Cleat Geeks

Cannon Conversation

Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Oxlade-chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud  (4-2-3-1)

 

blog 3There is no shame in losing to Barcelona and there is certainly no shame in losing to a team with currently the best striker in the world in Luis Suarez, and perhaps the best ever seen in Messi, oh and a chap called Neymar whose not bad either. However, there is shame in not addressing the positions that make us look vastly inferior, but I’ll touch on that later.

For 70 minutes Arsenal matched Barcelona, not bettered, no one can do that, but we never looked overawed, a label that has often been thrown in Arsenal’s direction when the big boys come to town. When the team was announced I was pleased with the selection, we had a good balance between attack and defense, and it seemed if an opportunity were to come our way, we could punish any errors.

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Lionel Messi opens the scoring

The match started every way we expected, with Barca controlling possession and dictating the pace. I was at the game and saw first hand how quick and snappy their passing is, how they always show for one another and offer an outlet, as any team should I agree but this is not just any team. Watching Barcelona on tv does not do them justice at all, I have watched them many a time and as ridiculous as this sounds, I thought the famous high pressing game they play was a myth. I watched in amazement at how quickly they swarmed any opponent to recover the ball and how they always seem to know where and how the opponent will attack. I was particularly impressed with Rakitic, he has filled the enormous hole left by Xavi impeccably.

indexRoared on by a passionate home support, Arsenal stalked Barcelona and limited them to very few attacks, at one point the possession stats read a startling 28% for Arsenal and 72% for Barcelona, but it was all through the middle of the park. The dynamic front three who have scored 91 goals between them so far were not getting a sniff out of Koscielny and Mertersacker, which makes Chamberlains miss all the more frustrating. Arsenal broke at pace and had a 4 on 4 attack when the ball fell kindly for Chamberlian, he seemed to get the ball stuck under his feet and he swiped tamely into Ter Stegans arms. You know against Barcelona your chances will be limited and the crowd was incensed that a golden moment had been spurned. Towards the end of the half Luis Suarez narrowly failed to find Messi when he attempted to square a cross and then also just missed with a glancing header. Arsenal was grateful to hear the halftime whistle, as Barcelona were starting to find their rhythm.

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MSN, Messi, Suarez and Neymar

The big fear before the game was that Arsenal would be unable to keep Barca’s big three quiet for 90 minutes no matter how hard they tried – and this was proven. Strange as it may seem, this was not Messi, Neymar and Suarez at their very best but they still cast a huge shadow over Arsenal and created havoc. After Suarez had two missed opportunities at the end of the first half, Cech then made a magnificent save from Neymar at the start of the second. Barcelona had started where they left off. This on a night when even the three themselves will admit they have played much better. All three carry a touch of genius while offering contrasting qualities. Neymar’s change of pace is startling, Suarez is like a shark as he makes his way around defenses spreading chaos; while Messi remains peerless.

The game was beginning to get stretched and Giroud was denied a goal by a fantastic save from Ter Stegan, and Arsenal was again pressing and got caught by a wonderful counter attack. Neymar gathered the ball inside his own half and evaded a desperate lunge from Mertersacker to thread the ball to Suarez. Suarez ran at the defense and played Neymar back in; who had open space to run into and as Monreal had to come across to cover the space left by Mertersacker, it let you know who was free in the center to have the time to set himself, and dink a shot over Cech to score against him for the first time in his career.

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Wenger labeled Arsenal ‘naive’

Now the crowd was really nervous, and Barca was in full swing, keeping the ball and waiting for Arsenal to over commit and pounce on the counter. Flamini was brought on to replace an injured Coquelin and within less than a minute he had conceded a penalty. A mix up between him and Mertersacker left Messi with the chance to pounce and he was brought down by a challenge from Flamini. Messi picked himself up and scored his second of the night from the spot, which left Arsenal with a huge mountain to climb at Camp Nou in 3 weeks time.

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‘peerless’ Messi

In the first half Arsenal was hugely disciplined to keep Barcelona at bay, indeed in the first 30 minutes the holders only had two touches in Arsenal’s penalty area compared to 11 from Wenger’s team. Goalkeeper Cech was immense, while Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey were also excellent. Ultimately, however, Arsenal was not good enough – no shame in that – but all that is left is for Barcelona to complete the formalities in Catalonia in three weeks.

 

At the top of the blog you will notice a vine which I saw on Twitter, I think this sums up the difference between Arsenal and Barcelona perfectly, given the opportunity Giroud would rather pass than attempt a shot on goal. A truly world class striker is selfish and takes that opportunity for himself, it’s those fine lines that separate world class teams from just ‘good’ teams, which currently  Arsenal is.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Arsenal have been linked with Serge Aurier, who seems destined to leave PSG this summer after his recent disciplinary problems.

Arsenal have again been linked with Napoli hitman Gonazalo Higuain.

 

One Comment

  1. Jim McVeney

    March 2, 2016 at 10:01 am

    An excellent analysis, it will be tough in Spain. Regards Jim

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