Barcelona v Arsenal (1-2) Match Preview

‘It is a bit of an illusion to go to Barcelona and think they will not score. We need to score at least one goal’ – Arsene Wenger.

Today we play Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the second leg of our first knockout round tie in the Champions League. The first leg ended 2-1 to The Arsenal and it was the football purists’ dream game of football. The world witnessed the highest standard of slick passing football, and it was a game that gave us three fantastic goals and many more missed opportunities.

Despite considering myself a football purist I would gladly see a gritty, messy (not Messi), and boring draw. However, reiterating AW’s quote above, you would have to be slightly deluded to expect us to prevent Barcelona from scoring. In fact, I expect them to score a few goals, which is why I believe we need to score at least two goals ourselves. When a Jose Mourinho side gets beaten 5-0 there, you know you’re going to have to score goals to stand a chance of progressing to the next round. The Boss was, however, quick to counter preconceived ideas coming from the Spanish press that Arsenal only know how to attack and not defend:

‘We prefer to attack, but having kept 7 clean sheets in the Premier League out of the last 11, we know how to defend too’ – AW

The team news is mixed. We already knew that Theo and Vermaelen would not play, but we have since learned that Song joins the list of absentees. However, we were delighted to find out that RVP, Cesc and Wilshere all made the squad and having those three available gives us a real chance. With Song absent the question is whether to replace him with Denilson or Diaby. As pointed out by Dev on twitter yesterday Denilson offers the greater work-rate, but Diaby has height and a bit more skill. Others have said that slower-paced La Liga would suit Denilson’s style better.

It’s a tricky one and I had to think long and hard before I came to a conclusion…which is that I would opt for Diaby. The thing is this – both players tend to frustrate the fans with inadequate effort, delivery and overall performance. However, about once in every 15 games Diaby pulls off a magical performance, providing sound defensive cover and elegant and skillful attacking prowess. The way I see it, we’re going to need a little bit of a miracle to win tonight anyway, so play Diaby, and hope he has one of those nights. Denilson does tend to have a better work-rate but Diaby has more to offer going forward. Given the above analysis on needing to score goals I believe we should field the player who is more likely to help us to achieve that objective.

So, here is my predicted line-up:


Sagna         Djourou             Koscielny        Clichy

Diaby          Wilshere


Nasri                             Arshavin

Van Persie

24 Hours ago when I wrote the first draft of this blog, I wrote about Bendtner in this paragraph. I put a positive angle on why he would help us win the game and how his aerial ability would threaten their makeshift defence. With both Pique and Puyol out I suggested he would offer us a threat from the air that Barca are not accustomed to. I can go one better now and say that RVP will be the warrior up front. Something that hasn’t been said anywhere is the personal demon that exists in RVP’s head when playing Barca. Remember, he lost a World Cup final last year to most of this Barca team and I reckon he’s got that little bit of extra incentive to get one over them. RVP has got to bring his A-game and I think that he will as long as he is playing completely injury-free.

How do we win tonight? The ultimate question, but I think the answer is easier than it seems. We don’t need to win. A 3-2 defeat would see us qualify. However a 3-2 defeat requires us to score goals. Goalscoring opportunities against a side that Arsene has already conceded will have at least 60% of the possession will be hard to come by. However we will create chances, especially against a weakened Barcelona defence. The key will be to take our chances, or even half-chances. You could say that neither of our goals in the first leg were clear goalscoring opportunities but we scored two goals from them. We will need more of the same.

A lot of us are fearing that this week will be what has become our annual capitulation. There seems to be a one or two week period in March/April where we crash out of all competitions in one go. I think we’ve had enough of those, don’t you? How about instead of a capitulation, this week is one of glory and one we will remember for years to come. They owe it to us. There is no shame in losing to Barcelona, I don’t fear it. But what does beating them mean?

‘We know we can beat Barcelona. If we beat them again we know we have a good chance of winning the tournament’ – Jack Wilshere

Dev will be at the game so stay tuned to the @worldofarsenal twitter account for some updates (and some pics, please Dev?). I think we have a 9000-strong Red and White army at the ground tonight so sing your hearts out boys and bring home a place in the next round. We can do this!

‘Barcelona are a very difficult opponent but we just want to win. If you ask any player, he would give his life to win this match’ – Arsene Wenger.

  • Gooner4Life

    Excellent post, it really is an excellent post – really inspiring and a lot of truth in the way we need to approach the game and with the line up!

    For me, Diaby is a massive liability in a game such as this – I can’t recall a “big” game where he has played well before! I would prefer Denilson in there with his energy and work rate. But then Denilson sometimes lacks tackle accuracy and you’re right, Diaby can be Vieira-esque if he tries!!!

  • fo

    JAT! You need to write more match previews – excellent article my friend!!

    Diaby has to start in this game – he has the ability to do something excellent – Eboue instead of Arshavin could be an option to…? Eboue / Walcott very similar – and we know Barcelona don’t like pace against them…

    With Pique / Puyol both missing – who will play at the back for Barcelona?

  • devday

    Awesome post man! I am on the way to the airport, really excited for this game! Have a feeling Denilson will get the nod, as Barcelona will really move around the pitch and we need work rate in midfield!

  • fo

    Is Robin Van Persie definitely playing??

  • pires

    Stomach in knots, inability to sit still, anxiety creeping into every limb…it can only be one thing, Arsenal Barcelona in the Champions League. I am so damn excited/nervous…Last year Barca decimated our second string and revelled in it like an achievement as did our rivals at home, fair enough. Tonight i want revenge for Paris ’06, a bus journey home i will never forget, urging myself never to forget how much it hurt. Tonight I’ll be using that memory and the disgusting pursuit of Cesc over the summer to fuel me. Tonight i’ll be in the middle of the 12 pins in finsbury park waiting for the sheer bliss of getting soaked in warm beer knowing that it means we’ve scored that crucial away goal. I’ll be singing we all follow The Arsenal and somehow thinking the louder i sing it in London, the better they’ll play in Spain…10 hours to go…you all know that if we win, there isnt an opiate based drug in the world that is going to rival that feeling, if we lose, i want to do it with our heads held high knowing we made them work harder than they have done this whole season. Last season Guardiola said it was the best they had ever played in the first leg at the emirates and Messi had one of his best in the 2nd leg meaning they had nothing left in the tank for the rest of the comp and that was against our second string, this year we ARE even better. Too close to call but come on gooners, even when all logic is telling you otherwise, BELIEVE!!!

  • devday

    OH MY GOD – this is so exciting – am on the flight, on route to Barcelona! Full of gooners in the plane, tweeting away, Barcelona here we come!

  • AmriGooner

    @ fo:
    Well said Pires.
    I will do the same and sing that song as loud as I can thinking the louder I sing, the better they will play in Spain even with the fact that I’m going to cheer for them from far far away from Abha,SaudiArabia.
    Come on you Gunners.

  • AmriGooner

    @ pires:
    Sorry I meant @ Pires in the last comment.

  • JAT

    Arsenal team v Barcelona: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Diaby, Rosicky, Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie

    Barcelona team v Arsenal: Valdes, Dani Alves, Busquets, Abidal, Adriano Correia, Xavi, Mascherano, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Messi

    Shit defence! Come on Arsenal!

  • Vazy

    shiiit! almunias on for an injured Szczesny!


  • Vazy

    what a poor backheel from fabregas 1-0 barca..

    has anyone else noticed how much diving and getting away with fouls there has been from barca

  • Vazy

    how we got that 1-1 is beyond me!


  • Vazy

    10 men, 3-1 down but 1 more goal and we have it on away goals

    fab off -big game bendtner on

  • Vazy

    absolutely gutted.. o well..

    pick yourselves up boys.. we still have the prem and fa cup all to play for!!!


  • Vazy

    (just waiting for the usual arsenal boo boys to appear in droves now)

  • bayo

    Nobody is booing arsenal but the truth needs to be told….our most expensive player did not start the match( what does that says). Some players would never be good enough…bentner, denilson, squillaci and rosicky needs to go.

  • JAT

    Truth is that over the 180 mins the best team (by far) won. But we are often the best team and don’t win certain games and that red card could have made the difference. Bendtner ensured our last hope was wasted. No point getting down and cursing them, in fact I’m quite relieved our schedule is to be reduced now. Narrows our focus on to two tournaments and we haven’t been able to cope with the heavy schedule as seen by our non-existent form over the last 3 weeks. Fearing another shocking ref at old trafford Saturday but we need to anticipate that and take our chances. The irony is I’d gladly take a replay at this stage.

    Also, let us never forget the jeers aimed at Cesc when he was subbed. This guy is worshipped at the Emirates and I hope he remembers tonight when those disease-ridden scumbags come crawling after him again in the summer.

  • Berth

    If we win the league by loosing to Barca so be it. If we don’t win anything then Wenger should make changes and look closely at his approach too.

  • pires

    gobsmacked by the whole thing to be honest – The ref – WAnker no 1 – seriously if we dont end up with a trophy wenger needs to walk –

  • yemi

    I was hoping for a miracle, but i got relity check
    1. The best team in the world won
    2. Arsenal was not present at the party
    3. Theo was missed
    4. Song was missed (might have been red carded anyways)
    5. Coach had some errors of selection IMO. Why and how in the world did Rosisky (despite his form) start ahead of arshavin ?
    6. Diaby is not a player for that kind of game . Why ? We were constantly under pressure so wee needed to turn defense to attack as fast as possible (counter attack). Diaby hold on to the ball to much so that will never happen.
    7. We need some players to leave starting with
    Cesc (So other players can focus),
    Denilson (Not good enuff),
    Diaby (Not good enuff, how long will it take arsene wenger to see that diaby can never be like viera ? The similarity ends with the stature),
    Rosisky (Past his prime),
    Clichy (Seems not to learn over the years, and the lad is even holding out on contract probably for more money ? after yesterdays performance ? You wish !!!),
    One of B52 or chamack,
    And all these guys need to be replaced by BETTER, and not necessarily more expensive ones.
    Come to africa and i will give you a thousand strikers better than B52 and won’t cost much,
    Go to asia and south america , you will find creative and talented players who can replace all the creative midfielders we have.

    8. Clich was breached over and over again

    Finally, there is no way we will ever know if the refs decisions had an impact on the outcome of the game. But in all honesty Messi should have gotten a card for handling the ball, mascherano for kicking wilshire all around the field, Alves and Abidal should also have been yellow carded for their constant fouls on Nasri and RVP.

  • yemi

    *I was hoping for a miracle, but i got reality check

  • Berth

    @ Yemi – Echoing similar thoughts about the players not good for the club.

    I hesitate with the Cesc leaving. However if he must leave he should not be first on the list; the club desperately needs this much needed cleansing but Clichy is still good to be honest Yemi.

  • Josiah

    I am in agreement with arsene wenger and everybody else we would have had a much better chance of taking that qame if it werent for the referees poor decisions. I just wanna prove all our critics wrong and win something this year, i really hope we go and knock dirty manure out of the fa cup this weekend because then we have a great chance of winning the competition AND the league. How good would it be to do the double. COME ON ARSENAL YOU FUCKING RED BOYS WE CAN DO THIS!

  • Berth

    The ground hog’s day hasn’t been any nearer.

  • ZimGooner

    We was robbed at Camp Nou. The ref killed the game off for us when he unfairly sent Van Persie off. What still irks me is the futility of the 3rd official. What are they there for if they can’t object to poor refereeing? FIFA has to move with the times and make some amends. The ref can’t be infallible for good. On a brighter side I’m still confident that a moment of joy will prevail for the Arsenal. Come on ye Gooners!

  • JDD

    everybody know players need to leave and we need to bring some in.even if we won all 4 trophies this would have needed to happen you have got strengthen especially when you are at the opinions on certain players that need to leave are not based on the performance against barca in all honesty we didnt actually play bad they were jsut th first half are tactics were to defend and to keep a clean sheet we nearly achieved it but fabregas’ stupid mistake cost the second half we came out and attacked them we got a corner early on and scored.then our next attack lead to van persies joke of a red card.that ref needs a slap.then due to us being down to 10 men we had to defend again ,the red card clearly cost us the game.all could have been different though if bendtner had scored that simple chance late on chamakh or van persie would have definately buried that chance.based on his performance yesterday (his assist in there first goal and his smile when messi scored the penalty) i think fabregas wants to go to barca. i feel we shud sell at the right price (50/60mil + ibrahimovic).we shud then move nasri into the centre of midfield and buy 2 world class wingers to give competition for places to walcott and hearing juve want to swap melo for denilson if true we should 100% make that happen.then maybe buy a centre-half.thats just 5 signings and as i said before this isn’t based on us going out of the cl.these are areas we need to strengthen in just to keep the squad fresh and make sure there is competition for places.even if we win the double(which i am quietly confident we will do) we have still got to strengthen to improve and win trophies again next year.i dont think wholesale changes are needed just 3or4 out and 5 in.

  • edison

    @JDD: I get what your saying, but this aint FIFA 11 mate. Not are we MAN CITY or CHELSEA. your saying not wholesale decisions, but taking 4 players out and 5 in is nothing but wholesale.

    Arsenal will not clear out 4 or 5 players at one time, the team doesnt work like that.

    Fabregas wouldnt even make the first team for Barca, so im not so sure he will be leaving at the end of this season for them so quickly. especially if we win something.

    did anyone else catch any of the disgusting sp*rs game tonight?

    Crouch kicked the ball away, at least 2 seconds after hearing the whistle stop play – and no booking ?!? and after all it was a shite hart lane – not exactly the deafening levels of noise at the Nou Camp.

    Also there was foul after foul all game and next to no bookings. and that poof Sandra in midfield for sp*rs should have been sent off with two yellows, by the amount of fouls he committed.


  • yemi

    @ edison:
    I hardly consider my opinion as wholesale changes, wanna know why ?

    1. Compare cesc’s and wilshire/nasri performances. They were digging deep to bring out something extra, not so for cesc. The guy obviously wants to leave and the earlier the better so the others can concentrate. We cannot do without a cesc that is in form, but a cesc with his recent performance we can surely do without. His leadership qualities on the pitch is questionable. Remember how we slated gallas for his disposition at b’ham 2 seasons ago ? How will you feel as a player if you look up to your captain for motivation and all you see is a dejected player with drooping shoulder ?

    2. Clichy, Holding out on his contract for either 2 reasons either he wants to leave or wants more money. If he doesnt get those, then we will have a half interested player on our hand.

    3. Denilson is not a bad player, but he is average. He is not good enough as an attacking midfielder neither is he good enough cover as a DM He has failed to grow in any form. He had a great season last term, but instead of progressing he seems to regress. I think frimpong can take his place as a DM. (Not good enuff)

    4. I think the same rules that applied to eduardo should apply to Diaby. I have not seen diaby play consistently before he even starts to pick up form, he is injured long term. Diaby can never be like viera. The similarity ends with the stature

    5. Rosisky is not the same pre-injury player. Giggs despite his age is a much better performer than him. He seems to have lost the plot and might not even be able to get the number of games that could help him regain his form (Whatever that means)

    6. One of B52 or chamack, These our two strikers are not potent and considering the fact that RVP is injury prone, We need a second potent striker that can come in for RVP. Coming in for RVP not necessarily when injured but so that RVP can be rested once in probably 3 games so as to reduce the possibility of him getting injured. I wouldn’t like to replace him by someone who i know cannot take on defenders one on one, or who will miss 9 out of 8 clear chances, or who cannot conjour some magic or a striker who has less shots at goal than a defender !!!.
    One of either this guys can be 3rd choice, but not second because our first choice is almost never around !!

    7. Alumina: Very inconsistent, does not control his territory at all, bad body language (seems dejected), does not react qucik, Maybe if he is well covered, his weaknesses might not be exposed

    8. Squillaci, Give hime one or two season then replace him. In this period, Ignasi should be sent on loan to a team where he can get some playing time under his belt.

    This changes must not come all at once, some in the summer and some in January but unlike @ devday: IMHO and unlike dev cesc should be the first to leave, he is not offering any form of motivation as a captain. Having said that, IF he leaves, he should be replaced by a better player so as to let the other players know that the personnel might have changed, but the intetion remains the same.

  • edison

    @yemi – asking arsenal to get rid of cesc, clichy, denlison, diaby, rosicky, bendtner or chamakh ?! and squillaci is ridiculous and it is definitely ‘Wholesale’.

    Wholesale implies : on a large scale without careful discrimination , and suggesting we chop 7 or 8 players in the timescale of a season is ridiculous. I dont think arsenal have ever done that, and never will.

    Dont get me wrong, what you have said is the case with these players, but its just not going to happen.

    More over, we have an excellent team at Arsenal. consistently in the champions league, the only other team in the title race this season – Wenger is not going to sell 7 or 8 of our current squad at a time like this.