Barcelona full-back Dani Alves said the Catalans were glad when they drew Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League, as he believes the Gunners lack the "mental strengths" and character to do well in Europe. He also praised the development of star forwards Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
As reported by John Cross of the Daily Mirror, the Brazilian hailed Arsenal for their obvious quality and sheer talent, but he couldn't help but point out their mental fragility:
When the draw was made, we knew it could have been tougher for us. That is no reflection on the quality of Arsenal. The quality of the way they play the game and the quality of some of their players is there for all to see.
It is a reflection on their experience, character, and mental strengths. There are teams in Europe that don't have the quality that Arsenal have, but you would rather avoid them and play Arsenal - because you know that those teams have experience and character.
Barcelona defeated Arsenal 2-0 in London during the first leg of their Champions League tie. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday.
Alves' assessment of Arsenal may sound damning, but the Gunners' struggles in recent weeks have plenty of people saying similar things. Per WhoScored.com, they have failed to win their three last Premier League matches at a crucial time in the title race, and they were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford.
Bleacher Report's Graham Ruthven made the argument Arsenal are no longer an elite-level team, pointing at their lack of Premier League titles in the last decade and the fact they're likely to exit the Champions League before getting to the quarter-finals for the sixth straight year.
Centre-back Per Mertesacker recently had some harsh words for himself and his team-mates as well, per Bleacher Report UK:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
Per Mertesacker sums up what it is like to be an #Arsenal player at the moment. https://t.co/gladaNt6bq2016-3-16 02:12:03
The Gunners have played some magnificent football this season, and there have been plenty of highlights, including the 2-0 win over Bayern Munich during the Champions League group stages. But consistency has been a major issue, and that's what separates the good clubs from the elite.
The Blaugrana certainly rank among the elite and are chasing their second straight treble. Per SuperSport, consistency hasn't been an issue this season:
Barcelona are on a 37-match unbeaten run in all competitions going into tonight's clash with Arsenal. #SSFootball https://t.co/td2qmUsATO2016-3-16 06:20:16
Alves talked about becoming the first club to win consecutive Champions League titles since the tournament adopted its current format, pointing at Messi, Neymar and Suarez as standout players and the reasons they could do it:
We are playing well, and of course it is not going to be easy, but there is a real belief that we can create history by doing it.
The evolution of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez has been incredible to watch. Not just their evolution as individuals, but as a unit.
The attacking trio has looked unstoppable for most of the season, and behind them, the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta have also enjoyed excellent campaigns. Even when they're not at their best, they seem to find ways to win matches, usually involving a moment of genius from one of their attackers.
Barcelona's performance at the Emirates Stadium was a great example, as the Gunners were the better team at times during the encounter and certainly had their chances. But when it mattered most, the Catalans shifted gear and scored two vital away goals, putting themselves in a position to enjoy a comfortable night in the return leg.
The Gunners have plenty of talent, however, and at their best, they can hang with anyone, so Barcelona shouldn't take their opponents lightly on Wednesday.