Comparing Arsenal and FC Barcelona: What Is a Preseason Worth?

Mikhail Turner@MikhailTurnerContributor IIIAugust 4, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 06:  Manager of Arsenal Arsene Wenger and manager of Barcelona Josep Guardiola react on the touchline during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at Camp Nou on April 6, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It's all about perspective.

Arsenal is a member of the original "Big Four" clubs, and for the last six seasons it has failed to garner any trophies on the domestic and European stages.

On the other hand, Barcelona is the reigning La Liga and European Champions and is currently touted as the best team in the world.

Both teams are under constant scrutiny from critics, fans, neutrals and the media, but for different reasons.

Arsenal's recent struggles on the domestic scene has left many fans frustrated, rivals sneering and critics doing what they do best, criticizing.

On the other hand, fans of Barcelona, or beautiful football itself, expect continued success, while rivals hope for their downfall.

When preseason results come in for such big teams they are analyzed from a variety of viewpoints.

This year both teams have very tough starts to their new season, and preseason could or could not have a major effect on how their seasons play out.

All factors considered, it will be interesting to take a look at how these clubs have fared so far in preseason, whether any criticism is or is not fair, and whether or not it will really affect them as their season begins. 

Recent History

As mentioned before, both clubs are almost on opposite ends of the success spectrum.

Arsenal has repeatedly shown its weaknesses time with its failure to finish out the past few seasons with silverware. This has resulted in fans either calling for Arsene Wenger's dismissal, a team overhaul, a change in transfer policy or all of the above.

So far this summer it has been all quiet at the Emirates, with the Gunners struggling to keep hold of key players, as usual.

Many fans are frustrated because they feel that necessary signings simply have not happened.

Barcelona is coming off another great season with Pep Guardiola at the helm. So far in the transfer market, it has strengthened an area of need and looks likely to input even more quality before the transfer window closes.

In other words, Barcelona is getting stronger, or is trying to get stronger, while Arsenal seems to be content with what it has. 

Preseason Form and Results

Arsenal has a record of two wins and three draws with one game remaining, against its most notable opponents.

They have also played the likes of Malaysia XI, FC Cologne and the New York Red Bulls—not exactly your "cream of the crop" opposition.

While the FC Cologne win was notable due to the impact of new signing Gervinho, other results still leave cause for concern.

The displays at the Emirates Cup were, despite one or two flashes, alarming. Arsenal was leading in games against Boca Juniors and the Red Bulls but in both instances gave up late goals, leaving the games tied.

Barcelona has a record of two wins, one tie and two losses so far, with two more games—if you count the Catalonia Cup against Girona—remaining.

The club has played the likes of Internacional, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, much more considerable opponents than Arsenal has faced.

Their two results while taking part in the World Football Challenge in the USA are the ones that stick out.

The much anticipated rematch against Manchester United was a pretty tight affair and, despite coming out on the losing end, Barcelona produced a decent display, considering the amount of quality missing from the bench.

Barcelona's result against Chivas Guadalajara was a much different animal. 

Analyzing the most meaningful results so far

All the games mentioned above may not end up being the most important ones for either team but, especially in Barcelona's case, they will be the most talked about ones.

Preseason is generally a time to regain fitness, try out new players in new positions and figure out the weaknesses of your team. Only one of these teams is using it to full effect.

Arsenal defensive failures again crept into the club's displays, and despite creating many chances, the players wasted just as many.

They allowed inferior opponents to come from behind, and considering the way the past few seasons have gone, friendly or not, those games do not bode well for the season.

In general, Arsenal has not played top opposition, and they have not dominated games.

Cesc Fabregas is the only real big name player who has been missing for most of this preseason, and it is likely that he will be leave the club anyway.

Arsenal is basically at full strength in Wenger's eyes, and the age-old statement about it only being preseason cannot fly, considering what's at stake.

While not trying to give excuses for Barcelona's two losses, this club's preseason situation is different.

Barcelona has been without all the players who participated in the Copa America, including new signing Alexis Sanchez. Players such as Carles Puyol have been out with injury. Xavi Hernandez has only recently come back from injury as well.

Jonathan Dos Santos, who is normally a midfielder, has been featured at right-back for a number of games so far, while Busquets has at times played in the less comfortable central defensive position.

Despite this, the players acquitted themselves well, and if Barcelona fans were realistic, they probably would have expected a loss or a tie where Manchester United was concerned.

The result against Chivas was horrible. There was no excuse for the performance by the Catalans, and the fact that they got booed off the field—I was in the stands to hear it all—meant the fans all felt the same.

Despite the fact that a good number of the fans in the crowd were Chivas supporters, they all paid money to see Barcelona live, even without the South American stars, and in that sense the booing was somewhat justified.

The Chivas game was a poor performance, especially in the second half, when the B teamers and youngsters looked out of their depth. Chivas is probably the most fit team they have faced so far this preseason, and it showed. 

What does this mean?

Arsenal has been in this state for a while. The fans are getting more and more frustrated, and Wenger seems, as usual, to be content with what he has.

The boos that Arsenal players received after the Red Bulls game were deserved, considering a lot of fans still do not believe the American team has what it takes to compete on all fronts.

Arsenal supporters cannot say that the teams put out in both games did not contain a hefty amount of first team regulars, because they did.

Benfica will provide the most robust challenge for the Gunners and a win may mean Wenger feels even more comfortable with the team as is.

Barcelona on the other hand, deserved the boos because of lack of performance, and nothing else.

The United loss was credible for a variety of reasons, one such being that Manchester was considerably closer to the end of its preseason, and thus much closer to form, and Chivas executed its game plan to perfection in the second half, against mainly the B team.

Foolish rivals will see these results, especially the Chivas defeat, as the beginning of the end, but that is hardly likely.

Both teams have tough starts to their campaigns. Arsenal will face Newcastle (away), Liverpool (home) and Manchester United (away) with Champions League playoffs sandwiched in between.

Barcelona will begin with two legs in the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid, and the European Super Cup final against Porto, not to mention a league-opening game against new money machine Malaga.

At the end of the day these games could mean everything and nothing.

Arsenal has started many of the past six seasons very strongly, and could well repeat that again. The team may finally be able to keep it together for a whole season and come away with silverware.

Barcelona could very well beat Madrid twice, or at least win the cup, and defeat Porto. Considering the the talent that has been missing on the field, they are likely to do so.

These two losses should be looked at with perspective, and Barcelona is still the team to beat.

As a fan of both these teams, the most suitable option is that both teams will start off the season strong, though for Arsenal fans there is more to fear.


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