Sloppy error’s mean that Arsenal are crashing out of the Champions league and once again the second leg is yet to be played. My beloved Arsenal have had some really difficult draws in the last 16 over the past 6 seasons but its not just down to bad luck. Failure to win our group has put us in a position to draw the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich & Milan (before their demise). Perhaps the most disappointing one of them all was the defeat to Monaco – a side we really should have beat over 2 legs. Once again a disappointing result at the Emirates has left us with too much to do on our travels.
This time around the defeat at home was a harder one to swallow. For the most part of the game we were able to contain the deadly trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar until we (yep, you’ve guessed it) pushed the self destruct button – that’s what is so frustrating.
Being at the Emirates last night and having spoken to many different fans it’s seems this was the failure the ‘Wenger Out’ mob were looking for to cause another uproar. I still don’t entirely agree with them but I can understand some of their arguments and I guess as paying fans everyone has the right to voice their opinions.
I don’t necessarily think we lost due to employing the wrong tactics. I actually thought Monsiuer Wenger set us up right and the first 70 minutes of the game supports my view.
Where did it all go wrong?
My conclusion on this one is simple really, you can sit and watch the game over and over again and try to find a thousand reasons as to why we lost but in all honesty you would be wasting your time. The fact is they have a whole team of world class players whereas we have three or four at best.
Comparing Arsenal & Barcelona – As Club’s and Tactically
FC Barcelona – ‘Mes Que Un Club’ (More than a club)…Never has a slogan been so true, they’re not just a football team who have overspent their way to success after years of mediocrity like a Man City or Chelsea. The Catalan club have a philosophy, one that is followed right throughout the club. There is no doubt in my mind the fact that they play the most attractive football in the world is a much bigger attraction for the top players than the salaries they can pay. FCB is a brand and one that doesn’t look like fading away any time soon.
Arsenal – A club of tradition and one of the UK’s largest and successful clubs, since Arsene Wenger took the reigns back in 1996 he has instilled a philosophy and a brand of football that the club are globally recognized for. The move to the Emirates stadium limited the Gunners resources for a number of season’s but the fact they managed to stay in the champions league places through this transition has put them in the strong financial position. Despite all of the off the field positives there has simply not been enough success on the pitch where it matters.
Many would argue that Arsene Wenger’s team are the best passing side in the Premier League but does that mean we are as good as the mighty Barcelona in possession?
Two teams with similar idea’s of how the game should be played but in reality we play in two totally different competitions (The EPL and La Liga). In order to succeed in the EPL you require a higher level of physicality than in La Liga and the game is played at a totally different pace. I’m not saying one is harder than the other and I won’t disrespect any other league, what I will say is there are clearly differences in the attributes Arsenal and Barcelona require to flourish in their respective league’s.
Barcelona must be doing something right, they continue to dominate both domestically and in Europe and overcome talented sides from all over the continent with relative ease. Since 2005-06 they have won the UEFA Champions League 4 times and are probably the favorite’s to lift the trophy for the 5th time in just over a decade. Therefore proving that technical football, played in the right way conquers all. This is the benchmark, to play the game in the ‘Barcelona’ way and be successful is what I call perfection.
At the Emirates on Tuesday night Luis Enrique’s side faced a stubborn Arsenal for the most part of the game. A narrow, compact and well organised Arsenal were able to keep them out but eventually on 71 minutes the resistance broke and the rest is history.
One of the key reason’s Barcelona are such a formidable force is that they are able to completely control the pace of the game, whether home or away they dictate the play. There were some short periods in the game where we had them on the back foot and were able to create the odd chance but whenever there was a sign of the game becoming ‘fast and furious’ they would win possession, slow the game back down and string together 20-25 short passes. The perfect way to kill your opponents momentum.
A criticism I often throw at Arsenal is that when teams come and ‘park the bus’ at The Emirates Stadium we struggle to open them up. This was evident in the recent draws versus Southampton and Hull.
Barcelona don’t seem to have that problem and here’s why…
• Width – when struggling to open up a compact team I believe you need to try and stretch them as much as possible. Pull defenders out of position and widen the gaps between the individual defenders therefore creating openings for midfield runners to expose the space. Barcelona are extremely effective in this. For example when their GK is taking a goal kick the two full backs pull out to the touch lines and so do the wingers (Messi & Neymar) I’m talking chalk on their boots!!! The starting positions of Neymar and Messi are so wide that they either a) pull the full backs out with them creating gaps between FB’s and CB’s or b) in the case the FB stays tucked in they recieve the ball in space and have plenty of time on the ball. We all know how dangerous that can be. With both playing on the ‘wrong’ side if you like, them starting so wide allows them to move into space on their stronger feet.
• Pass completion/ball retention – They simply do not lose the ball, their ability to hold possession gives them rest bite when on the odd occasion their opponent is giving them the run around. Barcelona had a huge 66% of the possession on Tuesday! I thought we kept the ball well! The truth is Arsenal don’t anymore and it’s proving to be a problem, more so when you face the likes of them. I mentioned in my blog a few weeks back that I don’t feel we keep the ball well enough without Santi Cazorla in that midfield and I’m only being proved right. Aaron Ramsey was much more disciplined yesterday and for that I give him credit, he also worked his socks off! Problem is he gives the ball away far too much and maybe at times tries to play that killer pass too early. On the rare occasions we won possession last night we had to keep it for periods and make it count.
• Dictating the tempo of the game – Arsenal at times on Tuesday tried to up the tempo and really get at Barcelona, unfortunately we couldn’t sustain it for any period of time. At times, when Barcelona wanted to they were slowing the game down so much they were almost walking in possession. They have that ability to switch it up at any time with such ease. Once they have ‘passed you to sleep’ they wait for that lapse of concentration, the slightest gap and they’re in!
Finally, back to my original point… They just have a different calibre of player and the likes of Messi only need a chance whereas the Oxlade-Chamberlains, Theo Walcotts and Olivier Giroud’s of this world need far too many opportunities to score a goal. It’s not just at the top end of the pitch though, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano at the back fit into that bracket of technically gifted footballers whilst managing to not make the costly errors Per Mertesacker has been making of late in the vital games. Different class. That’s why they’re winners and those are some of the things we could implement and learn from, I mean we’ve lost to them enough times by now!