Thursday Thoughts on Arsenal-Barca

Arsene Wenger

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Arsenal are lucky to come out of last night’s game still holding a slim chance to get into the semi final. Every time this year they faced a top class opponent – Chelsea (two defeats), Manchester United (two defeats) and now Barca, Wenger’s boys have shown they may be young, talented and skillful but it’s not enough to European champions or even English champions. The first half was what Kevin Keegan once described as – "we beat them 0-0". Manuel Almunia gave the best 45 minutes of his career, only to make one of his trademark mistakes at the start of the second half. Arsenal look like frightened schoolboys playing against grown ups. Barcelona’s pressure meant the gunners were hardly able to get out of their own territory. Arshavin and Bendtner were meaningless.

Lionel Messi

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Lionel Messi – Weak turnout from the hottest player on the planet. Got lost in the middle, just like in Barcelona’s previous La Liga match. He thrives on the wing, but Guardiola likes to switch things around. It seemed he sacrificed Messi in order ot have the wide open for Dani Alves and Maxwell.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Looks like Ibrahimovic is finding his form again at the right time, scoring for the fourth game in a row, making it 20 for him in all competitions. Barca’s mixture of long balls and crosses from the wings was perfect for the tall Swede who could have ended up with a hat-trick or more easily if it wasn’t for Almunia’s heroics.

Cesc Fabregas

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Cesc Fabregas – Out for the season? Arsenal won’t win the premiership, and probably won’t win the champions league. Barcelona won’t have Puyol and Pique next week at the Nou Camp, but Arsenal won’t have Fabregas and need a miracle to get by. Nonetheless, despite a pretty disappointing outing from the Spaniard, he showed tons of heart, staying on the pitch, hobbling on his injured (broken?) leg.

Theo Walcott

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Theo Walcott – There’s something about Theo… there’s a buzz every time he touches the ball. Defenses fear him. The problem is he shows up once every five matches or so, producing something great. The rest of the time he’s either injured or just disappears while playing. Can’t let that happen, it’s time he steps up. A great performance from him next week might mean a huge upset. Very unlikely.

Bottom line – I didn’t believe in Arsenal in the beginning of the season. I didn’t believe in Arsenal when they drew Barcelona for the quarter finals. I didn’t believe in them under the Catalan blitz in the first half and not even when they evened the score at 2-2. Arsenal aren’t good enough to beat a team like Barcelona. They won’t or can’t play what is referred to as a tactic game, which is a nice way to say – really defensive. That’s why a lot of neutrals root for them, but when they match-up against the club they’re supposed to imitate, they pale in comparison. I think it’s something like an 80-20 or 70-30 against the gunners next week in the second leg. Almunia won’t be this great again. And I don’t think the referee will make such a call in the Nou Camp. Penalty? 50-50… Red Card? No way.

Puyol Fabregas

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