After yesterday’s improbable comeback to earn a draw against Barcelona, you have to feel we were a little fortunate. We finally got a taste of our own medicine, so this is what premier league teams feel like when they play against Arsenal. I was surprised we were tied heading into half time. Alumina’s heroics kept us in the game but Ibrahimovic should have buried his sitter, how he missed I have no idea. We really should have been down 4 goals at the end of the first half.
Barcelona are a great team but i felt we gave them way too much respect and allowed them to play their kind of game. When we had the ball they crowded us out making it difficult to find passing lanes. We on the other hand stood around and watched as they pinged the ball back and forth. It was almost as if we were starstruck, almost as if we couldn’t believe we were on the same field with Barcelona. In fairness, it’s hard to play against Pep’s team, they barely give you the ball and work their socks off to get it back when they lose it.
Fast forward to the second half and again more of the same, Barcelona surely didn’t come to play for a draw and their persistence finally paid off after Song was caught out of position, allowing Xavi to weight a perfect pass to Ibrahimovic. Alumina decided to come for the ball thinking he could make the clearance but was caught in two minds, allowing the Swede to lob the ball over him for their first goal. It was reminiscent of Birmingham, a decent shot-stopper he is but a decision maker he is not. Cue up the second goal and this time it was Vermaelen who was caught out position, this time the Swede finished with power. The tie was surely dead and buried, time to make sure it was a respectable scoreline, or so we thought.
Someone forgot to tell Barcelona, football is played over 90 minutes and not 65, maybe it was the fact that their fitness levels were down after all that pressing they had been doing during the game. I felt they took off Ibrahimovic way too early. I know Pep was thinking of giving Henry his day in the sun, after all he is still an Arsenal legend, but that’s where i felt he made a tactical error. We had to sub out of necessity, Gallas and Arshavin both had to leave because of injuries leaving Wenger with just one substitution to make. Theo Walcott came on and was brilliant, one thing defenders don’t like is pace and that showed. The question with Theo is can he be consistent as a starter or is more effective coming off the bench?
What a warrior this guy is, all class if you ask me. It’s a shame he will miss the second leg but that is now moot because of a cracked fibula, rendering him unavailable for the rest of the premier league campaign. It’s a blow we are going to have to deal with, Nasri has shown he can fill that role, so going forward it’s imperative we keep him healthy.
I think I’ve figured out how to solve Almunia’s decision-making problem. Put a dog collar on him so anytime he attempts to leave his 6 yard box it shocks him. I am only kidding but Almunia has proven himself to be a very good shot-stopper but poor when he has to make a decision. He kept us in the tie the first 45 minutes otherwise we could have been down 4, 5 or even 6 nil.
His pace clearly troubled the defenders and his goal early in the second half gave us hope that we could score against a team like Barca. Even he was sometimes caught admiring their play instead of closing them down, he said after the game.
“For me as a young player growing up and learning the game it was a fantastic experience just to watch some world-class players,” said Walcott.
“It was like someone was controlling them on a PS3 at times. It was fantastic to watch.”
We now have a punchers chance, assuming we can score and keep a clean sheet at Camp Nou, which will be very hard to do but this is football and stranger things have happened. They will be missing two center backs Pique and Puyol ( who i felt was harshly sent off). Given that Arshavin and Gallas would miss the second leg, we have to start Theo and Vela because we need pace on the wings.
Well I’m off to play some fifa, you should be cheering for Chelsea this weekend if you are an Arsenal fan. Time to keep our momentum going, Wolves are next on the fixture list, no easy game considering they have had a week’s rest but it’s at the emirates and we should be favored.
‘Til then Come On You Gunners!