Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arsenal lucky to beat Barca: but credit to them, they might have done us all a favour...

Anyone who saw Arsenal beat Barcelona in their recent Champions League game at the Emirates cannot help but have been impressed; it was a definite case of triumph over adversity. But as good as the result undoubtedly was, some of the facts have been overlooked in the aftermath.

The Barcelona players completed over 600 passes, to Arsenal's 300. Lionel Messi had what looked to be a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside, but TV replays confirmed it should have been a goal...

Yet, Arsenal hung on in there, denied Barcelona and then hit them with a sucker punch and won, arguably deservedly so on the night.

One important aspect of that game has escaped the attention of our so called experts and that was Arsenal's first-half kamikaze defending. The Arsenal defenders were caught out when trying to play offside high up the pitch - this actually led to Messi's goal - the one which eventually was ruled out for offside; however, initially the offside trap failed - only for a Barca forward to be judged offside in the next phase of play.

Conventional football logic dictates than anyone who tries to play the offside game against Barca when defending a high-line is asking for trouble: Why? Because your defenders are leaving a huge space for the Barca attacking players to exploit. This was a big mistake by Wenger and his players but he got away with it...

Arsenal got away with their first-half defending - quite how they did that is still hard to fathom out, but they did and they won.

It is to be hoped Wenger and Co knock-out Barca, because if that happens they will have done United and the remaining teams in the competition a huge favour.


  1. Fair article, well put. I'm an Arsenal fan and had my head in my hands for a good fifty minutes!

    Where we'll have to agree to disagree though is where you imply that IF we beat Barca and its a big IF, we cannot win the competition. No other team can out play and outpass Arsenal like Barca. For that reason, IF we beat them, we stand a very good chance of going all the way. I just hope thats its you lot we beat in the final! Forgive me if I dont wish you luck! :-)

  2. Julian,

    I think we did a pretty good number on you in the CL last season! Arf.

    Though, I seriously doubt we would repeat that should we meet again this season, not away from OT at least any road.

  3. The TV analysis I was watching also said that Arsenal played too high a line and should not have been trying to play the offside game, which led to the Barca goal. However, other analysis I read in articles following the match suggested that our high line condensed midfield and therefore limited the Barca chances. I can't tell which is right but I know whatever system you play, Barca are a unbelievable attacking force and are going to have numerous chances. The interesting suggestion is that both times we played Barca at Emirates they faded in the second half as they aren't used to the intensity of the Premiership. I can't say I really fancy us to get through but at least this time we go there with a lead and hopefuly our best players.

  4. I can't believe how easily people are influenced by commentators :/

    The Messi goal was offside, look at a replay of it now! After Pedro attempts to pass to Messi, Szczesny saves it, and Messi is now in an offside position before it rebounds back of Pedro.

    Bar a referee blunder, I don't believe in 'deserving' or 'luck' in football. You deserve exactly what you get. Even if you have more chances, the lack of finishing/good play by goalkeeper mean ultimately that the extra chances mean nothing.
    Note: FYI we actually had more shots

    Even more so, with having 'more passes'...

    But even in terms of the entertainment aspect of the game, i.e attacking possession football, it was only 47% - 53%. Nothing huge. And like like I've mentioned we had more shots, and of course more goals, without our first choice Goalkeeper and Centreback.

    Also, as barca found out we are a much better team than the past, so let's just hope Mna utd underestimate us as much as you seem to be!

  5. Couple of things -- first, Messi was offside because Pedro's shot caromed back from the goalie, then hit Pedro, and bounced forward to Messi, who was ahead of Pedro and therefore offside.

    Second, Barca had more offsides than in any game this year -- it was an effective strategy.

    Finally, the passing differential is mis-leading. Arsenal created more chances and were much more dangerous on the counter. And, as is the case with many EPL sides, Arsenal were fitter in the last 20 minutes

    So, not all luck. A nail-biter, to be sure, but Arsenal never seemed overwhelmed as rhey had been last year.

  6. When was the last time Man U beat Barca??

  7. Barcelona made 600 passes but they were mostly all inside their own half. In my opinion their are more important statistics that are more revealing. I will have to check Opta stats for this but during the game they released stats that Arsenal had made more passes in the final third and had a 85% passing accuracy compared to Barcelona's 70%. Do you not think this is more telling than the 600 passes?

    As an Arsenal fan, I know that keeping the ball and passing it is not enough. We have been the most accurate passers and team with most numerous passes for decades in the PL now but that alone has not won us trophies, so not much can be proved with passing stats.

  8. Aside from the passing Arsenal had more shots on goal and left Barcelona wide open for various periods in the match. Maybe Barcelona was lucky Arsenal didn't score more...

  9. Bongo,

    I believe we knocked Barca out in 2008 en route to winning the trophy! We also knocked them out in 1999...and you know what happened that year...

  10. Darkritual,

    This is where stats can be misleading. Barca's whole game centres on retaining possession. It doesn't matter in which direction the ball is played, as long as you keep the ball and deny the opposition: Opta didn't tell you that!

    Your point about passing accuracy in the final third could be valid. It doesn't alter the fact that Barca had a good goal chalked off at 1-0....

  11. Damian,

    Holding a high line against a team like Barca is akin to committing suicide.

    And get this, even with the high line Barca completed 600 passes - I think we can safely say this ploy failed miserably or are you going to tell me if they had defended deeper the margin would have even greater?

    Wenger got this horribly wrong but you have survived and gotten away with it (for now).


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