Arsenal Vs Barcelona: The Fan's View – Part 2/2
Unless you've living under a rock for the past few months, you're certainly aware that Barcelona and Arsenal will face each other on Wednesday in the first leg of the first knockout round of the Champions, in a matchup that is obviously awaited with great expectation.
Michael Botsford and I have teamed to try and offer you the fan view of this tie. Here are question 11-20. You can find 1-10 here.
We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did writing it. Finally, may this be a tie for the ages!
11-If You Could Bring an Arsenal/Barcelona Player to Your Team, Who Would it Be?
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It’s very difficult not to say Messi in this situation, simply because he would fit in so well at Arsenal. He could fit in anywhere really, although I don’t think he’s the kind of player suited for the Premier League – but if he was available than I would love to bring him to Arsenal. The other player I would suggest is Carlos Puyol or Gerald Pique. We do have some defensive issues, and they are both the kind of players to sort them out.
Apart from the obvious choice (Fabregas), I’d bring Andrei Arshavin. I’ve been a big fan of the Russian since his golden years at Zenit and his fantastic Euro 2008, and he’s one of my favorite players. Barcelona had a chance to sign him, but unfortunately they missed out on him. I firmly believe that the Russian could have been an integral part of the legendary sextuple winners. Two years have passed and Arshavin isn’t getting any younger, but I still think he could contribute to the team, especially since he has claimed many times that he dreams of playing for Barcelona.
12-If Your Opponent Advances, Would You Like Them to Go All the Way?
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Some people might not agree, but when Arsenal are knocked out of an international tournament, I always support the other English teams. It’s a little bit weird I know, as I usually get a lot of schadenfreude-like joy from them losing. Also, given the way they are trying to tap up Cesc Fabregas it’s probably better for Arsenal if they don’t win the Champions League, so I guess I won’t be supporting them.
Well, as long as Real Madrid don’t get the trophy, any outcome will do for me (in case Barcelona are eliminated, of course).
Since 2006, every team that eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League has at least reached the final (Liverpool in 2007, while Manchester United in 2008 and Inter in 2010 went all the way). This is a nice stat, which indicates that over the past five years Barcelona have either been the best or beaten by the best in this competition. In theory, it’d be nice for that to continue (if Arsenal do win the tie), especially since Arsenal play a brand of football that I particularly appreciate, but I just can’t wish for that to happen.
While Arsenal’s football makes it easy for people to like them and root for them, the attitude of some their fans doesn’t. This generalization might be unfair to some Arsenal fans (maybe the majority), like Michael, but it has a reason. How often have you heard/read Arsenal (plastic?) fans going on about how their players are the greatest in the world, Henry is the player of all-time and Wenger is some kind of God? If they’re this (unwarrantedly) arrogant now, just imagine if Arsenal ever get their hands on the most prestigious trophy in European football. We’ll never hear the end of it!
13-How Do You Think Your Opponent Will Fare in Their National League?
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It looks pretty certain that they will win it, and deservedly so. I find the Spanish league a little bit boring in its predictability – does anyone even bother considering the chances of Barcelona or Real Madrid not winning it? The run they are on right now is awesome, admirable. Well done to them, they deserve to win the league.
They’re in second place and only four points behind Manchester United, so they’re obviously still in contention. However, I do believe Manchester United will win the league… again. Some people call La Liga a two horse race, but England’s top tier is even more one-sided. Manchester United have won 11 of the 18 Premier League editions and have never fallen out of the top-3, an absolutely unique level of domination across Europe’s top leagues.
I believe this year will be no different. However, Arsenal are only four points behind and ready to take advantage of any potential slip-up. They must also be wary of Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, since they’re not that far from Arsenal, meaning that the second place is far from assured.
14-Do You Find Any Similarities Between the Two Clubs?
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They are definitely not one and the same, but they’re comparable. I would say the ethos regarding football style is very similar. They both focus on playing an attractive game, both inspired by, but not emulating the 1970s Dutch philosophy of total football.
The attitude towards younger players is also similar. Compared to Real Madrid, Chelsea and more recent Manchester United teams, Arsenal and Barcelona can definitely claim to have brought more players through their youth teams and for younger players to have a stronger influence over the team.
There are indeed some similarities between both clubs, especially as far as their football philosophies are concerned. Both clubs emphasize flair over victory, although with very different results throughout the years.
Both clubs also believe in promoting young talent; Barcelona mostly promotes talent from within, while Arsenal tries to pick up the best young players from around the world. Again, the results have been very different, as shown by the fact that Barcelona’s youth system recently became the first ever to have all three Ballon d’Or finalists, while Arsenal’s academy is not quite at that level (at least for now), even if it is certainly one of the best academies in Europe.
It’s no coincidence that these two clubs are sometimes compared, there are indeed some (relevant) resemblances.
15-Who's the Best Player Ever to Have Represented Both Arsenal and Barcelona?
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As much as I rate Alexander Hleb, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars and Gio van Bronckhorst, there are only two players most would pick in this situation: Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry. Of the two, I would pick Henry.
He’s someone who will always be an Arsenal legend, and what I really like about him is the class he still has, and the way he has always affectionately talked about Arsenal. It also doesn’t hurt how insane his goal-scoring record was, and the amount of trophies he helped us to win.
Thierry Henry, hands down. In his prime at Arsenal, the Frenchman was arguably one of the top-3 strikers in the world and he led Arsenal to three Premier League titles, while becoming a club legend.
He moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2007; his first season was below par, but under Pep Guardiola Henry became an integral member of Barcelona’s legendary sextuple-winners, scoring 26 goals and forming a great attacking trio with Samuel Eto’o and Leo Messi. At Barcelona, he finally managed to win the Champions League.
For all he did at both clubs, Henry is hands down the best player to have represented both Arsenal and Barcelona.
16-Which Player From the Other Team Do You Dislike the Most?
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I can honestly say I don’t really dislike any of the players on a personal level, but I really dislike those who came out with the statements in the summer about Fabregas. I’m sure they’re usually nice guys, but I found it insulting. They do however, own Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s rights, so I guess I’ll have to nominate him. His arrogance bewilders me.
Does Hleb count?
To be honest, I don’t dislike any Arsenal player, or any football player for that matter, on a personal level. If I have to pick one, I’ll pick Samir Nasri, for all the unwarranted hype he has been getting from the British media this season (much like Gareth Bale). The Frenchman is indeed a very good football player, but hailing him as the best midfielder in the world or calling him the new Zidane is just nonsensical.
17-Arsenal's Invincibles Vs Barcelona's Sextuple Winners:Who's the Greater Side?
I’m going to be really diplomatic here. On paper, you would have to say Barcelona; they did win six trophies in one season. But in terms of the skill it took in various transfer windows to build the team, you have to say Arsenal. I think they were unlucky not to win more, and perhaps that is a criticism you could levy at Wenger. If only there were a machine that allowed them to play one another.
This is a very straightforward question. The edge must obviously go to Barcelona’s sextuple winners, even if Arsenal’s unbeaten season was indeed very impressive. For starters, Barcelona dominated both in Spain and in Europe, while Arsenal’s Invincibles won the Premier League unbeaten, but lost in both Cups and were unable to win the Champions League in one of the most lackluster seasons in European football (Porto vs Monaco in the final).
As if this were not enough, Barcelona managed to sustain their domination. After winning the sextuple in 2009, Barcelona won La Liga again in 2010 with a European point record and reached the semis of the Champions League. This season, Barcelona are again playing at the highest level, look poised to win La Liga again and are favorites for the Champions League. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s domination only lasted one season and only in England.
Finally, a sextuple is something unique, it had never been done. An unbeaten league season, while a great feat, is far from unique; it has been done, among others, by AC Milan in Italy, Ajax in Holland, Benfica in Portugal and Steaua in Romania.
The greatest thing about Barcelona’s unique achievement is that the core of the team was (and still is) from Barcelona’s youth academy.
The golden generation from La Masia plus some very good outside contributions made this Barcelona side one of the best to grace the football pitch, while Arsenal’s Invincibles are not quite at that level. They’re not even the best team in Premier League (since 1992) history: that honour must go to Manchester United’s treble-winners.
18-What Do You Expect From the Two Matches?
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I expect goals, flair, and exciting, attacking football. I’m also (and I hate to be so cliché) expecting the unexpected. It really wouldn’t surprise me if the difference maker in the tie turned out to be someone like Gael Clichy.
I think, and hope it’s going to be a lot closer than one might presume given the form Barcelona are in. I’m also expecting some aggression to go with the pretty stuff, I’m sure Arsenal are still bitter about last year, and Barcelona won’t back down easily.
It could be a classic, the type of match I tell my grandkids about. Or Arsenal could play like they did against Newcastle, and concede several in quick succession, essentially ending the contest. The one thing I am absolutely sure about is that it will be memorable.
I expect two excellent matches, with both teams playing attacking football. I don’t expect the tie to be as one-sided as the bookies predict, but I do expect Barcelona to advance somewhat comfortably. Barcelona have just been once again (it’s a habit around the Camp Nou) victims of the FIFA virus and were unable to continue their record-breaking winning streak this weekend at Gijon, which should motivate the players even more; they’re certainly eager to prove, at the Emirates, that it was just an accident.
The draw at Gijon also serves as a warning against complacency. If Barcelona don’t bring their best game, they risk elimination.
19-Is This the Match of Choice For the Neutral?
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Just last week I was going to a restaurant with a friend, who has the unfortunate displeasure of supporting Tottenham FC. Even he had to admit, this was the match he was most looking forward to, despite his team playing AC Milan. His rationale wasn’t that he wanted to see Arsenal get their behinds kicked, but that the standard of play would be head and shoulders above any other game in the tie.
On paper, it is. Over the past few years, Barcelona have become a benchmark for beautiful football and they’re the second favorite team of many people. Arsenal themselves play some of the most beautiful attacking football in Europe, so this should be a very entertaining tie. If I were a neutral, I’d definitely be very excited to watch the tie and I think most football fans think like that too. In an era where defensive tactics are becoming more and more common, this tie promises to be a breath of fresh air for all lovers of the beautiful game.
20-How Highly Do You Rate The Winner's Chances Of Going On to Win The CL?
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Sky high, far higher than I would for any of the other ties. It’s Arsenal and Barcelona, what more needs to be said?
Very highly. Barcelona are considered favorites to win the tournament and that obviously won’t change if they advance. As for Arsenal, beating the favorites would instantly make them one of the top favorites as well.
Hope you've enjoyed it. You can find part 1 here.