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Thursday, 17 March 2016

And then there was one...

Well played young man


I'll start by wishing a Happy St Patrick's Day to my Irish readers. I suspect they will mostly be celebrating this evening, regardless of the current malaise at Arsenal.
Down to business and there was inevitable disappointment last night but it wasn't, for me, found in the end result. My disappointment stems from the missed chances in both games against Barcelona (merely a continuation of league form since Christmas) that cost us the chance of making it as close as it should have been. I don't see an aggregate score of 1-5 as a fair reflection of the play, but it is a fair reflection of the gulf between their strikers and ours. Barca were thwarted a few times last night by the outstanding David Ospina, whereas we only actually tested Ter Stegen four times from twenty shots at goal. Therein really lies the rub here. Another source of disappointment to me is that, of the five goals we conceded in the matches, only the Suarez volley last night could be considered as a result of their outstanding brilliance in attack, as opposed to our cock-ups in defence. At home we gave them their first goal through comical defending and their second through a horrendous hospital pass from Mertesacker to Flamini (who was excellent before limping out of the game last night). In the second-leg we saw Ospina make one of THE great saves from Messi, only for Koscielny to lose his head less than two minutes later allowing Neymar to be played in for the opener. The final goal came from a slack pass by Giroud in his own half, and a weak tackle by Koscielny, leaving Gabriel with no chance against their trio of strikers - though he gave it a damn good go and played quite well last night I felt.
It's fair to say Arsenal very much turned up last night. If they'd played like that at Old Trafford, at home to Swansea, or against Watford on Sunday, we wouldn't now be staring a season decider in the face at Goodison this Saturday. The leaving out of Joel Campbell irked me in the starting line-up last night, but everything else was about right. There was the usual carping about Flamini being in the side, but a look at results since Coquelin came back in for him tells its own story to be honest. The absolute trump card, as it turned out, was in Iwobi being put in the side to come off the left and get alongside Welbeck, with Alexis on the right. Sanchez wasn't at his best again, but the balance of the side seemed so much better. Iwobi and Welbeck linked up superbly with their pace and movement a constant thorn in Barcelona's side. Ozil looked bright early on, but his passing actually picked out Barcelona defenders more than Arsenal attackers at times. If he'd turned up and played well then we'd have created even more opportunities to miss. Iwobi has laid down a real marker after last night and he will have to hope Wenger takes more notice of his contributions than he has Joel Campbell's - bringing on Walcott ahead of the Costa Rican again last night was frankly embarrassing from the Manager.
All in all I can't be upset with losing to Barcelona. They are the best side there is at the moment. There is no shame in not beating them. We competed with them really well and showed, yet again, that they are as awful at the back as they are superb going forward. It's also very difficult to beat a team that has the match officials absolutely in their pockets. At our place Jordi Alba should have been sent-off at 0-0. That would have made a huge difference. Last night we should have had a penalty at 0-1, with Mascherano being shown a red card. Again, it would have made a massive difference to how the game panned out. As Chelsea found a few years ago you have to produce something super-human to get past Barcelona and their particular line in corruption. I'm not having a pop at Arsenal for losing to that.

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