Sagna – Silvestre – Vermaelen – Clichy
Nasri – Denilson – Diaby
Walcott – Bendtner – Rosicky
What did you think when you saw that line-up?
‘Oh no… not Silvestre’, was officially the line of every Gooner I know!
That said, the team was about as good as we could put out.
Our form was sketchy, but maybe, just maybe, we could put in a special performance.
At that point all I could do was crack open a beer and hope for a freak of History…
Early on in the game, Vermaelen missed a near post header allowing Xavi to back heel just wide. We then allowed Messi to get a rasping shot off, which Almunia was equal to.
Clichy bungled a clearance, Denilson didn’t get to Messi and the Argie fired just over. A warning you sensed.
Barca were using their ‘defending in packs tactic’ to great effect. We remained compact, sitting back and absorbing the pressure.
Diaby made what looked like a silly foul, won the ball, played Theo in who bombed down the line, slipped Nik in who has his first shot saved, but the rebound fell nicely for him to poke home! What a start!
Could we hold on to the lead?
Messi went up the other end two minutes later, collected a poor clearance from Silvestre and with a thunderous shot, he killed our lead, sailing the ball into the top corner.
Arsenal were struggling with the blatant Barca diving and a ref who’d clearly never watched La Liga…
The trouble playing Barca is you know that one mistake and they’ll kill you… our passing wasn’t sharp enough in the first half. If we were to win the tie… it’d have to improve.
Messi demonstrated his finishing skills when he picked up Pedro’s pass in the box when we failed to clear, looked up and chipped it past Almunia.
It wasn’t over though… Messi was played in by a Keita header… the only player left to chase was Denilson, Messi ran, chipped it over Almunia… game over? Well… it felt like it. We were watching a Messi masterclass. Without meaning to sound crude, shouldn’t someone have taken Messi out early on instead of allowing him to play like that?
The second half started, Barca fizzed a low cross into the box on account of no height in the box (Take note Arsene) but Almunia judged well.
Rosicky continued to look incredibly inadequate.
Theo had resorted to blind alley running. Souness made a good point… all Theo can do in a game is get into a race… if you decide to defend rather than sprint it out, he has nothing.
Bendtner took a poor touch from a great Diaby ball, allowing Milito to tackle him. At this level, half a second makes all the difference. Nik needs to improve there.
Barca were more hungry than us, things went flat and Wenger seemed to take an age to bring on a sub.
He eventually did… bringing off Silvestre and putting Eboue on. I felt we needed a bolder move though… sadly, there weren’t too many options from the bench. No Vela, deemed bad enough to leave at home.
Diaby duffed a ball to the back post finding an unmarked Rosicky who fired it miles over the bar. So weak, it made me want to cry.
Wenger looked clueless on the touchline, deciding that he didn’t need to make any further changes.
We nearly got done by the quick free kick again… Denilson had his back turned to the ball, Pedro got played in and just chipped wide.
Nik B hit the post up the other end, regardless, he was offside.
Rosicky was eventually subbed off for the paceless Eduardo… that’s the best we could muster. Geoff was right, we should have had a Watt, Wilshere or a Sanchez on the bench. What use is Eduardo against Barca? His finishing has gone and he lost the little pace he had at St Andrews. When will we own up to that?
Barca are a cheating bunch of scum bags, but they defend as a unit, take responsibility and fight for every ball. More than could be said of Arsenal last night…
Barcelona killed off the night when Messi walked through our defence, beat Eboue, beat Vermaelen and Clichy, shot then slotted the rebound through Almunia’s legs.
The way the game played out was embarrassing. The desire was typical of a Sunday league team who’ve been out on the p*ss the night before a game and rolled on half cut.
I accept that we lost to the best team in the world, for me, the best club team I’ve ever seen in living memory (My living memory doesn’t stretch that far, but Souness backed my claim). I can accept that Messi is the greatest player on the planet. However, I can’t accept that we give the best player on the planet the freedom of the Nou Camp pitch. I can’t accept that to combat the pace of Barca and the wizardry of Messi, we have players like Silvestre and Denilson lining up who make him look far better than he is. I can’t accept that the stand in captain of our team isn’t a very good keeper not to mention how meek and mild mannered he is.
Wenger said the goals were cheap, like they were some sort of anomaly! Jeez Arsene, cheap goals have been our staple diet all year long! If we didn’t concede cheap goals, we’d be storming the league and we’d have put up a better fight last night.
We were missing some important players but lets not down play the importance of Iniesta, Ibramhomvic, Pique and Puyol to the Spaniards. See Gallas, Vermaelen, RvP and Cesc for us…
How much would our full team have done to prevent yesterday evenings issues? We’ve stuttered in all the big games this year… tonight was no different. We’re only in the league by proxy of how poor Chelsea and United have been by usual standards. If we want to improve, we need to buy… and buy well. We can’t afford to let players cut their teeth for 5 years…
If we want to improve we can’t go into the season where our best back up defender can only play one game a week. We can’t then have our 4th back up as our best defensive midfielder. We can’t have our 5th as a player who wasn’t good enough for Man United. We can’t prioritise trophies we’re not equipped to win. Even if we had beat Barca, could we have out strategised Mourinho? Were we going to beat United? Not on past form…
Arsenal need to be more tactically aware at this level. If plan A doesn’t work it’s plan A, then some more plan A… then some more plan A. When you’ve got the best players in the world, you can play like that. When you’ve got players like Denilson in your team, you can’t. It’s a shame that Wenger trusts all these kids pre-season when he’s justifying his lack of spending… but when it comes to the crunch, he doesn’t play them.
Barca weren’t just better than us on the ball, they were better off the ball as well. There is no reason why we can’t defend in packs, there is no reason why we can’t have players with that hunger and desire. Wenger has built this season on ‘over achievement’. No wonder his players don’t fight like animals… to do that, you need a winning mentality, proper competition and the right mix of players.
We lacked that tonight… and I’m gutted.
Wenger says he’ll assess whether his team can win trophies at the end of the season, then decide if he’ll stay. On that performance, he’ll be packing his bags… very disappointing.
6-3 wasn’t being toppled by a great team… it was a humiliation of our own making.
Almunia: Made some top saves but his distribution was woeful. He sprayed the ball like he’d been asked to hit Barca players. Not Arsenal quality for me. Too meek, too average. At least he seemed gutted after the game… shame he seemed gutted during the game though, could have done with a Captain out there. 6
Sagna: Didn’t put a foot wrong for me. He needed to start at right back because Barca have good winger and Eboue isn’t a good right back (As demoed on the final goal). 7.5
Clichy: Superb tonight… seemed like one of the few who had fight in him. His pace and defending were evident. Should have been the captain with drive like that. 8
Vermaelen: A good performance, let down by playing next to Silvestre. Imagine being asked to run a 400m relay against the Jamaicans with three quadriplegics… that’s probably how Tommy V felt tonight. Players like him need to play with great players. Simple really. 7
Silvestre: When I heard his name announced, I felt like I did when I realised I was accidentally filling up my car with BP Ultimate (£1.26 per litre) yesterday… gutted. He gave away the first goal with a poor clearance, the rest of his game was a joke. His signing was made purely because he was cheap… you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Silvestre summed up that little turn of phrase this evening. 3
Denilson: Not good enough for me. Would Messi have got away from Flamini? Not so easily, that’s for sure. Denilson is to speed what Rick Waller is to pole vaulting. If you’ve got a holding midfielder with no pace in a team like Arsenal, you’re opening yourself up for problems. He makes great interceptions and passes nicely but at the highest level, he doesn’t cut it because what he lacks in pace, he doesn’t make up in fight. 5
Nasri: Not a good game from a player who has little experience in the middle of the park. He held onto the ball for too long and unsettled our quick passing game. He gave the ball away far too cheaply and he didn’t impose himself as Cesc would have. Given time, he could develop a nice style in the middle. 4
Diaby: He did well in the first half starting the move for the first goal with a great tackle. For me though, he was clumsy, his passing was poor and he didn’t produce. Very disappointing, but he did show good strength on a number of occassions, a shame he couldn’t find a man. I still have high hopes, but he’s got to arrive in the big games and improve on that decision making. 6
Theo: Did very well to set up the first goal, even though you’d put that more down to Nik dealing with his poor pass than a great assist. After that, it all went down hill. Trouble is, no one gives you goals for running 100m in 10.3 seconds. All you get for that is a monster contract. Not good enough for me… I don’t care how old he is. I’ve always thought Carlos Vela had far more to offer. Why doesn’t he get the chances? He does it on the international scene and has far more trickery and intelligence than Theo. Seems odd that we’d leave him at home. 6
Rosicky: Has the ink dried on that contract? Can we get one of those eraser pens on it? He was diabolical tonight and should be ashamed of himself. When you’re looking for a bit of experience / quality, the last thing you expect is a player of his caliber to turn in a performance as poor as that. He barely strung a pass together, his finishing was terrible and he looked out of place. He’s not Freddy and he’s no Bobby… a player whose never fulfilled his potential in a red and white shirt. 2
Bendtner: Did superbly with the first goal but after that, he put in a typical 21 year old back up striker performance. His touch needs to be more intelligent and he needs to develop more instinct for first time finishing. Still, he does work hard for the team and he acts well as a target man. However, at this level, you need more than that. 6.5