Oops, Barca did it again.
Once again, FC Barcelona played Arsenal FC off the park. But as always, some supporters go out of their way to find an excuse for the miserable performance THEIR team displayed throughout the return fixture.
If it’s not the absence of key players (FC Barcelona were missing both Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique) then it must be the referee, the pitch, bad luck or the Camp Nou audience. Well, FC Barcelona never wins because of their superior performance, now don’t they?
After all, Arsenal FC did score a goal without any shots on goal, neither on nor off target. Therefore, it comes close to a farce, having to rank FC Barcelona’s players against Arsenal FC in one of the more one-sided matches in recent memory.
The following ranking is in ascending order. In any case, even the least-ranked Barca player still played a better game than any Arsenal outfield player.
No surprises here, FC Barcelona’s goalkeeper was almost as bored as in the last Clasico fixture—meaning he had close to nothing to do
The much-maligned defensive midfielder was asked to fill in for the injured Carles Puyol and did a very decent job. He would’ve been ranked higher if it wasn’t for his terrible own goal. But then again, FC Barcelona were so superior they had to score Arsenal’s consolation goal.
He still looks out of depth when it comes to FC Barcelona’s quick receive and pass game, but his defensive prowess is beyond reproach. Arguably the best slide-tackler in football, he made some vital tackles and interceptions, most notably his last minute intervention to deny Nicklas Bendter.
Once again, the Frenchman was deployed as a center back to cover for the suspended Gerard Pique. Abidaltasar covered a lot of ground and plugged in a few holes to frustrate the Arsenal offensive. It appears he becomes better with each passing year he wears the Barca jersey. Eric Abidal remains one of this season’s most consistent performers.
The Brazilian was given the nod ahead of Maxwell and he did not disappoint. He ran the left flank up and down while always providing an outlet for his teammates—a solid performance.
Like David Villa, he did an admirable job working for his teammates, but couldn’t provide a goal. Nevertheless, he forced Koscielny to foul him in the box—the resulting penalty secured FC Barcelona's progress into the next round.
El Guaje did everything he was asked to, but was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. He did, however, play a beautiful pass to set up Xavi’s goal.
One would not notice the fact that his contractual situation has not been sorted out. Always the consummate professional, he has put in yet another glorious shift in a Barca jersey. Gael Glichy just couldn’t deal with the hyperactive Brazilian.
There’s no one quite like Xavi, and he once again reminded people why he is preferred over Cesc Fabregas. When Cesc went missing, Xavi stepped it up a notch, even scoring a goal after a wonderful passing sequence. It’s safe to say that Xavi is boss.
What impeccable close control, vision and touch to set up Lionel Messi’s first goal. San Andres has been impressive in 2011, but he was spectacular towards the end of 2010. If this is any indication of what’s to come, FC Barcelona have a real chance of winning their fourth Champions League trophy.
…and then there was Messi. He is literally becoming Arsenal FC’s boogeyman. His first goal was a work of beauty, while he coolly slotted home the all-important penalty to secure FC Barcelona’s passage into the next stage of the Champions League.
At this rate, Lionel Messi will very soon better his 47 goal tally of the 2009-2010 campaign. He is the world’s best player and FC Barcelona's all-time leading goal-scorer in the Champions League and he’s just 23—a frightening prospect.