Arshavin was hauled off due to injury (the irony being that he was attempting to injure another player). Do I need to remind you how badly your team was being battered from pillar to post during the time before Arshavin was subbed? So what if you beat Everton 6-1? What does that mean? I’ll admit you did dominate United but that’s more of case of them having one of the worst midfields in their history (Carrick is a nothing player who will never control big games, the 2-1 defeat is the latest proof of this. Scholes is past it and Fletcher can only kick opposition players). However you still lost.

        The facts are that the players AW has assembled in your squad are just not good enough. Yes Silvestre is only the seventh/eighth choice center back but for a team with your aspirations he is a liability. He has no pace and fumbles the ball under pressure. Why else did the dark lord SAF get rid of him for free? Why was AW stupid enough to bring him to the Emirates?

        The same goes for Bendtner whose record stands at a total of 5 goals in the league this season, against Blackburn, Sunderland, Stoke, Hull and Wolves. He’s never scored more than two games running and he’s appeared in 32 games, which makes for a pretty ordinary scoring ratio given he plays in a supposedly very creative side. And yet he’s leading the line against the World and European champions.

      • Vermaelen says:

        Firstly, the first half with our 1st XI (RVP apart), yes, we were not good enough, but did we concede a goal? No, it ended 0-0. Although yes, I admit we are still a long way off from the standard of Barcelona, but I cannot agree that all our players are “average”.

        Again, you cannot bring Silvestre in, if you can name a 7th/8th choice centre half who is better than him, then I’ll be happy.

        About Bendtner, he’s only 22, so he can only improve. And may I ask where you got your statistics from?
        League Played 20(9) Goals 5 Assists 5
        Total Played 26(9) Goals 11 Assists 6

        1. when RVP was here, he played right mid/foward, which isn’t his position
        2. In our 4-3-3, the front man is about providing goals as much as scoring them, so I think he has actually done a pretty good job so far.

  16. Hong_gunner says:

    To people calling for Wenger’s head, i understand you dont know how Arsenal were under George Graham and how great a man management Wenger has done with his injury plagued squad and taken us this far. But injuries are no excuse. Guardiola has a bigger fit squad and hence his tactics went just as he wanted to. Wenger took a big big gamble tactically, and he failed. We dont need any new players this summer, unless anyone leaves. We’ve lost the game in minor details, and Wenger needs to drill the tactical sense into his players. We operated a moderate zonal pressure system yesterday, and were quite effective, but as i arrive home and look at the game again, minor details like Diaby being nowhere near Xavi before his simple pass to Messi(before he fed Abidal in build-up to the 2nd goal) cost us. Wenger will be tempted to go for barca-esque pressure techniques, but it’ll take time. And i hope he does. Zonal pressure fails you big time if you get a minor detail wrong(like has happened against big teams this season)

  17. Hong_gunner says:

    All this team needs is a lit more development and may be one or two experienced heads. Remember, barca hadn’t won shit, and by shit, i mean fuck all shit between 1999-2005. Now, they are the world beaters. Wenger is close. I expect a Van Bronckhorst(2001-02, double winning year)-esque signing by Wenger this summer with may be get in one defender and a few kids. Who could that shrewd experienced(need not be more than 30, unlike campbell) signing be?

  18. Jibzi says:

    Interesting article and agree alot with what you say. I wanted to add the standard of refereeing last night, which I believe was awful. The tactic to get tight and deny them as much room as possible, with a fair amount of rough challenges was really looking promising, until you have Walcott cynically brought down without the offender being booked, and Denilson getting booked for a clean challenge on Messi. He seemed to favour Barca alot more and so upsetting their rhythm of play became much harder, and then you have a linesman who flags Bendtner for offside whilst clean through on goal, when he was in fact onside.

    Full credit to Messi but do you think if he faced an Essien, Mascherano, Fletcher or even a Flamini, that he would have done that much damage.

    I mean, if you think about it, we have scored every time we have played them in 5 games, unlike ManUre or Chelski. Maybe if Diaby had played in Walcott when we broke forward and perhaps made it 2-0, who knows? But its all in the past and while we know they keep the ball well, they work so hard to get it back once they lose possession.

    I was also relieved when the tempo of the game went down after half-time, and that they went a bit more defensive, because they really could have humiliated us even more than they already did.

    It was very hard with alot of injuries and lack of experience, but hopefully, we will learn and bounce back. We definitely need to invest preferably in a defender, defensive midfielder, goalkeeper, striker and maybe a winger.

    Even if we progressed, I dont think we would have got past Inter as they have a brick wall of a defense compared to our cardboard version. So hopefully we can pick ourselves up for the Sp*rs game next week.

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