18 Seconds, 15 Touches – Wolves Indeed Was The Dress Rehearsal For Barcelona

You might remember this article just after the last Wolves game where I was discussing the quick counter attack that led to the second goal in that game and how it might be a dress rehearsal for Barcelona.

As it turned out Arsenal repeated the performance against the favourites to complete the turn around.

It started in our penalty box when Koscielny made the interception @82:21

It’s interesting to note that Nasri was sprinting back to support the defenders at that moment. He is seen wide on the left in that image.

I was impressed by the composure shown by Koscielny after winning the ball back. He took three or four touches before finding Bendtner wide on the right.

The Dane wasn’t even in the picture when the ball was won but dropped back and went wide to receive the ball. It’s worth noting how deep Nasri had come. He is just five yards or so in front of Koscielny.

When Bendtner receives the ball he displays a surprisingly good first touch. It’s also worth mentioning that while one-touch passing is generally highly appreciated, in some cases it’s not a good option. Here Bendtner didn’t have a good pass available that would not have put a teammate under pressure so he takes two or three touches.

We can also see Nasri is already on his way forward immediately after he’d sprinted back.

The striker beats Barcelona’s wolf-pack with a good pass to Wilshere who is now in a bit of space as the opponents converged towards the Dane. In my opinion this pass was a critical one as it took out six players. If Bendtner had given the ball away it would have been disastrous.

Nasri is already behind eight Barcelona players who are all still thinking of attacking the ball.

Wilshere then came up with a sublime touch. The youngster shifted his weight on to the standing foot and laid it off to Cesc with the perfect pace. In contrast with the Bendtner situation, Wilshere did have a good one-touch pass available to him and he took it really well. If he’d taken an extra touch the wolf-pack would have been on him and the attacking impetus would have been lost.

Nasri is already out of the picture anticipating the pass from Fabregas who is yet to receive the ball!

Fabregas controlled the ball with a delightful touch on the turn. Cesc had already seen the run by Nasri and doesn’t need any time to ping the ball in his path. All nine Barca players in the picture are now thinking about chasing the ball and worried about their goal.

After that Nasri took three or four touches without taking a hasty shot or making a hopeful pass to RvP. Arshavin made a good run and finished with a single touch @82:39.

It’s interesting to note that Alves is ahead of RvP in the last still shot. While the Dutchman sprinted into the Barca box the Brazilian jogged back leaving Arshavin completely free. It could be that all his runs down the right had left him a bit tired. In most games he’d get away with it as the attackers would not have the quality shown by Nasri and Arshavin.

Bendtner’s contribution is also worth acknowledging. Most strikers would not have such understanding in that part of the pitch. It needs a lot of practice and comes from being part of the system.

This attack saw a combination of one-touch (Arshavin, Cesc, Wilshere) and composed yet quick (Koscielny, Bendtner, Nasri) passing and finishing.

Arsenal will need more of this when we visit Camp Nou. Barcelona will be sharper in their attacks and even more suffocating with their pressing. Something tells me it can be done.

33 Responses to 18 Seconds, 15 Touches – Wolves Indeed Was The Dress Rehearsal For Barcelona

  1. SFOGunner says:

    Good Effort as usual, Desi. Not sure what maxwell was doing either ..

  2. D says:

    Ha! Considering the similarity between this and the Wolves goal I was surprised no had pointed this out! I guess the hangover from all those celebratory pints is still fresh in every London blogger 😀 ! Good job Desi… Also it’s worthy to note that the li’l Russian didn’t take his customary one touch to slide across and power it past Valdes (Who am sure won’t be vilified in spain for every single mistake he makes). The curling finish was quality I guess these are the moments that separates every freestyling kid from a premier league quality player.. Wow! what a night and what a result! I read a comment somewhere from a Barca fan that the reason Messi messed up his first chip over Scezney was because of the poor quality Emirates pitch! Hmmm… what can I say?! should I laugh or should I just pause and continue to gape at the comment? I’m guessing Walcott will hold his place in the return leg while Arshavin is used an impact sub… what’s your call?

    • desigunner says:

      lol @ the comment on the pitch. Could have been someone trying to mock Wenger but quite a silly thing to say.

      Walcott should retain his place. Arshavin will probably start the FA Cup game and might get some minutes in other games but I can’t see Wenger tinkering with a starting eleven that’s working well for him.

  3. GoonerTerry says:

    Nice analysis Desi…I am glad that we are using this speed counter attack tactic once again. No team alive can cope with Arsenal’s pace. You could see that Barcelona became nervous once we stepped up the pace in the second half..18 seconds must be a records of sorts

  4. Greencard usa says:

    Good analysis Desi; Bendtner also played a huge unheralded role in RVP’s goal. His run clearly troubled Valdez enough to split his attention for a brief moment as he thought about a possible cross. But this does not take anything away from RVP’s incredible strike.

  5. SoCal_Gun says:


    Soo much Barca success comes from them aggressively closing down the ball……just like in American football, you need to use that against them

    As you perfecly showed, B52’s play took half their team out of it (and wow…..Nik has gotten pretty good in a hurry)

    • desigunner says:

      In the away game last year Diaby did a similar thing which took out 4 or 5 players. It wasn’t a pass but he was able to knock the ball away and move past the hordes with his giant feet. Against a team like Barca every good counter attack will have to have such a moment.

  6. amit says:

    the best part of that move was jack wilshire’s pass…every time i see it, the way in which the ball was passed to fabregas it reminds of zidane’s control over the ball…just marvelous!!

    apart from this i thought the way in which Cesc turns 180 and in the same instance knowing that nasri was already running on the right side was amazing…180 degree shift and boom a perfectly weighted pass…

    in fact the weight on the ball was so damn fine that the ball neither goes too much to the right of Nasri, neither too much in front of him…the ball just slows down gently and Nasri does not change his pace when he makes his first touch…this in turn giving him ample balance to move his body and have a look on the left end of the pitch where he sees rvp and arshavin…

    and the sweet strike that followed, the ball curls like a knife over butter…it almost takes a touch from the barca defender but manager to just miss him…and then the beautiful kill!!

  7. Aniruddh says:

    Barca don’t often respect the formation and almost every player is on a free role, it gives their game a very fluid feel but as you pointed out it leaves them vulnerable to the counter. Even we have a very fluid system but we exercise a more controlled version of their game probably because in the premier league teams play at a very frantic pace and such mistakes can become fatal. It is also noteworthy that we are a much fitter team compared to the Catalans and can sustain a high tempo for a longer time in a game and it may prove to be a great advantage in three weeks’ time

    • Metalhead says:

      Very good point you make about the free role (more like total football). I think Barca are the only team in the planet that can afford to do that primarily because of 2 things:
      1. Relentless pressing of the opposition
      2. Ball retention

      I thought Arsenal were the best at keeping the ball. I was wrong! Barcelona are 2 times better. Those guys pass the ball right under the opposition’s nose. Short, quick passes. Again the reason they can do that is players come out of position to receive the ball. Like you mentioned this makes them susceptible to a counter attack.

      As for the fitness, I think the reason they burn out is because of the pressing. They press like mad for 60 -70 minutes and towards the last 20 minutes they don’t need to press because by then they demoralize their oppositions so much by making them chase shadows that they eventually give up or are too tired. Because of Arsenal’s fitness level and of course their skill they were able to exploit this weakness.

  8. Raghugovind says:

    What if Vermaelen is fit for the return leg . Do you drop Djourou ? What is your take on what LE Boss will do ?

    • AnonymousGun says:


      TV5 wont be match fit, and building chemistry takes a lot of time.

      JD and Kozzer till end of season, then next season we’ll worry about our first choice CB pairing.

    • No need to deliberate this, Wenger also said Vermaelen is out for the return leg. Even if he’s over the injury by then he wont be in good form to displace either Djourou or Koscielny. Unless either of the two gets injured and….I dont even wanna talk abour Squilacci right now.

  9. venugopal says:

    hold this team together for three more years,(with one centre back extra) we will win everything . but that seems to be a big task. after RVPs first goal , wenger had a different look at nasri(not the fatherly look , he had at RVP) AND MY MIND SAYS NASRI IS CREATING PROBLEMS IN A NEW CONTRACT. LETS HOLD THE TEAM TOGETHER AND ENJOY UNPARALLELLED SUCESS.

  10. Stepanov's sidestep says:

    Great article as usual Desi. Am I wrong or does our decreased amount of possession in recent games coincide with a greater urgency in getting the ball forward quickly in to more open spaces? We certainly have the players to take advantage of the quick break, which we seem to have conceded in recent years for a maximum possession and slow build up game which often breaks down in congested penalty areas.Hopefully Theo’s new confidence (even when he misses)will see him become a more deadly predator.And if RVP can complete the rest of the season for the first time in quite a while he will be on fire.Add to that Jack’s increasing brilliance and a tighter back five,plus our captain’s increased urgency to win we can surely overhaul Man You Stinky.

  11. AP says:

    did u notice another good chance after 2-1, Bendtner trying to do an RVP, when there was RVP floating around unmarked in the box. If only……

    • desigunner says:

      That was a more like a half chance. RvP and Arshavin were just around the edge of the box and I thought Van Persie could have made a run to a better angle as there were a couple of defenders who would have closed him down.

      Interestingly, if Van Persie had lobbed the ball across goal in the 6th minute Theo would have had a great chance. But these things happen. Sometimes strikers take a chance and it’s not something I’d criticize.

  12. Claver says:


    I’m just thinking, having watched the game again for the umpteenth time. Arsenal were not at their best. This was not the Arsenal that played against Chelsea.

    We need to pick up.

    • desigunner says:

      I think Arsenal were better than they played against Chelsea but Barcelona were far superior than anything Chelsea could have done. So even if one gets the impression that Arsenal completely dominated the game against Chelsea while were chasing the ball a lot against Barcelona, it was the latter performance that was more impressive.

  13. […] 18 Seconds, 15 Touches – Wolves Indeed Was The Dress Rehearsal For Barcelona You might remember this article just after the last Wolves game where I was discussing the quick counter attack that […] […]

  14. Claver says:

    Even though we weren’t at our best, we won. Not drew, but won.

    We showed the footballing world how to play against the best team in the world and beat them, at football. Not rugby.

    Desi, I watched 30min of that intolerable match the night b4. AC Milan and Tots. They called it a ‘tactical masterstroke’! Ludicrous, wishful thinking.

    But, then what did Wenger accomplish? With those substitutions?

    ManU failed to beat Barca, Chelsea failed, Arsenal did it. In this era.

    300m people watched Arsenal outplay Barca. 300m people watched Arsenal outplay the best team in the world.

    It’s sad that the only ones who seem to have learnt anything are not on this island.

    This same team destroyed R.Madrid 5-0.

    I wonder what the suits at R.Madrid think. They spent £200m odd to assemble a team to beat Barca only to be shown how to do it by Arsene.

    Quite frankly, it would have been better for them to spend £200m buying Wenger…(we won’t sell, I hope!)

    I wonder if Mourinho can still gloat and sneer like he was doing before being whupped.

    And no, Messi’s header was NOT a goal as it came off Pedro last.

    Someone said it’s an advert for English football. I disagree. It’s an advert for Arsenal’s football.
    The icon for English football has long been held to be ManU, who failed on the Big Stage in front of millions against Barca.

    Pep said this (Arsenal) was the hardest team to play against. Why did he say that? Mere words? He played R.Madrid, ManU and other top teams.

    I’d hazard a guess and say that the games between Barca and Arsenal are bigger than Chelsea-ManU, Barca-ManU. I’d say the return game between Arsenal-Barca will be bigger than Barc-RMadrid.

    *I sound so much like a man vindicated! Lol.

    • desigunner says:

      IMHO Arsenal are a glimpse into the future that English football can achieve but many in the establishment just don’t want to acknowledge this and let go of the archaic styles and thinking.

  15. Hong_gunner says:

    “In contrast with the Bendtner situation, Wilshere did have a good one-touch pass available to him and he took it really well. If he’d taken an extra touch the wolf-pack would have been on him and the attacking impetus would have been lost.”

    spot on. and thats why Wilshere is such a good player. he does the right things at right times. he’s intelligent on the ball, always has idea about the space and what’s going on around him. he doesn’t have the physique, but he dominated the Barca midfield all game. he has an amazing technique and everything he does is pretty much instant decision making. there is much more to come from the young Englishman, I’m sure.

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