Arsenal vs. Barcelona: Goodbye Thierry or Welcome Back Cesc?
Finally, football fans all over the world get their money's worth.
In what has to be the most entertaining match in the 2009-2010 Champions League Quarterfinal, Arsenal FC will face FC Barcelona. At least on paper this matchup promises to be spectacular.
Being written off far too many times, the north Londoners are still in the title race and are the most in-form side of the so called big four. At the start of the current season most pundits belittled their chances of competing for the Premiership title, citing that the squad Arsene Wenger assembled lacks physical presence and the experience to accomplish the task.
But it is quite remarkable that even though Robin Van Persie has been sidelined for a couple of months now, the Gunners keep banging the goals in. They have shown maturity and character in recent weeks and months and look like the team Wenger has always envisioned them to be. Even Nicklas Bendter (who I honestly don't rate) manages to score some crucial goals.
After an incredible season which saw Pep Guardiola's men conquer the football world and bagged them six titles, the Catalans appeared to look like mortals again. It seemed like their secret has been revealed. In all honesty however, there isn't one. For better or worse, FC Barcelona always play attacking football—a philosophy both Wenger and Guardiola share.
Both teams regularly promote youth team players to the first team. The difference is that Arsenal, like most English teams, are poaching the brightest prospects from continental Europe rather than doing some decent scouting themselves. The most notable case being the Gunners talismanic Captain himself Cesc Fabregas.
Scouting a youth player from one of the best youth academies in the world is hardly scouting.
Barcelona's youth academy La Masia is world renowned for producing some of the best players in the modern game: Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, and that little Argentine who goes by the name of Lionel Messi.
Aside from the emphasis on the youth, they also share a similar system, which is an attacking 4-3-3.
During the earlier part of this decade it almost looked like Arsenal were a feeder club of Barcelona. Some of the most valuable Arsenal players like Overmars and Co. switched their alliance to the Blaugrana, the last being the all-time No. 1 Gunner himself, Thierry Henry, who joined the ranks in 2007 after being courted for several years. Alexandr Hleb doesn't count because he never played in integral part in the side.
At least we always pay for the players.
While Arsene Wenger has an obsession with youth that borders on the criminal, he refuses to dip into the transfer market and buy some quality reinforcements. Which could be the reason someone like Manuel Almunia is still between the sticks when Sergio Asenjo is rotting an Atletico's bench.
Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona) shares the sentiment that it is important to promote youth players. But unlike their British counterparts, Barcelona isn't afraid to splash out huge sums of money for a quality player. Sure there have been some duds like the aforementioned Hleb, but Barcelona did buy Ronaldinho in 2003, right?
Cesc and Henry
One is Catalan and the other one is the greatest Gunner of all time, yet they will wear the shirt of the enemy they'll meet in the Champions League. This might be Titi's last season in Barcelona. Should he and his teammates progress and eliminate Arsenal, he could have been part of the reason why Cesc will leave the Emirates for the Camp Nou.
Unless Arsenal wins some silverware, they will always be second-class citizens to FC Barcelona. And if history repeats itself, it will only be a matter of time before Cesc comes home. As of now Arsenal is like a little kid brother who looks up to FC Barcelona and tries to emulate them.
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