Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Heroic performance. Magnificent result. Half the job done.

I was worried pressing higher up the pitch will leave Arsenal exposed but in the end the result justifies the manager’s approach and the players deserve immense credit for fighting all the way till the end to achieve this win. It also shows how little I know but in this case I’m delighted to be proven wrong. I have no doubt this game would have taken a lot out of all the players but the feeling at the end more than makes up for it.

In some ways it was a very predictable game. Barcelona had a lot of the ball but Arsenal chased them and put pressure on their passing. In the first 10-15 minutes the Catalan side were a bit rattled and their passing wasn’t working that well. Arsenal dominated that period in terms of pressure and created a great chance when Cesc played a Laudrupesqe chip for Van Persie. The angle was too tight for the Dutchman and Valdes was able to save it.

Even then the visitors were always dangerous on the break and Song picked up a booking in the 7th minute for a cynical foul to stop Messi on a counter.

After the first quarter-hour had gone Barcelona settled into their rhythm better. Soon after Messi was clean through on goal but chipped it wide. Guardiola’s side were looking more likely to score but Arsenal looked dangerous every time Walcott got a chance to run at the defence. In one such move Theo played Fabregas in and El Capitan crossed towards the back post. Abidal just got his head on the ball as Van Persie was about to head home.

In the next minute Arsenal conceded at the other end when Messi was able to run with the ball towards the defenders. Clichy took a step back but the central defenders held their line. That was enough for Villa to sneak in behind. I was a bit disappointed Djourou wasn’t on the half-turn to track the run but it all happened at such pace it’s difficult to criticize the defenders. Szczesny conceded through his legs as his rare technical weakness was exposed. Still I don’t want to blame any individual for the goal. Against Barcelona an odd mistake here or there always proves costly for all teams. By and large Arsenal did catch the opponents off-side so the defenders did a good job under pressure.

For the rest of the first half Arsenal tried hard to get back into the game but Barcelona were always in control and were looking more likely to score the second. Song was really lucky to get away with a number of fouls without picking up a second booking. As an Arsenal fan I was happy with the ref’s decision making but if an opponent had gotten away with it I’d have been furious.

During the first half, Barcelona were able to bring the ball out down the right with ease. Alves was almost always unmarked but Arsenal did a decent job of closing him down the defensive third.

In the second half the Gunners came out with even more effort and determination. In contrast, Barcelona moved into second gear and didn’t show any real attacking purpose. Their final balls were lazy and the runs weren’t as good as we normally see.

Arsenal created a number of half chances but never really got enough bodies forward. Guardiola’s men were back in numbers every time Arsenal broke forward. It also looked like Van Persie was having an off day and Valdes looked quite comfortable in goal.

At the other end Messi hit the side netting from a tight angle and Koscielny did well to recover after Pedro got in behind. But it was clear Barcelona weren’t as threatening as the first half. Part of it was down to better intensity from Arsenal and part was probably down to the fact that the visitors were tiring or taking it easy.

With little over 20 minutes to go Arshavin came on for Song. Minutes later Bendtner came on for Walcott. The game turned on its head in the 77th minute. Arshavin played to Clichy who’d come forward. The full back played an incredibly deft chip with his right leg that put RvP in behind. The angle looked too tight and I was looking for a cross that will find Bendtner’s run. The Dutchman had other ideas and squeezed it in between the Keeper and his near post from a near impossible angle. Valdes looked like a clueless clown as the ball hit the back of the net.

The goal roused the crowd and it looked like Barcelona were rudely awakened from their slumber. But they never really got going despite pushing forward in search of a winner.

The second came after some good work at the back. Arsenal brought the ball out with composure. Wilshere found Cesc whose turn and pass reminded me of Zidane. The through ball for Nasri was perfect but the Frenchman was a bit wide and had three defenders chasing back. Nasri kept a cool head and played a perfectly weighted square pass to find the onrushing Arshavin. The Russian’s finish was pure class.

The visitors tried to equalize but Arsenal had enough bodies at the back to block and tackle. Arshavin had an iffy moment when he messed up a defensive header but Szczesny did well to close Alves down without conceding the foul.

In the end I thought Arsenal deserved the win for their endeavour and finishing while Barcelona deserved to lose for what I perceived was their arrogance and casualness.

Individual Performances

Szczesny: Excellent goalkeeping for most parts. Never looked nervous or indecisive. Has one weakness as he jumps in a one-v-one situation which will lead to a number of goals between his legs unless he improves his starfish technique.

Eboue: Deserves credit for a good defensive performance. Was quite confident on the ball. The only criticism would be that he didn’t always make the right decisions when he got forward but that wasn’t a surprise.

Djourou: Pretty good for most of the game. Made one or two poor passes that could have led to trouble.

Koscielny: Absolutely brilliant. Very good on one-v-ones, read the game well, covered behind Clichy and bailed Djourou out when he gave the ball away in a dangerous position. Didn’t lose his concentration even for a moment. Good composure on the ball and played some intelligent passes.

Clichy: Decent job of defending the left given that he was outnumbered on occasions. Will be criticized for the goal but I don’t blame him. Sublime assist for the goal.

The back five did really well under pressure. Messi was able to run at them on a number of occasions but they managed to keep him out which is a big achievement that many will not fully appreciate.

Song: Chased the ball a lot. Was technically the weakest midfielder on the pitch and it showed a bit. Deserves credit for his effort but was lucky to be on the pitch at half-time.

Cesc: One chip that reminded me of Michael Laudrup, a turn that brought back memories of Zidane. Initially his passing was a bit off but got better as the game went on. Put in a big shift all over the pitch. Loved the way he interacted with the crowd.

Wilshere: Mindblowing. And I’m not exaggerating. What a game from the youngster. Easily his best for Arsenal so far. Showed excellent technique and awareness of his surrounding, passing was wonderful, used his body really well to get past people even when under serious pressure. Fair amount of defensive work as well.

The midfield put in a tremendous shift and made up for the lack of possession with determination, concentration, and hard grind.

Walcott: Was dangerous every time he got a chance to run at the Barcelona defence but I thought Arsenal’s high pressing meant that he didn’t get many chances of doing that.

RvP: Missed a number of half chances but turned it around with a wonder strike. Worked hard all over the pitch and helped the team out by dropping deep when required.

Nasri: Another one who wasn’t having a great game early on. Was able to sustain possession but lacked the cutting edge. Made up for it all at the end with a well weighted assist.

The front three weren’t getting much time or space for most of the game. I liked the way they kept plugging away and kept trying their luck.

Subs: Arshavin put in a good shift and scored a peach. Bendtner didn’t get much time but his presence in the box made a difference.

I don’t know how many of you read this article yesterday but the guy, Rohan Ricketts, predicted a 2-1 in for Arsenal with RvP, Arshavin and Villa as the goal scorers!

It’s a big win but the job hasn’t been completed just yet. A bigger, sterner test will come three weeks later at the Camp Nou. For the time being though we should savour this performance and hope that it will serve as the perfect inspiration for the Cup Final.

PS: Was anyone else annoyed this phenomenal performance and result is being mentioned in the same breath as the Tiny Totts’ win over the relics of Milan?


103 Responses to Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. MrStrange says:

    Young Jack – Captain Jack – Jack The Lad – Professor of the game called football ! ! !

  2. suyud Indonesian Gooner says:

    Pertamax

    well done lads
    drop my tears when Arshavin score the second goal
    Hi Desi
    can you explain to me what Winning mentality really means for you
    coz some Manure fans says Arsenal doesnt have it
    and its so annoying

  3. Claver says:

    Arsenal ‘smashed it’!

  4. w12mcee says:

    pique misses next match. chesney is now no.1 for the nrxt 20 years. no amount of money could buy jack

    • santori says:

      Dare I say we might even have TV back but who needs him when Doourou and Kos are doing well together. 😀

      Oh and Sagna will be back too…and Song is still on the pitch the lucky boy.;)

  5. What a brilliant game of football tonight. The Catalan giants would have gone back plotting how to steal our midfield wizard, and no I’m not talking about Cesc, I mean the 19 year old one – Jack the lad, he was magnificent today! Thank God he has err….’Arsenal DNA’…ok. Bye.

  6. rivnam lahan says:

    only half time…

  7. Jaygooner says:

    Good first half. Adrian Chiles is an in bred freak. Gareth Southgate is a thoughtful, intelligent pundit. We got it all to do in the Nou Camp, for sure, but blimey, the team grew some bollocks tonight! OOOOOH TO BE A GOOONER

    • desigunner says:

      Southgate has been a manager and knows the real struggles of football. I hope we see more managers working as pundits. And I mean real managers not the likes of Fat Sam

  8. tomiwagunners says:

    some clubs are history onlookers while some are history maker. tonight arsenal is about to write history,the truth is barca will always have the possessions whenever they are playing it s normal for them and that is what they are made of,but coming behind to eventually win a game especially against barca showed purpose,strenght,determination,power and character and that is what arsenal displayed.let s show beleive and support for this team for the second leg and arsenal is about to write history come second leg,arsenal 4 life…………..

  9. emailen says:

    Koscielny is my MOTM. Walcott is the worst.

  10. Mark says:

    yeah, Wilshere (motm), Koscielny, and walcott were the three best as i saw it.
    We were much more fluent without Song…he needs to continue to become sharper on the ball, because he still offers a lot to us defensively.
    I don’t like to talk about negatives after a good win, but if Song can’t get better on the ball, he will eventually be overtaken by another player.
    In fact, considering how much better we are becoming defensively (team-wide and back 4), in the future a more capable and attack-minded player (perhaps aneke, or even nasri/ramsey when they come back) might push him out of the team.
    Wilshere can play that deep role alone pretty well, with the freedom to push forward.

    • desigunner says:

      I think Song will always be a key player in the English League and Cup games and in many of the CL ties. The games of this level of quality will be few and far between.

      • santori says:

        I disagree with you when you say that Song is least technical. he plays a different game but he is every bit as technical.

        What Jack does brilliantly is he is unafraid to carry the ball at Barca.

        I think Barca are truly uncomfortable when we go at them at pace. Case in point Walcott whom I thought was excellent first 20 minutes but lost his way somewhat.

        When we go at them, we seem that bit quicker. More on this later.

  11. SomeRandomGunner says:

    I too got my predictions right 🙂 Predicted 30-35% possession and 2 goals for Arsenal 🙂

    @desi Accept almost everything except Cesc had a decent game. It was one of his worst games. Only midfielder to come out decent is Wilshere actually he was the best midfielder including both teams including Messi.

    • desigunner says:

      I can see why you might feel that way about Cesc but I thought he did well considering there was a lot of pressure on him to create and there weren’t many forward looking options. In contrast, Wilshere didn’t have much pressure as no one expected him to be the star of the show and he had decent number of options in front of him as he played deeper. Not trying to take anything away from Wilshere but the two roles were quite different.

      • SomeRandomGunner says:

        Cesc did not have almost any composure and rushed things too much. RVP for example who was playing in the same zone did very very well with the ball where as Cesc lost the ball too many times. Also Cesc looked tired for whatever reasons.
        Wilshere was last night unpressable (if there is such a word) his awareness was simply too good and almost never lost the ball.
        In the second half he grew into the game and his quality shone for the through ball 2nd Goal.

      • desigunner says:

        Fabregas covered the most distance out of all the 22 players on the pitch. That showed his work rate and also showed why he was struggling in the forward areas a little more as he’d to cover a lot more ground to get there when compared to RvP.

        Moreover RvP wasn’t looking to create many chances and given his finishing I wouldn’t say he showed better composure than Fabregas. He too rushed things a bit probably because he was trying too hard to make an impact.

        The problem with Cesc is that he’s set the bar so high people don’t realize how good he is when compared to others even on an off day. I’m not saying he was better than Wilshere, just that it’s not right to compare the two in games like these.

  12. w12mcee says:

    wenger out! sell arshavin! sign a CB! who the f@#£ is koscielny?

    • Nabil Danial says:

      Please people, to those clicked the thumbs down… Can’t you guys get it?

    • desigunner says:

      You know the irony is the fans who said all that nonsense will change their tune for now and will be at it again the moment a couple of performances are a bit off.

      Well, I guess irony is not the right word but you get the point.

      • santori says:

        Kos was brilliant tonight. he used his pace to good effect and has learnt well from his errors earlier in the season. I had him for MOTM on our side.

    • WengerOut-Seriously says:

      Sell RVP. He is always injured.
      Sell Song, he is no good.
      Sell Clichy, he doesn’t know how to defend.
      Sell Sagna, he can’t cross. Oh he didn’t play? fine, then sell whoever replaced him cause he ain’t good either.
      Sell Cesc.

      Buy Carlton Cole/Darren Bent to replace RVP.
      Buy Scott Parker to replace Song.
      Buy Phil Jagielka to replace JD.
      Buy anyone to replace our keepers. And I mean ANYONE.

      To top it all, Wenger OUT.

      Change our team with Chel$ki or Manures. What do you mean you can’t do that? Why not? I do that all the time on my PS3 and I NEVER EVER loose a single game or have a bad game and ALWAYS win all the games and tournaments. If Arsene can’t do better than me, he should go.

      By the way, I have a blog where I tell you who should play and who we should buy/sell and for how much. Do visit it.

      Break is over folks, I gotta go back to flipping burgers.

  13. Aussie Jack says:

    Damn it, over slept and only caught the second half, but what a half, best football I`ve seen in years, credit for that goes to both sides.
    Jack Wilshere has definately come of age and I made him `man of the match` but the man who saved Arsenal was that kid between the sticks Szczesny and he can only improve. This performance will build confidence in other domestic games whatever happens at Nou Camp.

  14. Phil23 says:

    Firstly, JACK WILSHERE. Player of the game constantly keeping possession or beating a player or being in a good area of the pitch. This was the first game ever that I believe we will still do well once Cesc leaves (in a couple of years). Secondly, Great substitutions by Arsene and at the right times of the match to boot. Lastly, shame Hong Gunner I was right and you were wrong. (Yes i just said that but that guy pissed me off a few posts ago.) We had less possession, Our midfield were outplayed most of the game even though Jack played phenomenally, our fullbacks played a vital part as they were often put one on one against Alves, Pedro, Messi, Villa. Clichy made the assist for Van Persie. Alves was beaten by Nasri several times, Maxwell was dominated by Walcott on the counter in the first half and then dominated by Nasri for the winner. We were dominant on the counter attack like I said before the match due to their “comparatively slow back line” shown by the fact that our defence who faced many more through balls and were defending long periods of the game coming out on top even with a high line. Next time know what your talking about before you mock me on my favourite blog. Btw who’s questioning Koscielny now?
    Arsenal till I die.

  15. ak47 says:

    were the envy of all footie fans tonight, talk about stealing the lime light of the spuds! haha(nelson style) forever in our shadow.

    well done lads.

  16. Nabil Danial says:

    Yup, Koscielny is my man of the match. He couldnt done better. 10 out of 10!!!

  17. Snir Geuli says:

    Desi, you know I love your analysis most of the time (we emailed a couple of times) but you missed the key focal point of the match.

    Wenger saw this and reacted immediately, and he never ceases to amaze me. Song was booked early on and looked like he was gonna be sent off so to the second half he changed the marking on Messi and ordered Djourou and Kozzer to press him very high up the pitch and allow Song to cover for them while they do it.

    As a result Kozzer was having a second half to remember and they looked less dangerous (before Villa and Song were both substituted).

    On your analysis on Szczesny I think you are very wrong, cause it is that technique that makes him excellent in 1v1 situations. He comes out and blocks out all the available angles, he was unlucky to get it in between his legs for the goal but I’m positive he influenced Messi to shoot wide (both with the chip and the side netting) and his outstretched arms forces Alves not to shoot late in the game.

    Other than that, agree with everything 🙂

    Cheers mate!

    • desigunner says:

      Excellent, excellent point about the change. I noticed the defenders going high up to press Messi but didn’t make the connection that it had something to do with Song, which was a miss on my part. Somehow I’d the feeling the ref wasn’t going to give a red and that probably affected my analysis of this. But it doesn’t take anything away from a very subtle but critical move by Arsene. Hats off to Le Boss and kudos to you for pointing it out.

      I’ll try to write an article on the starfish and why I feel Szczesny has a weakness there. Messi could also have scored with his first chance if he’d gone between the legs but he probably didn’t expect a gap there (which was there). It’s important for the keeper to make himself big but for a striker the spot through the legs is one of the easy finishes. If one gets the starfish right (as Almunia often did) it forces the attacker to go for a tougher option and often leads to a miss.

      I’m sure Szczesny will be able to work on it as it’s not a big problem. Many goalkeepers leave a gap between their legs but the truly great ones should do better and Wojciech has the talent to be one of the greats.

    • Metalhead says:

      great point! I think the fact that Villa was removed made it easier for the 2 CB’s.

  18. Noobi says:

    wilshere was better than fabregas , he was very good under pressure and hardly missed a pass , he is a very promising player ( a talented player impress everybody from the start unlike player like denlison who you can give him all the opportunities in the world and still cant deliver )

    Koscielny was surprisingly very good ,
    we must cover dani alvis side next time ( nearly all barcellona offence starded there )

  19. JP says:

    I am proud of my team for the way they played. Go Gunners!

  20. naveen says:

    villa scored and i thought here we go again… playing catch up … rvp’s misses.. i knew i was in for a long night.. 2 goals in the matter of 8 mins.. and boy was i screaming my lungs out.. i washugging people i did not know!!! great result.. character and heart.. boys did great! and its my birthday today! could not have asked for a better present.. KEEPING THE FAITH!! UP THE GUNNERS!!!
    I am loving this feeling right now!

    • santori says:

      RVP…yes, he does like to do things the hard way doesn’t he?:)

      Good goal for AA. I think it meant a lot to him and let’s hope (no false dawn) that this sets him back on the path of rehabilitation to come in with a strong finish for us till end of season.

  21. Fred Ssekiziyivu says:

    Lost for words, will comment to tomorrow.

  22. Charlie says:

    Accurate assessment Desi, nice one. Magnificent performance, Koscielny surprised me the most but Jack was also awesome. I mentioned yesterday that at our best we could beat them at their own game and shouldn’t sit back, not in those words. It was the day that proved this team has the steel to go with the finesse and can actually win trophies. I’m living in Canada so don’t know how the press have reacted to this result but if it’s not getting more attention than Spurs beating a poor Milan side that’s a disgrace. So they’re top but in the weakest Italian league i can remember. To compare Barca have 62/69pts in 23 while Milan have 52/75pts in 25.

    • desigunner says:

      I guess the media just has to find reasons to hype up the Tiny Totts. I’m now trying hard to ignore it.

      You’re right about the combination steel and finesse. Let’s hope it works out in the second leg as well, which will undoubtedly be much tougher.

  23. santori says:

    I think we’ll take a number of things from this game not least satisfaction for not being given a chance in hell :

    1)Confidence. Barca are not invincible. To come back from a goal down against the ‘best team’ in the world will boost our confidence enormously.

    2) Experience. Djourou and Kos will have gained from their first experience of playing against Messi (and the highline …good point about the adjustment)and will be better off for the return leg.

    3) Fitness. I thought we were the fitter side despite us chasing the ball most of the time. Barca seem tired come 2nd half.

    When they tried to close us down, they left large gaps at the back whhich we were able to exploit.

    I think Barca are afraid of our pace and when we go at them, it unsettles their shape.

    If we can get att them at pace in the Nou Camp, we will more than stand a chance.

    4) off the ball movement. I thought we did very well off the ball defensively but not quite as well offensively. We were far too spread out.

    perhaps there was still abit of trepidation going forward and we showed maturity in not being too ambitious but I think with this victory and the boost in confidence, we will (should) go forward with even more intent in the return leg.

    NOW I FELL COMPELLED TO WRITE IN CAPS…ABSOLUTELY F@CKING BRILLIANT WIN FOR US TONIGHT. COME ON ARSENAL!!!:D

    • desigunner says:

      Excellent point about fitness. I think even Wenger mentioned it in his post match briefing. I guess it’s a rare advantage of playing in a physical league :))

      Agree about the confidence part as well but we need to carry this forward in the upcoming games otherwise it will be sucked out in no time.

      Off the ball I’m not sure the system is still clear. Sometimes it feels players are not sure if they should stay back or go forward and that could lead to this feeling of being spread out as some go forward while others stay back. But it’s very tough to perfect it against a side like Barca anyway.

    • dotstuff says:

      that is just the word-‘not being too ambitious’ in going all out for the equalizer. we have been punished too many times for doing that. But I think AW’s gamble really worked on the substitutions. Going all out as soon as Villa was off the pitch.

  24. JJ Pittman says:

    Had to turn the sound off for the first half of the 2nd half. Announcers always seem to be frontrunners. Though Jack was MotM with Kosc and Szczesny close behind. Was very concerned that Barca were allowed to get all over us to regain possession, while the slightest touch fouls were called against us trying to do the same.
    So glad Song was able to be substituted before he got second yellow. RvP blew several chances but his goal more than made up for it(that’s when I turned the sound back on)
    On the winner, once again Sami showed his incredible presence. Just stopped and threaded it through to AA23. What a redemptive first time touch.
    AW’s substitutions were tactically excellent in my opinion.
    We’re only halfway there, but that’s a lot more than most of the talking heads thought.
    In re Spuds, who cares. If anybody had a reason to complain about the refs, it’s Milan,
    C’mon, Man!
    Best of all is mental health! Sagna back in return and Pique out. Their keeper and substitute cbs much more suspect than ours.
    O 2 B a Gooner!

  25. tman says:

    Im truly stunned by Jack Wilsheres performance tonight. Not once did he give the ball away; even when hunted by the Barcelona wolfpacks. And when his teammates were hunted down he was always there to take the ball and relieve the pressure. Watch the game again (I just did). He was taking kicks annd digs and still calmly held the ball and relieved the pressure. I’d rate this performance alongside Keanes against Juventus 10 yeas ago. He sees the pass years before he gets the ball. His strength to shield the ball is incredible. But best of all – his ability to make to make space for himself is what makes him world class; a little jink to the right, or a dummy to the left. You cannot teach this innate God given ability. Capello wasn’t wrong when he said he’ll become one of the games greatest ever players. But once again this only highlights Wengers vision.

  26. Snir Geuli says:

    Desi, you’ve got mail 🙂

  27. samir nasri says:

    don’t think i’ve ever been so ecstatic as an arsenal fan. the boys did it

    and samir wasn’t even sprinting at them

    the next leg will be a great one, van persie.. what a tight shot!

    • santori says:

      They are very afraid of our pace.

      When Samir gets back into proper match fitness, we will have yet another (full)weapon out left (not to mention Sagna will be back)

  28. james says:

    In the same vein as several gunners today, I will start with 3 words:
    1. Wilshere: the possible future legend that will, if given the opportunity and with a good head on his shoulder, develop into something that hasn’t been seen on this shores in a long while.
    2. Wilshere: the young teen who soared heads and shoulders against the excellent midfielders in the team termed ‘the best team ever seen in the world’ and held, controlled and passed the ball like a maestro, and
    3. Wilshere: the one-man wrecking crew who has transformed us from depending on independables (Diaby and Denilson) to ensuring that we will never close our eyes because of mistakes, poor commitment, less-than-the-hardest work and total exposure of our defense from 1 or 2 bad apples.

    For me, this game was so much about the future of our club becoming its present. I’ve said so many times when this season started that I finally feel we have a close-to-complete team when it comes to numbers (TV, come back NOW) and for once I have no issue whatsoever with any player in our starting 11, this is the closest I think we’ve come to the invincibles, so many players understand their roles and it would be a shame for Cesc to leave now (even if it might be the necessary straw to elevate Wilshere sooner into the position it seems he will inevitable grow into). In Szczesny, we finally have someone at the back who inspires and doesn’t look like he’ll as soon throw the ball into his own net along with his defenders. Three weeks out and Nasri still has the presence of mind to wait till the underaprreciated Arshavin produced exactly what he’s capable of. And RVP, please do not get injured again this season, you’re ridiculously talented and a wonderful worker, finish your revenge hit against the Spanish-Barca team. Our backline was wonderful, Song showed that he will battle on to the death even if he has to endure being sent off; Clichy finally decided that his mistakes will not define the games he can do other things in, Eboue gave hope continuously and Theo did the hard work that other benefited from at the end.
    I’m not talking about Cesc today, I actually thought he was nowhere as good as he can be on his day but talent and greatness always come through and he’s simply that- GREAT. But I will go back to Wilshere, this guy maintained control of the ball in the face of all that Barca pressing, this 16/17/18 yr old was confident and fearless enough to attempt long accurate passes even against the much hyped Barcelona geniuses. regardless of what happens in 3 weeks time, I hope this is just one of the ropes in the many stepping stones Jack has climbed this year; hope he keeps his humility even if Wenger (who’s the best moulder of both character and play even with all his flaws) leaves before he can fully develop.
    It’s a good day to be a gunner!

  29. kloney says:

    All hail Arsenal! History made by the so called “Boys” in football beating the best team in the world. Wilshere was fantastic and Arshavin has redeemed himself. What a great TEAM of pure class and talent! In Arsene we trust…

  30. Claver says:

    Desi,

    Last week Arsenal were ‘weak and insipid’ now Arsenal are ‘a great advert for English football’.

    Pity then, that Arsenal are the exception and not the rule in the EPL.

    Pity, that Chelsea and ManUtd could not beat Barcelona, a then weaker Barcelona, at playing football.

    Contrast what Arsenal have done with the days of Mourinho sneaking into some basket to cheat for a point.

    Of-course, if we are to believe the pundits, Arsenal beating Barca fair and square (no complaints from Barca, not a squeak!) does ‘not prove anything’.

    When someone is continually lifting the bar, changing the measure, you don’t take them seriously.

    Before the match Barca were the best team in the world. I guess Arsenal are better than the best team in the world.

    I’m glad, that on the big stage Arsenal showed what we expect.

    Remember when Arsenal played AC Milan? The first EPL team to ‘smash’ them on home soil?

    If you believe the nonsense, drivel, written by the majority of ‘pundits’, Arsenal beating Barca is like Newcastle drawing 4-4 with Arsenal.

    Except, the coaches in Europe do not think so. Neither do they think of Arsenal as ‘Barcelona-lite’ because they realise that the brand of football played by Arsenal is unique from that played by Barca.

    Of-course, with the sad lowering of journalistic standards most pundits are not paid to think and analyse, but to say something catchy or agreeable.

    Which is why I like reading this blog.

    In fact, if you analyse the way Barca play they play very much in the style of the Brazilians, except with exaggerated (sp) movements. Something particularly suited to small players like that.

    Anyway, I’m getting boring and starting to sound a little too pompous.

    Great win last night, let’s keep the tempo and momentum.

    A toast, to the team that beat the best team in the world and left the aforementioned team with no complaints.

    • gunzblazzin says:

      i remember the the barca vs man u CL final, man u were ripped apart in that game and messi scored with his head lol,he was the shortest player on the pitch, so for us to beat barca is saying something, but we always do the impossible, like when we whooped inter at their ground 5-1 and when we beat madrid at the berna beu when nobody gave us a chance. we go from strength to strength like wenger would say lol.

  31. Claver says:

    Arsenal fans beware: most of the hype surrounding Wilshere is coming from the ‘pundits’.

    You should treat that as bad news indeed. But then again, who noticed Wislhere allowing Messi to ghost past him not protecting his back four?

    Minor details of-course. He’s English. He played well? He was the best player on the pitch?

    Jack played well, made some highly visible runs (anything to do with his position? I’m sure I’ve seen Diaby do that?) but MOTM?

    Surely you must be joking, Mr Pundit sir?

    • Kushagra India says:

      Claver certainly the best midfielder for Arsenal Nasri looked unfit from the start the difference came when he was switched to the middle Cesc wasn’t his usual best

    • Metalhead says:

      You’re right about Diaby. He’s got amazing ball control just like Wilshere but people just accuse him of not having an end product. I think it is spectacularly unfair.
      I don’t know if Wishere was the man of the match or not but he was certainly the best midfielder in the park. I think what he does better than Diaby is that he does not lose the ball. As long as the ball is with him (Diaby) he’s great. The problem is when he has to release the ball. That’s where I think Wilshere scores. He’s got better vision and creativity than Abou Diaby. He acts as a linkman between Arsenal’s half and the opponents half and he does it very well. I don’t have stats to prove this but his passing accuracy is very good and he knows when he should pass sideways/back and when to release the ball to the forward moving players. I can safely say he is far better than Diaby in this respect and I can safely say he is going to be one of Arsenal’s finest midfielders.

      • Claver says:

        I agree that Wilshere showed great composure. There are very few of Arsene’s players who show a lack of composure.

        This was Wilshere’s greatest asset yesterday, it will only help him if he continues to mine that rich seam.

        Particularly in his defensive play. Composure helps you to make the correct judgement regarding the speed and movement of an opposing player.

        The idea of a defence is primarily to sherperd danger away from critical areas, it is to avoid such danger drifting towards your defenders. Winning the ball back is normally the second priority, if you are playing highly skilled teams.

        My point is this; Messi noticed that by dropping deep he could make runs in toward Wilshere, or behind him, hence the opportunities in the first half.

        Nasri and Song were in to help Wilshere in that position, hence space for Maxwell and Alves.

        Wilshere has to hassle the danger away from his back four. This I think must be his priority in the second leg. The opportunities to attack will come for him in the second half, if he maintains excellent fitness, when the opposition realise that he is strong defensively.

        It is not easy, it is not glamourous; it’s hardwork over short spaces. If Wilshere learns the art of mastering those spaces he will indeed flourish.

        It must be said that about 3-4yrs back, Wenger stressed to Fabregas the need for him to master his space defensively, it is something he has built up. Ditto Walcott.

        Pep exploited this area between Nasri and Wilshere to great extent. Koscielny HAD to be outstanding.

        It is of credit to Koscielny, he has a great mental fortitude, that he didn’t give up.

        Wilshere did have a great game, the plaudits for him are well deserved. But I hope he thinks nothing of them and keeps up the hardwork.

      • santori says:

        @Claver

        You are correct to urge caution with regards young Jack.

        He had a very good game but it does not necessarily meant he played better than cesc or Song.

        Song was quite obviously briefed to be more defensive and sit closer to the defense as oppose to operating in our normal rotating trio going forward. He performed some unselfish (and unnoticed work) yesterday closing down a lot of space.

        Fab may not be at his best 9which is a good thing as he can definately go up a coupple more gears at the Nou Camp) but he did provide the sublime assist to release Nasri and even robbed Busquets off the ball.

        OTOH Jack is a clever little player and there is much praise to be heaped upon him for having the gumption to carry the ball forward. What I like about him he has no compunction against taking on the opposition one for one.

        When he (or indeed Arsenal as a whole) did that, Barca were invariably rather uncomfortable as I feel they are in lesser physical condition than we are.

        So Ditto teh return of Sagna (not to mention Nasri who just got back from injry), we will have again a lot of pace to burn in the return match and we MUST use it effectively (cut down their possession statistics a little)

  32. Kushagra India says:

    Desi unfair on Chesney MOTM performance along with Kozzer and Wilshere …..Villa would have chipped him sat too early…..Cesc was not his usual self not by any stretch of imagination hope to see a better performance at Nou Camp..

  33. gunzblazzin says:

    all i want to say is that i knew much before this game was played that we would beat barcelona if we were on our game, i read so many comments before this game from arsenal fans that we would get a whooping by barcelona , but hey believing is achieving, i’m really proud of the team and jack was pure class last nite, and koshelny was as strong as anything out there on the pitch, like ive said before arshavin can be our match winner and he has done it again today with such a calm and collective finish, some fans were saying hes lazy and they want him out, keep the belief because we have a bright future, great game and well deserved win.

    • santori says:

      Might I add some words of wisdom from the great Saint Arsharvin…

      reporter : “So you honestly believe that you have a chance of beating Barca at the Nou Camp”

      Saint Arsh : ” Of course, why not? if you don’t have belief, you have nothing”

  34. Metalhead says:

    A word of mention about the crowd. I have never seen the emirates crowd so lively my whole life! They absolutely brought the roof down! It was certainly 12 vs 11.

    • santori says:

      I certainly hope we will have a sizeable travelling contingent at the Nou Camp.

      I rather doubt that the arrogant Barca fans will afford us the polite courtesy which we showed them at the Emirates.

      there will certainly be a lot of boos and whistles when we are on the ball and I think Wenger would do well to ingrain into our players that that sound would be the sound of us doing well (possession). 😀

  35. Sandeep says:

    Couldn’t take my eyes off this game even for a second, awesome display of football by both the teams! Jack is the player of game from Arsenal’s side, I didn’t see him miss a single pass or come under pressure at any point of time… he’s a great talent.

    I just can’t wait for the second leg 🙂

  36. Tee Song says:

    What a fantastic win! Just a few random observations.

    -Was this Jack Wilshere’s coming of age? I don’t know how anyone can’t see that he was one of the outstanding, if not the outstanding, players for Arsenal. He was always available to receive the ball, amazingly composed under pressure, rarely made an errant pass and drove us forward repeatedly. And he’s just 19 and scratching the surface of his potential.

    -Defensively, we were very solid. Barca’s movement, touch, and passing in possession is truly amazing and I thought we did well. Sure some it was last ditch stuff but that’s to be expected when playing against them. Koscielny in particular was immense. Especially in the second half, we pressed them effectively.

    -In possession, especially immediately after Barca scored, the team got rattled a bit and began giving the ball away rather sloppily. They improved quite a bit in the second half.

    -Barca seemed to step off the gas in the second half. Overconfidence? Fitness? More effective pressing by us? I thought the substitution of Villa for Keita was surprisingly conservative. They seemed to be waiting for us to become overcommitted in our desperation to pull the goal back and when it didn’t happen, tried to shut up shop and see the game out. It robbed them of whatever forward impetus they had.

    -Arshavin finally got the goal which has been coming over the past few games. He seems to understand that his workrate needed to improve, regardless of what he did offensively. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

  37. Hong_gunner says:

    no words to say tonight really.. great win.. just a great fucking win !!!!!!!!!!!

  38. critic says:

    as i said – we can win with heart.

  39. amit says:

    it was almost 3am in delhi…there was an uncanny mist hanging all over and everyone was asleep…and when van persie hit that ball, i knew there was only one place the ball was going to end…i started shouting like a maniac and soon the entire building woke up to my cheers!! haha

    there are few times in a fan’s life when he looks back and says, “That was the game”…even after years take a toll on him physically he will always remember the day when his favorite team won the match and how…this was that day…

    and the best part we will have sagna for the return leg…and more importantly the belief…there is a dialogue which i heard in a hindi movie not so long ago and i remembered it after the match…

    the meaning in english translation is, “confidence is a big time bitch…nail it & then there is awesomeness but miss it & then there is a scandal”

    Arsenal has nailed that bitch…and the 2nd leg will prove it mark my words!!

    • desigunner says:

      Man I miss that feeling of watching European games in the dead of night. Eerie silence all around except the occasional barking dog. Adds to the atmosphere 🙂

  40. Tim says:

    We rode our luck a bit – thank God Messi was so wasteful in front of goal (who’d have thought it?) – but the boys deserved to get something out of the game for being so positive and continuing to fight to the very end.

    Were Barca casual? I think they certainly were after half-time. It didn’t look like we changed tactically, but they were much less ambitious. The fact that at 1-0 Guardiola sent on Keita for Villa while we took off Song and brought on Arshavin says it all. They thought the job was done on the night and were happy to close it out. Wenger was willing to risk losing 2-0 or worse in order to at lease try to level the game – obviously the right decision in the circumstances.

    We now have something to defend at Camp Nou. We will be put under incredible pressure, for sure, but win or lose the boys gave their all last night, and you can’t ask for more than that.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/02/17/wilshere-comes-of-age-as-late-strikes-seal-arsenal-comeback/

    • metalhead says:

      Van Persie missed 3 or 4 chances of his own too. If he had taken all his chances Arsenal would have been 3 or 4 up within half time.

    • santori says:

      @Tim, important that we be VERY careful in defense on the return leg.

      We must expect (unless the Ref is Italian) that the marginal calls will go against us this time.

      Keep those hands firmly tucked in and Kos, do not bundle Pedro over or mark too tight.:P

      The ref will be looking for any excuse to send them through.

  41. Saip says:

    Hey…congrats 🙂
    Thought of you when I heard the result and came over to this site. Will read the article now.

    All’s well in life?

    Saip

  42. AnonymousGun says:

    The girl who loves gunners brought up an interesting fact on tech9.

    His debut to EPL was against ManUre. His debut to ECL, Barcelona.

    D: Talk about arrogance! He picked the hardest matches possible for his debut as well 😀

  43. Adeel says:

    Oh My God ….. I’m sure thats what everyone felt yesterday. I truly believed we could win the match but i predicted RvP and Theo scoring for us and messi for them. Neways, all that matters was that we proved we are now a team to be looked at with fear.

    @ snir, excellent analysis of the change in tactics with regards to marking messi, it actually helped coz kozzer was much better as compared to song while marking messi out of the game in the second half.

    Cesc was amazing last night, there was a lot of pressure on him and even though he didnt play as good as he normally does, we could see that arsenals win meant a lot to him.

    Jack was unbelievable today … I thought he was the best midfielder on the pitch today and that includes the over rated xavi.

    Szcesny proved just why arsene believes in him so much. His celebration after the goal was full of passion.

    Seriously, i have no words to describe how much this win meant and i hope it does wonders for our team.

  44. Sreenath N says:

    Always read your posts Desi, especially no-nonsense titled one. “Match Thoughts and Individual Analysis”.

    I think Wilshere almost kept out Xavi and Iniesta. He was just running through them. He takes the ball, and 2-3 players chases down, but BANG he gives a weighed pass and moves away to create himself a space. Unbelievable composure.
    Song had a second half, he was a bit plastic in the first. I think he was told to mark Messi, and he was nervous.
    Walcott burned out, but we have like to like replacement.
    You are spot on about Captain Cesc. He’s the Sachin Tendulkar of Arsenal FC. No one likes him to drop his level.
    One of the Best Arsenal Performances.
    Glory Glory Gooners.

  45. Arun says:

    Most of the things have already been said and discussed here. So I will talk about some less discussed things here.

    We have made EMIRATES our fortress now. Credit goes to the fans more than the players. It is this intensity, that wasn’t there for some games this season.

    Key Differences between the sides(other than already discussed) that tilted the match in our favour.

    1)Emirates crowd. I felt yesterday Emirates crowd was the biggest of all the differences between the sides. I didn’t see much difference between the sides technically or rather they were slightly better. The crowd lifted the players and the players responded in style.

    2) Goal keepers. One saved the match for his side while the other lost the match for his side.

    3) Substitutions/Managers. Either side’s substitutions helped Arsenal. For Arsenal, taking Song for Arshavin proved to a master stroke while the other one seemed the obvious choice. Similarly, taking Villa off for keita was a bad move. I felt relieved and confident when Villa was taken off. Our players must have felt the same.

    Apart from these, I felt a clear difference in the game style between the two sides, I felt Arsenal were looking more like an attacking team than them. Both the teams try to pass the ball. But the key difference is we pass the ball to attack and Barca pass the ball to defend.
    Donot get me wrong, it is true I was left mesmerized a few times by their passes but at the same time got bored and almost slept a few times. I felt there were far too many “Denilson-ique” passes that it was becoming boring to watch. With the relative amount of possession and passes, Arsenal had more shots percentage than them explains this(didnt check the stats but I just felt that way)

    PS: By “Denilson-ique” passes, I meant more of defensive passing, passing to keep possession rather than to attack. This is not to slatter Denilson. This should be a considered a compliment.
    I consider Denilson’s role in our team is to be an outlet for passes when someone is closed down or someone at the verge of losing the ball, get the ball from him, pass it to defence, make space and start the attack all over again.

    • desigunner says:

      The crowd has certainly been better since the Chelsea win. That only shows how big an impact they could make when the players are struggling. Hopefully the fans will respond this way even when the going gets tough and not just when in such performances.

  46. 037 says:

    Desi, don’t you think that although Arsenal played some wonderful defending and scored some amazing goals, they struggled to keep possession, and ended up losing the balls due to poor crosses, passes and dribbles?

    The willingness (or ability?) for Arsenal to play a defensive possession game would’ve come in handy in games like these, as I feel that Barca would’ve been more frustrated in trying to get the ball, forcing them to play a higher line. This could then benefit Arsenal in creating better chances for “Fabregas chips/through balls” aimed at the likes of Walcott and Nasri.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree defensive possession would help in such games but it’s not easy to do and would need lots of practice. The risk is that if you get it wrong the chances of counter-attack would be very high as we’d lose the ball deep in our half.

      • santori says:

        I don’t think we will be able to improve against Barca by way of dispossession BUT I do think we can do a much better job at keeping our own possession.

        That should alter the statistics a little and limit our exposure when they have the ball (which they invariably will)

        What I think is important to make a distinction on is the two teams played different games whilst sharing the same ethos of attacking play.

        Whilst Barca were better at tippy tappy short passing (I would say they were akin to the proverbial deadly midget in the phonebooth with the knife), we were nonetheless competitive with regards passing ratio (73% pass rate as oppose to their 83%) and that’s because we chose to hit them with longer balls on the deck (In essence we were wielding a sword and wisely avoiding the phone booth.

        Whenever they closed our space down, we were trying to hit behind them where gaps opened up. They did not have the physical ability to keep pace with us and it took a punishing toll on their fitness later on.

  47. Phil23 says:

    The two comment above mine have both hit the nail on the head. To win/draw the 2nd Leg we must play with this team:Van Persie, Nasri Fabregas Walcott, Wilshere Denilson, Clichy Koscielny Djourou Sagna, Szscesny. Sagna is obviously an upgrade over Eboue while Denilson is very important and vital to us winning the game at camp nou. His Possession passing and technical ability as well as great intercepting and spot tackling ability make him the perfect defensive midfielder for this game. With the emergence of Wilshere we have the opportunity to do what nobody thinks is possible: match Barcelona for possession. This will mean less pressure on our defence and more pressure on theirs. Simple but if we can do it we know that we are both stronger in Defence and at least as potent up front. We can beat Barcelona at their own game in their own stadium. The team I have named can do it and I believe there is a chance Arsene will play this exact line up. An unexpected bonus is Song will not get any more cards from the tie and if we are to make it through he would be vital against English opposition. Please do not come in with a slate for Denilson as he has faults but they are faults exposed by the English game. He is a master of technical or European/American football and has shown it against Barca before. He will be the most energetic player on the pitch having had such few games lately and he has made statements in the past about how he hated Barcelona trying to steal Fabregas. Lastly, if he sits deep and marks Messi instead of Koscielny, Koscielny and Djourou may be able to play a little further apart allowing our wing backs to push back the wing backs (especially Alves on the right who gives them much of their direct threat along with Messi. This could also be achieved by pushing the entire backline left a little therefore meaning Sagna almost man marks Villa or whoever is on Barcas flank at the time, while Djourou covers for Denilson on Messi, leaving Koscielny to ccover for clichy by covering Pedro while Clichy is up field. at all other times he can help Denilson man mark Messi when for instance Denilson has missed an intercept attempt or is caught up field. Keeping Alves subdued as well as messi, while negating Barcas midfield with our own should leave the defence with a chance to concede much fewer than last time. We should also be able to create plenty of our chances of our own and imo I am confident we could achieve a score draw or more at Barcelona. Denilson is key please Arsene hear my call!

    • Phil23 says:

      Btw, Denilsons side passes will also benefit the full backs as they will be able to get forward more often. For an example of this ironically just look at the way Xavi can pick out Alves. I honestly believe that Denilson can up our possession stats by 7%. Look at the games he plays in and im sure we will find we get more possession in such games. Especially in Europe. Sorry it was so long but I just wanted to get it out there nice and early that this is a possible way Arsenal could go at Barca, and if we won this way it would be the sweetest possible way! Nobody could deny it and then what are they to do? The results between now and the next Barca game are vital. Will we carry the form over for 2 and a half weeks or will we suffer vital injuries or an untimely set back? The fans play a big part and lets hope they continue in the same vein as last night! Come on Gooners! Great Blog desi I hope that people comment on this post for weeks because this is the best game I have ever seen and I am so proud we were involved in it!

    • desigunner says:

      I like the positivity of thought in taking on Barcelona at the possession game but in my opinion it will be very, very risky.

      Arsenal, even on the days we dominate possession, go forward with the ball at the first opportunity. Barcelona pass it around a lot more. That is something I can’t see us replicating just like that as it involves a change of thought from all players.

      I’d also be cautious of Barca in the second leg because they are likely to be more focused and crisp with their passing, movement, and finishing.

      • santori says:

        Sorry, I’d much rather have Song.

        He is physically more imposing and is able to cover the Cbacks if/when they are pulled out of position.

        NO change except for Sagna.

      • JJ Pittman says:

        Think we have to continue to look to go forward, at least until we get one matching away-goal. They will pressing hard and will probably get the benefit of doubt on any reasonable challenge, while we will be called for the slightest of touch fouls(not complaining, just acknowledging power of home crowd on refereeing) Return of Sagna will be huge for us. Not worried about Puyol even if he is ready. Can Valdes really be as bad as he looked? I would use Song until we get a goal and only then consider Denilson.

  48. desigooner says:

    I wonder if you guys heard us chanting ‘Hands of Cesc Fabregas’on the telly. We shouted ourselves hoarse and continued with the same chant on the tube on our way back home. And there were quite a few Barca fans travelling with us.As far as I can remember, home against Chelsea was the only other occasion,when we really played as the 12th man!

  49. mark - from the Netherlands says:

    we heard you desigooner. You guys and the players brought tears to my eyes.

  50. Hameed Bakhshi says:

    misse next time at home

  51. Ajinkya says:

    I actually saw the game after reading the article. Really an accurate description.
    If we see the game it was high quality from both sides, no dangerous challenges(tony pulis, did you see the game?). Busquets chose football over acting. Tactics were brilliant, though I did not quite understand why they got Keita on for a center forward.
    Good news, Pique out for the next game. Song is available, Sagna will be back for Eboue.
    Wilshere showed pure class, Koscielny had a super CL fianl 16 debut. As Desi has said, absolute 1 on 1 master! Who would have known his name had he still been with Lorient? Overshadowed Djourou, who was as usual, Mr.Cool.
    Szczesny is just not afraid of anything!
    The game was a treat, a good get away from thug football. Hope Arsenal rest enough and come out firing in the FA cup, and against stoke.
    It will be difficult at Camp Nou, but let us push forward. Come on!

    • desigunner says:

      Even I was happy that there was no playacting. Alves could easily have dived in the last minute. Credit to him for not doing that.

  52. Kushagra India says:

    In a video editorial, Marca’s editor said: “From this match which makes one love football even more I would pick out Wilshere, Nasri, Walcott and above all the Russian boy Arshavin who blew the game wide open. Wenger was extremely clever to hold him in reserve in this game. He changed the rhythm of his team, probed the Barcelona defence and finished off a masterly move from the no less masterly Nasri.

  53. Arsenal says:

    I chanced upon this article by crashbang on February 17th, 2011 and I had a read and follow the URL for your comment

    http://soccerlens.com/pressing-tactics-how-half-pressure-caught-barcelona-out-against-arsenal/65492/

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