Those who believe ends justify means will hail the Sith Lord for his victory. Others who believe in doing the right thing over and above everything else will cringe at the sight of the Dark One standing at the Camp Nou arms raised, index fingers pointing to the sky.
One of the major reasons I’m a staunch Arsene supporter is that Le Boss does the right thing. The man’s adherence to principles and the right ones at that makes him stand out amongst all the top managers in this world.
I can understand some Arsenal fans like to take a blinkered view of success measured only in terms of silverware. I can also understand why people appreciate the manager who must not be named. I just don’t agree with it.
Inter achieved their objective and it doesn’t matter that they had a disgraceful 14% possession or just one shot on goal, the scuffed Chivu free kick that was way off target.
This image for shots on goal would make you wonder if this was a training exercise of attack vs defence. The majority in the world will only remember who qualified and in the eyes of some that’s enough justification.
The reason I hate top teams playing with 10-11 defenders is that it sets a very bad example. The nature of the game is such that defending is much easier than attacking. Consequently, mastering defence is much easier than creating a strong attack.
When a team like Inter goes through against the best attacking team, it tells all the small teams they must start putting men behind the ball if they want to get results. Is it a surprise then that so many teams in England park the bus and make it difficult for the top teams? If relegation battlers do that I can understand. But when you see a team that’s been winning the Italian league do that against the team winning the La Liga, you really worry for the future of football.
If Bojan had put his header one yard to the left all negative tactics, hard work and discipline would have been meaningless. I doubt anyone but Barca fans will remember this a few weeks down the line, leave alone a few years. But it does bring some perspective to the result and highlights a very fine line between winning and losing.
I’m not taking anything away from Inter. They did enough over two legs and Barca really didn’t have enough in attack. The Italians forced them wide with an impenetrable core and had a six man line ready to deal with any cross. It was simple, really, and the keyword for success was discipline. You could say the keywords for failure were unimaginative and insipid.
The Nerazzuri always had three or four players on Messi when the diminutive wiz got the ball and that rendered him ineffective. Busquets, Kieta, Toure, Maxwell, Pedro, Bojan and Alves were just not good enough in the final third. Xavi didn’t have enough support and his limitations are exposed when the opposition is so well organized. Ibrahimovic was so bad Barca must be ruing the day they swapped him for the extremely professional and effective Eto’o. After this game that looks like the transfer blooper of the season.
I don’t think there is much else Barcelona could have done. Perhaps, they could have played Pique as a centre forward right after the sending off. In hindsight, that seems a good solution as the defender was their best player. Messi could have dropped deep more often and made some runs on the flanks. Beyond that the Barca squad were quite limited in what they could offer.
If anything this semi-final just shows how difficult it is for teams like Arsenal and Barcelona when a top quality defensive unit sets its stall out. In the first leg Barca lost 3-1 in a manner reminiscent of our recent defeats at the hands of United and Chelsea. In the second leg the Catalans struggled to create chances of note, once again reminding us of our struggles against the strong defensive units fighting for the Premier League crown.
Should Arsenal and Barcelona change their approach or is there another way around this? Both can certainly improve their defence. I am all in favour of playing the beautiful game but that doesn’t mean you have to be stupid and naive at the back. The goals we concede against the top sides and those that Barca conceded in the first leg were down to fundamentally poor defending. You have to learn the tricks of the Dark Arts even if you wish to conquer them with magic and beauty. Here’s hoping that next year we see the Return of the Jedi!
P.S – Will this make Barca even more desperate for Cesc!?