Barce press Arsenal into ultimate claustrophobia

by Ryan Duggins

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Last night, Arsenal were succumbed to the most terrifying of deaths; strangulation. This morning will be painted with headlines of ‘Farce’ and talk of red cards, where any unbiased consumer of the spectacle that was this match would realise that The Gunners were diving too deep, and oxygen was getting scarce.

Many fans in the UK were led down a false corridor of optimism, due to the apparent weaknesses of Barcelona’s back line, but any true football follower would realise that, arguably, the loss of Puyol and Pique may have given Barce an edge they did not need. Arsenal were never going to get in behind Barce, which meant that Busquets was playing the entire match only 5 metres further back than he usually would. As for Abidal, he has played that position far too many times for people to question his nous.

Too scared were arsenal to make a game of this, even to look up and pick out another yellow shirt. We need no reminder that the Catalan’s are terrific off the ball, but last night, Arsenal were made to look like Foosball table figurines, lacking in any movement to test and press. Without the presence and awareness of Johan Djourou, seemlessly mopping up most of the Barce offerings in the first half, this could have been a real lynching.

So what did happen to Arsenal? Well, and I am never one to recycle cliché’s and mantra’s plastered over the tabloids, but I think Arsenal simply bottled it. Tactically, they were always going to sit back and wait, with fingers crossed that their opponents would lose their nack for slicing open a back line, which they were struggling to do in the first 40 minutes. But to say someone is waiting suggests some form of inevitable event. The microwave ‘bing’, the washing machine cycle finishing, anything that would justify hanging around. Arsenal were waiting for a bus, and when it didn’t come, they couldn’t even muster up the ‘cojones’ to complain about it.

Oh no, wait, they did raise a few concerns when the referee decided that the noise of 95,000 people shouting would not halt any normal person from hearing a whistle. While Arsenal fans across the globe were furious at the official’s incompetence, they were ignoring the fact that RVP wasn’t even whispering towards the notion of having a hopeful punt, and his team mates certainly were not going to create a scoring opportunity for him. The sending off was just as ambivalent as the direction the corner flags were swaying.

Like most English sports writers, a nod of sympathy to Jack Wilshere is a complete must. At one stage, he picked the ball up from his own area, to look up to see everyone walking away from him, not realising that this isn’t the Premiership, and time on the ball is minimal. He skipped away from two players in a burst, flamed from complete frustration, only to run into a third player before he reached the opponent’s half.

If RVP was at full fitness, and if Fabregas was at 100%, and if Alex Song was available, then maybe Arsenal would have been able a little stronger. But even so, apart from the seemingly incompetent Adriano, Barcelona couldn’t have done this better.

Writer/Journalist Ryan Duggins can be found tweeting HERE

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  • Darren

    Once again our tactics were wrong, it’s easy to say this now of course.

    We were totally outplayed in every department, it was embarrassing. Personally, I thought Bendtner & Chamakh should have started. Cesc & RVP were not fit, we were carrying them both.

    If there’s a weakness in this Barca side it’s in the air. Wenger could of ditched all his football philosophies and actually had a plan B for once. We could of went long, why not? This game is about winning.

    As for Cesc hugging all the Barca players to death in the tunnel was an absolute disgrace. What sort of message does that give out to his team mates, this is the captain after all!!

    I think it’s time to give Jack Wilshire the armband, he is the only player who knows what it means to play for Arsenal, and how much winning a trophy means to the fans.

    One thing is for certain, without Walcott we have absolutely no pace what so ever!

  • Ryan Duggins

    I think it was the 92nd minute, when Arsenal had a free-kick deep inside their half. The one chance to throw everyone forward for one last attempt to launch a attack. And what happened….Almunia played it short, and Arsenal lost the ball again. That was unbelievably frustrating

  • Darren

    absolutely shocking and naive.

    A leader, as we all know there isnt one, should of shouted, leave it, everyone in the box, including you Mani, they are weak in the air. But no, it was schoolboy stuff again

  • simon

    Bollocks, no doubt the sending off killed us.
    We were playing on the counter and they took away our only outlet which meant both Barca fullbacks were able to stay forward & create a training game scenario.

    It amazes me people saying that Barca would have won regardless. We were winning the tie at that point and have been stronger than Barca in the last 25 minutes every time we’ve played them.

    Love to know the time between us going in front & the time it took the ref to ensure Barca the tie? Bout 90 seconds before he f*cked us

  • Ryan Duggins

    Hmmm, to be honest, I don’t think RVP would have last that much longer anyway. Surely Bendtner would have replaced him at some stage. And fair comment about the last 20, but in those previous games Arsenal played a lot higher up the pitch and had nudged in the direction of danger at some stage prior to the 70th minute. This was not the case last night.

  • Darren

    @ Simon, this is true, but the fact of the matter is we played better in last seasons 4-1 thrashing, we simply haven’t learnt anything! No plan B, we need one. We are so predictable, even Birmingham worked us out.

    Groundhog day. It’s getting a little boring now. There are major issues in our team and squad that needed to addressed in January but weren’t. Same old story

  • simon

    Darren – is this a joke? Barca are by far the best team in the world. No team is going to do anything other than chase & defend for long periods.
    Who’s fans were desperately whistling for full time at the end?

    Real Madrid lost here 5-0, we were winning the tie until the BS sending off. You don’t sound like a gooner to me mate.

  • Ryan Duggins

    Well the difference is that the teams that HAVE performed well against Barce this season (Hercules, Sporting Gijon, Mallorca and arguably Bilbao in the cup) they have all gone with the same tactics. Wait and sit, making sure that when they to get an opp to counter, they use it. All of them had a main spearhead in attack, Like Llorente, Cavanaghi and Trezeguet, and pacey players to break. Last night, Arsenal sat back seemingly just for the sake of sitting back.

  • simon

    Ryan – And Arsenal’s best chance was to counter after 60 mins – something that won us the last game & has worked on more than one occasion.

    And that’s exactly what the ref ensured couldn’t happen.

  • Darren

    Rubin Kazan went there in 2009 and won 1-0. It can be done, all I’m saying is we haven’t learnt anything!

    Without Walcott we are toothless, we have no pace and find it hard to get behind defences.

    Barca should of had a pen in both legs, truth is, we were well and truly beaten. The 4-3 score line over two legs is not a true reflection of the tie

  • Ryan Duggins

    I don’t think winning a corner and showing an actual attacking intent is the same thing Simon. Arsenal are the first team to ever register 0 shots on goal with OptaStats.

    What I will say in your defence though, is that the ball played to Bendtner in the dying embers would have been perfect for RVP to smash. No doubt he would have taken it first time, but I guess when you don’t touch the ball and get a chance to score in front of 95,000 fans, the odds are against you.

  • Darren

    that’s the difference between buying world class players and cheap ones, world class players get one chance and they take it.

    what we would have given for an Ian Wright or Henry in that moment

  • Elliot

    I am getting seriously hacked off with some Arsenal fans, and I say some as it isn’t all of you, claiming that the sending off killed the game.

    True, it wasn’t a sending off and Van Persie can consider himself very unfortunate, but even before that sending off it was the most one-sided football game I have seen since United stuffed Roma 7-1 at Old Trafford a few years back.

    Arsenal seem to have very short and selective memories, have they forgotten that Abou Diaby brought down Messi in the box in the 1st half? A stone-wall penalty that wasn’t given.

    Lets get one thing straight, Arsenal were well and truly outplayed; it was a poor performance with no ambition. And what is amazing as Darren pointed out was that Arsenal didn’t exploit the weakened Barca defence with any aerial threat, why not throw on Bendtner earlier? Barcelona were robbed, they should have scored 8 and that is no exaggeration.

    Arsenal got what they deserved, a proper beating. The 4-3 aggregate score does not reflect how dominant Barca were over two legs. And this is coming from a Swindon fan (and i realise i’m inviting some inevitable stick for that admission).

  • Ryan Duggins

    Elliot, I actually think that Wenger did really well not to look at that back line and think ‘right, let’s try and play it a bit longer’. That would have been a disaster, but as you say, the performance couldn’t really have been less convincing.

    Bendtner really should have had longer on the pitch, but I don’t think Rosicky should have got a single second. Such a liability. Maybe I am playing devils advocate here, but it looked like Arsenal were planning on shutting them out for 70 minutes, then hitting them hard at the end. So maybe the sending off served Wenger right for being hopeful.

  • Stu

    @ Ryan Duggins
    are you dumb??
    Why do people just sprout rubbish without having facts??
    I suggest you look at the stats for the Inter-Barca game at Nou Camp last season. You’ll see they have no attempts whatsoever.
    U come here sprouting Arsenal are the first bla bla bla.. rubbish talk

  • Mike Stanford

    Even if they had The Walcott, Alex Song and Vermaelen it wouldn’t of made a difference! Arsenal haven’t got the pyschological strength to go to the nou camp and get a result! Simple! Not many teams have! And the way Barca make triangles and move its hard to keep track of cos you’ll get the centre half popping up at right wing, the right back playing centre forward etc so if your told to mark zonal, your screwed cos you could have about 3 players in your zone, and if your told to mark man for man then you’ll be running all over the shop! lol Unless you can keep the ball yourself and make good use of it your screwed! lol

  • Ryan Duggins

    oh my word, you are just silly. That Inter performance was one of the greatest displays of defensive football I have ever seen. Mourinho placed Chivu to stop Alves, Eto’o pushed right to not only put pressure on Keita, but to exploit Milito. And even when Motta was sent off, they were dogged enough to get the result. Brilliant management

    Arsenal touched the ball twice in Barce’s area, and Arsenal ARE the only team in the last 8 years (since opta stats began in 2003) to record 0 shots.

  • Ryan Duggins

    And Mike, the way you beat Barce is holding back, waiting and waiting for Barce to keep the ball to a point where they casual tire and lose concentration, then you hit them on the counter. If Song played with Wilshere in the centre, then at least they have two players who always want the ball.

  • Stu

    @ Ryan Duggins
    Facts speak for themselves

    Yeaah.. I definitely see some shots in there..

    Their possession stats are even worse. You only laud them cos they got the job done. If that 2nd barca goal wasn’t disallowed you won’t be praising the defensive display; Just as well as if Bendtner put that chance in, you would have written this article differently.

  • Ryan Duggins

    Hmmm I am going by the intense research from the guys at OPTA, who do a lot of research into this sort of thing, but if you are right, then I retract the statement.

    But Inter seemed to know exactly what they were doing, with a game plan completely catered for that particular match. Mourinho pretty much went out to stop Barce , which they did. And to be honest, Inter deserved that luck with the Bojan disallowed goal anyway. And if Bendtner did score, then the article would have been put together in exactly the same way, even more biased towards the Barce cause if anything.

    I don’t think you can draw a comparison at all between the two matches.

    Oh and btw, Inter had one shot off target in the second leg against Barcelona. And I thank you

  • simon

    Anyone who reckons the sending off didn’t change anything is just plain wrong.
    Before the sending off we were winning the tie (doesn’t mean we’re a better team than them but we were going through) and Barca had managed 6 goal attempts.

    By full time they’d had 20 in total & also bare in mind we’ve finished stronger in the last 3 games against them.

    Thought Arsenal defended very well until then.

  • simon

    And Ryan, you seem to forget that even after Inter’s supposed defensive masterclass, it was only a wrongly disallowed goal for Barca in the last 10 mins that meant they went through.

  • Ryan Duggins

    Well in that game, Barce were only allowed to shoot from outside the area. I think it was pedro who blasted one wide from just inside, but apart from that, the game was awash with speculative efforts. And to be honest, Inter had a decision go against them when Motta got sent off…decisions from ref’s can’t really define a games dynamic if you ask me.

  • Elliot

    Can you just not accept that your team was outplayed? True, 11 against 11 is better than 10 against 11 but Arsenal couldn’t keep possession even when Van Persie was on the field so I doubt the result would’ve been any different to be honest.
    As i mentioned earlier, what about that Diaby foul on Messi in the box that the ref didn’t spot? Are you conveniently ignoring that incident? Ref gives a pen there and that is 2-0 Barca half time, game over.

    I agree with you, Inter defended brilliantly in the 2nd leg at the Nou Camp. Alright they rode their luck but they restricted Barca to only a handful of chances, something Arsenal didn’t do last night.

  • Matt quinn

    A couple of points:

    1/ so what if fabregas hugged the barca players? It takes 2 to hug. The barca players hugged back remember and it didn’t seem to affect them.

    2/ Dont moan about the ref. If he had been competent then Barca would have had a penalty for Diaby’s trip on Messi and Van Persie would have been sent off in the first half. (for raking his studs down Messi’s leg and then pushing Alves in the face)… So, it should have been 2-0 to Barca at halftime with the gunners down to 10 men.

    3/ do you really believe Van Persie didn’t hear the whistle? Through on goal, not a defender in sight, probably the only chance he will get all game and he lashes it first time with his RIGHT foot??? Does that sound like the actions of a predominantly left footed player with time to take a touch, who genuinely thought he was onside??? Van Persie was a fool and the ref made a harsh but understandable decision.

  • Darran James

    Last night once again proved that while Arsenal are POTENTIALLY a great team, they are lacking in key areas. They need to spend money. That’s the bottom line. They need a large, quick forward and at least one new centerback although I’m not even totally convinced that Vermalen is good enough. Most of all though the Goalkeeping Situation needs to be resolved. I can’t understand Wengers absolute aversion to spending any money. It’s beyoned me. Promoting from within is I’m sure we’ll all agree the best policy when improving a team but unfortunatley it doesnt appear Arsenal have anyone who cuts the mustard in the youth set up so its time to go shopping Arsene.

    For the reccord, I don’t agree with the author of this article I think with Pique and Puyol missing Bareclona were ripe for the taking. Abidal is by far their biggest liability and I have no idea why they still keep him on. I’d have started with Chamak and RVP up front and gone for it myself. Barcelona are always vunderable in the first 10 minutes of matches. Id never have let Rosicky with 500 miles of the Nou Camp either. The RVP sending off was as dodgy as I’ve seen since the weekend (which is a sad thing to have to say).

    Arsenal had it in them to win this game but unfortunately the once again failed to meet expectations.

  • Ryan Duggins

    I can’t actually think of another left-back in world football that is just as cohesively brilliant in a central role as Eric Abidal.

  • Mystical Mike

    @ Darren James, couldn’t agree more. We need a quick forward, either that or start playing Theo up top with a support just behind him, RVP would be perfect for this role.

    Defenders and a keeper, Clichy is caught napping so many times it’s laughable. How much space did he give Alves yesterday.

    Rosicky is finished, he’s become our new Hleb, in that nothing, and i mean nothing comes from him. 1 goal in a year, 2 assists. So we need a decent winger too.

    I reckon you’re looking at around 80 million, but we all know he’ll sign young unknown players, that’s why we don’t and will continue to win FA!

  • Ryan Duggins

    To be fair, I didn’t think Clichy was done any favours by the guys in front of him. On that left side, you really do need a midfielder who’s role is to shut off Alves, which Nasri was never going to do. Clichy has been in solid decline for three years now though.

    I actually think that a centre back pairing of Djourou and maybe a Roger Johnson-esque player would be ideal. Djourou has been (Arguably) Arsenal’s second best player this season behind nasri, so I would base by defence around him.

  • Darran James

    Abidal is not Brilliant as a left back OR a Center Back. I just don’t see it. Never could. Too old, too mistake prone, lost his pace. Moving him to the center is probabyl a good thing for him. His old legs don;t move so quickly anymore.

  • Ryan Duggins

    He”s completely unflappable. can’t remember any high profile mistakes in games I’ve watched

  • Jay

    The reason arsenal lost is because there style of football is exactly the same as Barcelonas, very simple, traingle football, with short passes and silky quick footed players, with no physicality.
    Its like Megan Fox and Sandra Bullock walking into a room both you would do but Megan will always be prittier, the only way to Megan is bring a Beyonce in the room, something completely different.

    To beat Barca you have to either be very physical and faultless defensively and knick a goal from set plays OR play on the counter with speed and energy, which means you basically outrun them and cause them to worry about coming forward.

    Now im not saying this because its an Arsenal website but Spurs have the best chance out of all the teams left, they have Bale and Lennon who will cause there full backs Adriano and Alves problems because defending isnt there game and they have pace, they would struggle hugely with Crouch, Sandro and Palacios are physical and fit and Modric/VDV can link play.
    If they had Gallas and King at the back im sure there experience can handle Barca better than Djourou and Kocielsny.

    Now im not saying Spurs are better just simply that there style of play is suited perfectly to beat Barcelona.

    And I feel the Arsenal early 2000 side would have beat Barcelona, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Campbell, Cole etc, had pace and physicality.

    How can you not target set plays when Messi, Villa, Pedro, Iniesta, Xavi, Mascherano, Alves and Adriano are all 5ft 6 or less thats 8 of there 10 outfield players…….Stoke would have a field day lool.

  • Jay

    BTW disagree Abidal is a weak link, as a centre back he is excellent, left back yes too slow.

    And Rosicky who I dont follow regularly looked absolutely awful, I dont think I have ever seen him have a good game though to be fair.

    Clichy was left exposed to be fair but everything came from his side, you could tell he wernt used to defending lol

    Wilshere is the only one who can walk with head held high, and maybe Djourou over both legs

  • Mystical Mike

    @Jay, also, Barca have better players who known their job, Arsenal players know it, but are not disciplined enough, I’ve said this a 100 times, but Clichy is not that good, his positional sense is terrible.

    I agree with you, Spurs have pace to burn, with that you always stand a chance.

  • Londoner

    Simon. Read what Almunia had to say. Arsenal players were ‘walking’ the pitch. They had no more gas left in them. Martin Keown said he was bitterly disappointed in the way the Gunners (all coach and players) at the Nou Camp. No point going through only to lose the next round. Arsenal had better concentrate on the Premiership where things are at least reachable. Still way off at the European level – and you’ve got to admit, Arsenal were completely outplayed and Barca were not going to tire playing at their home unlike when traveling.

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