Barcelona vs. Arsenal 2nd Leg: The Fan's View (Part 2 of 2)
The Camp Nou on Wednesday will be the stage for two of world footballs biggest heavyweights to put the gloves back on, and finish the clash that ended so amazingly last month. Goals from David Villa, Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin gave the goals a one goal advantage, but with the game tightly poised, who will progress?
Thank you for clicking onto this. Myself and Manuel were so pleased by the feedback we got from our first articles, that we decided to do another. This is obviously part two, if you haven't read part one, get to clicking here.
11-Who Should Be Happier with Arsenal Having a 2-1 Lead
There are lots of reasons why both teams should be happy with the result. Barcelona now just need to win 1-0, or win by more than one, and they would go through.
Arsenal should be happier though, it’s highly unlikely the match will be 1-0. There were nine aggregate goals in the contest last season, four would be a surprise. If the match ends in a draw, then Arsenal go through. And if Barcelona win by one goal, but Arsenal get more than one away goal, they also progress. It leaves them with a lot of scope, although they should still play for the win.
Arsenal, obviously, since they have the lead ahead of the second leg. Barcelona shouldn’t be happy at all: they lost the match and are trailing in the tie, a very unusual position for Pep Guardiola’s side. Arsenal got an epic and unexpected win in the first leg and they’ll now fancy their chances at Camp Nou. They should definitely be happier about the result of the first leg than Barcelona.
12-How Important Is Domestic Form When Going into a Game Like This?
Hopefully not very important, as we haven’t dazzled since we beat the Barcelona boys. The reason for this, I think, is the injuries we’ve picked up. Knowing that van Persie and Walcott will be both out of the match on Wednesday is a big boost for Barcelona, as they are both capable of doing some serious damage.
Definitely not decisive. Cup football is very different from league football; the league is all about regularity, consistency. Cup football is about who the better team on a given day is. The mental approach to matches is also very different; in the league, each game is one among many, while in next week’s match both teams will be facing elimination. You have to look no further than Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League success: they were fifth in the Premier League, 37 points behind Chelsea, and yet they won the Champions League. Milan also won the Champions League in 2007, while finishing the Serie A 35 points behind Inter.
Over a 38-game league, the best team during the season always wins. In Cup competitions, it’s not always like that. There are several factors that can put an end to a team’s hopes (luck, injuries, referee calls). In 2004, Arsenal won the Premier League unbeaten and few doubt that they were a better team than Chelsea; yet, Chelsea eliminated them in the Champions League quarter-finals. This is a great example of how league form means very little when playing in the Champions League.
13-What Do Barcelona Have to Do to Advance?
Aside from scoring more goals than Arsenal, Barcelona don’t have to do anything special, they won 4-1 last year and it really was men against boys. As with last year, all they have to do is win 1-0 and they’ll go through… although I can’t see that happening.
Barcelona need to learn from the first leg, not to underestimate Arsenal, and not to believe the hype about how good they are. They should go out with a “we are in a losing position right now, but not for long” mentality, and blow Arsenal away. I hope they don’t do that!
They need to play at their highest level and score goals. They need to come out of the gates strong and try to get an early goal if possible. They need to be patient in possession and wary of Arsenal’s counterattacking threat. Oh and it wouldn’t hurt either if Leo Messi could come up with another career-defining performance like last season.
All in all, Barcelona must remain faithful to their football philosophy and step it up a notch for this particular match. Facing elimination, Barcelona cannot afford to be complacent. If they don’t deliver a top performance in this match, they’re out of the competition.
14-What Do Arsenal Have to Do to Advance?
Tactically it’s a difficult game for Wenger. He could focus on defence, and protect the advantage that Arsenal have over Barcelona. I’m sure a lot of teams would do that, but it’s not the Arsenal way and it’s quite the gamble to take against a team with such a strong attack. It may have worked for Inter, but we have a completely different squad and manager and none of the experience or Italian defensive patience.
I would rather Arsenal burst out the traps, try to get a second goal, win the psychological battle, try to retain possession, and use Fabregas to create mismatches. Bendtner should be able to beat Abidal in the air at least, and Arshavin should outclass Maxwell in every way imaginable.
They must defend as well (preferentially even better) as in the first leg and play with maximum intensity for the full 90 minutes. They need to threaten Barcelona on the counter to put the Catalans on the back foot, and of course try and score that all-important away goal. It will also be very important to avoid conceding an early goal; if Barcelona score early, it will be very difficult for Arsenal to get back into the match. Most of all, they must be prepared to fight with all they’ve got; after their epic victory in the first leg and the way it was celebrated by their fans, I can only imagine Arsenal will try to hold on to this lead with their lives.
15-Who Will Be the Key Players in the Return Fixture?
Szczesny, and the rest of the defence, is going to have to have a massive game, the best they’ve ever played. The young Polish goalkeeper can’t let his mistake in the Cup Final, or the Camp Nou atmosphere haunt him.
For Barcelona the onus falls to Messi. Last season he scored four, they can’t expect him to do that again but Barcelona will need some more magic from him.
For Barcelona, I think the key players might be Leo Messi (for obvious reasons) and Sergio Busquets. With Puyol almost certain to miss the match, it’s very likely that Busi will be dropped to centre-back, a position that he knows quite well. The quality of his partnership with Abidal will be fundamental, since Barcelona really can’t afford to concede. Finally, I think Iniesta might just be the most fundamental player if he’s inspired. On his day, Don Andrés is the best player in the world and certainly the most clutch. Iniesta was absolutely decisive to Barcelona’s 2009 Champions League triumph: he scored a miraculous goal against Chelsea in the semis and, with some help from Xavi, he basically took over the final against United with an MVP performance. He was so impressive that Wayne Rooney hailed him as the best in the world after the match. And I don’t even need to remind anyone of what he did in the World Cup final! When the stakes are high (like in Tuesday’s match), Iniesta is usually the form player for Barcelona and I believe that will be the case again.
For Arsenal, their wingers, presumably Nasri and Arshavin will be key. They’ll have to both help the fullbacks and try to catch Barcelona on the break. Alex Song and Jack Wilshere will also have a key role trying to contain Xavi and Iniesta, as well as launching Arsenal’s counterattacks.
16-Will Barcelona Be Looking for Revenge?
I honestly think Barcelona should be thanking Arsenal, as crazy as that sounds. I know Manuel is going to disagree with me. The public humbling of Barcelona should make them want to succeed in every competition even more, to prove that the game at the Emirates, against a team that plays similar football, was just a fluke.
They’re too good for it throw them off their stride massively, and I give Guardiola more credit than to think he would crumble. Losses happen in football, undeserving draws happen, like this weekend against Sunderland. Football is a charming enough sport that it occasionally produces a result you wouldn’t expect, and any team who wants to be successful will have to prosper despite that.
Not really, I don’t believe there will be any feeling of revenge among the players. They just want to win the match as always, since beating Arsenal is the only way they can possibly maintain their hopes alive in this competition.
If anything, Arsenal should be looking for revenge; after all, Barcelona denied them their only chance to win the competition back in 2006, and who knows when they’ll reach the final again!
17-Will Cesc Fabregas Feel Extra Pressure Because of His Return to Camp Nou?
I am sure the media will be hyping this up but I don’t think there is much to make of it, because he left Barcelona so young. It was undoubtedly the pitch he wanted to play on as a youngster, and who can blame him, but a lot has changed since then. The Emirates is his home, not the Camp Nou.
Being the player that he is, I know he’ll want to impress (who wouldn’t?) and the game should already have enough pressure in it for him to feel any additional pressure. I think players like Szczesny, Koscielny and Wilshere, who haven’t had much experience in big stadiums, are more likely to feel extra pressure.
As a matter of fact, he will not “return” to the Camp Nou. If he does play, it will be the first time he ever plays at Camp Nou. Coming through the youth ranks, every La Masia youngster dreams of one day playing with the big boys at Camp Nou. Cesc is no different and this will certainly be a very special occasion for him. But while he’s a culé at heart, Cesc is also a professional and he’ll do his best to help Arsenal’s cause, and also to prove to Barcelona that he really is worth all that money Arsenal claim he is.
We can certainly expect Cesc to give 100% for Arsenal, regardless of how special it will be for him to play at Camp Nou.
18-How Frustrated Will You Be If Your Team Crashes Out?
Not especially frustrated, given the circumstances. Arsenal are fighting to win the Premier League, something they have a better chance of doing, but have the problem of injuries in key areas against them. The injury to van Persie is crippling to Arsenal, but inevitable, and is why I honestly think we should sell him and try to buy a replacement who can stay fit for more than 10 games a season. Feel free to disagree.
If, like last season, Barcelona are able to beat an understrength Arsenal team, then I’ll be frustrated that once again we’re having to play a top team with so many injuries, but going out will mean we can focus on the league and the FA Cup.
A little frustrated, admittedly, since winning the Champions League is one of the main goals of the season. However, we cannot forget that Barcelona currently hold a seven point advantage in the league and are in the Copa del Rey final. The league is in Barcelona’s pocket and a domestic double seems more than possible. Crashing out of the Champions League would be disappointing, but not the end of the world.
Over the past few years, Pep Guardiola and these players have brought Barcelona several trophies and worldwide acclaim, making Barcelona arguably the biggest and most popular club in the world right now, and they’re doing it again this season. Every Barcelona supporter will agree that we must all be thankful to these players and coaching staff, and that won’t change regardless of the outcome of the tie.
19-If your team advances, how far do you think they'll go (in the tournament)?
It all depends on so many factors (namely injuries) but we could definitely get to the final with a close to full strength team. As Arsenal fans know all too well, once you get to the final all bets are off, because nobody knows what will happen.
I believe they can go all the way! It sure won’t be easy, but Barcelona are unanimously considered favorites for the tournament, and that will obviously not change should they advance. They must get past Arsenal first, though. Only then can they think of winning the tournament.
20-What's your prediction?
My realistic prediction is that Barcelona will win 3-1. I can’t see either team not scoring, but Barcelona are so good they should score more than two. My dream prediction is 2-2. I'd like for Fabregas to score though. My predictions are usually miles away, I might as well pick numbers out of a hat, they're never correct.
As expected, I predict Barcelona to advance. Not only because I support Barcelona, but because logic suggests that they will advance; few would argue that Barcelona are heavy favorites for this match. I’d love nothing more than a Clásico-like performance and a manita, but Barcelona are not in the same unstoppable form they were back in November and December, they’ll have to work very hard to get the win.
I believe Barcelona will advance, but they’ll have their work cut for sure as they'll face a very motivated and hungry Arsenal side.
Manuel's Questions for Me
For this section, we each gave each other five questions to answer. Let us know what you think. Here are Manuel's questions, and my answers.
-Does Pep's Barcelona deserve to be considered as one of the greatest teams ever (as many pundits do)?
It all depends on what they are able to do, they don’t deserve it yet – but maybe in a year or two you would have to say that they do. I feel like this team are being judged on their predicted success, and a lot of it is because of the success of the Spanish national team, which has players from different clubs as well. If Barcelona are able to win six trophies, and then more than four next season, or consecutive Champions League and La Liga trophies, you might have to say they are. But right now Internazionale are (on paper) the best team in Europe, as the last team to win the Champions League.
-As an Arsenal fan, just how great would it be to eliminate Barcelona?
Apart from the Cesc situation, I have nothing personal against Barcelona and I don’t really care who we eliminate when we’re trying to succeed. Perhaps the Arsenal community feels differently, and have a burning hatred against our Catalonian adversaries, but I doubt it.
Sure they’ve caused us some heartbreak on a few occasions, but this is football, it’s a cutthroat game. If they hadn’t beaten us, then they would have been the ones feeling the pain. It would just be great to get through to the next round, sure it’s better beating Barcelona than it is Copenhagen, but it’s not the be all and end all. It doesn't mean anything unless you go on to win the whole thing.
-Do you believe Wenger's policy will bring great success to Arsenal in the near future?
It depends what you define by great success. I think people need to recognize that this policy by Wenger is not one he was lying in bed one day and thought of. If you look at Arsenal’s accounts, it makes a lot more sense to be frugal and invest in a young team. We simply don’t have the same levels of transfer funds that the other teams in the league do.
So really, I think he’s already successful. Will he bring success in the shape of a trophy? I was hoping he would on Sunday. I missed the game (due to a stupidly planned train journey) so I can’t comment on the game itself but it sounded as though when the opportunity came for them to actually win, the players were like animals in the headlights.
It’s something they can learn from, and hopefully apply the lessons they learnt next time they’re in a similar position.
-How scared are you that Messi might decide the tie like last season?
Not at all. Something has to decide the game, it could be Messi again, or it could Villa, or hopefully Bendtner and Arshavin. You have to respect and admire talent like Messi’s, the guy is a ‘phenom’, but being scared of him is the wrong reaction.
-In all honesty, is Cesc really better than Xavi and Iniesta?
It’s very difficult to say. In my honest opinion, I would say that he is, but I watch him play every week and he’s the captain of my team so it’s almost impossible to be impartial – this is the fan’s perspective after all. But it seems Xaviesta (can I get that copyrighted) are given the nod over Cesc, not only in the Spanish team but also in the Ballon d’Or voting – so from that perspective perhaps Cesc is a step or two behind them.
That being said, Cesc has adapted his game to play in the Premiership, and if he ever does go back to the La Liga it should be no problem for him to adjust to the way the game is played. Xaviesta don’t have the same experience outside of the comfort zone of Barcelona, and it would be interesting to see how they would do, leading the midfield for Arsenal or another Premier League club.