Much has been said about Arsenal's performance at the Camp Nou last night. Here is my verdict.
I think the team played very well. I guess people didn't take Arsene Wenger seriously when he said Arsenal was going to alter its style to play Barca.
Have we so easily forgotten Inter Milan vs Barcelona from last season? How about Man City at the Emirates last season and earlier this year? I don't recall them having any shots on target against us in those two games.
The strategy worked perfectly, keep it tight, don't attack, retain posession and clean up at the back. Notice that at 11v11, Barcelona was unable to play the usual diagonal ball to Alves. Its first goal came from a training ground mistake from Cesc Fabregas—that showboating had no place at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona's great weakness—and indeed Arsenal's offensive strength—lies in the delivery of killer set pieces, and we punished them hard with it.
Unfortunately, all the 50-50 balls fell their way, and you sense that Mr Bussaca was playing the game of his life so he could be signed by Manchester Utd—the club of his dreams to replace the aging Howard Webb and Phil Dowd.
Van Persie should never have allowed emotions get to him, but I daresay Alves deserved the little punch in the face he received! As an incident involved Alves and Clichy showed, our Catalan friends are very good actors. He was barely touched at the studs and he went down holding his ankle.
That aside, the commentators estimate that Van Persie kicked the ball approximately one second after the whistle had sounded. It is obvious that he thought he was still onsides and despite that, the ball hit the hoardings and went straight into the hands of Valdes with no time wasted. Stupid decision, if I may say.
Nasri and Van Persie, on two separate occasions, were held at the neck by Xavi and Abidal. No cards? This was all in full view of the referee. This was more than a little assistance from the Swiss offical. In Nasri's words, "Bussaca is the best!"
Our chance to go through fell Bendtner's way, but he chose to control it rather than hit it first time. Mascherano's lunge put paid to my 3-2 prediction.
In all, I can say the following:
1. Barcelona still has not won at the Emirates.
2. 11 vs 11 and with a full squad we have beaten them 2-1
3. They needed Arsenal to be down to 10 men before going on to win 3-1
4. The early injury to Wojciech Szczesny and Van Persie's red card meant there was little room for tactical manouvering by Arsenal.
5. An aggregate score of 4-3 to Barcelona shows that the gap between the two teams is indeed closing. How many teams can boast puttting three past the best team in the world over two legs?
At 31 Xavi can be said to be a footballing phenomeon. Samir Nasri is only 23, but according to Arsenal scout Giles Grimandi, he is much better than Xavi was at his age. Do you want to bring young Wilshere and the missing Walcott into the mix?
Although Barcelona had the rub of the green at the Camp Nou, there is still a league and cup double on for the Gunners.
Bring it on....United, are you watching?
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