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Arsenal Versus Barcelona : Unsettled Scores

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Always a curious feeling going into a two legged knockout game. On the one hand we have the excitement of taking part in the final stages of the Champion’s League, one of the greatest club tournaments in the world. On the other hand we face the chilling prospect of trying to get past the five time winners, current holders and owners of some of the greatest footballing talents ever seen wearing the same shirts. On the other hand tonight will only be the first half, part one of two, with the only guarantee that of an undecided outcome. In short, this is the kind of night suitable only for those with three hands.

I never know what to feel about a first leg. I’m wound up like a hungry boa constrictor getting around his first wild pig of the day and yet I know from much experience that I will be left with a sense of anti climax after the final whistle regardless of the score. Just like the draw for the next round of the FA cup I cannot get myself interested in something that hasn’t happened and may not come to pass. We could be leading by two clear goals after tonight or losing by a similar amount and it will mean nothing. Nothing beyond a head start or a handicap at the opening note of the referees little instrument in the Camp Nou in just over three week’s time. Both circumstances could be dramatically altered within minutes of that note disappearing into the ether. A very odd state of affairs.

Is it important to win a home tie? Of course it is. It’s always important to win any tie. Is it the most important thing or is not conceding an away goal more significant? Is the away goal rule the biggest pile of dog doo in the history of the football rule book? Would you rather travel to Barca two one up or at nil nil? If they fail to score do they play with less panache in their home leg being all the time conscious of the damage a break away goal can do? Do we opt for Theo’s pace or Olivier’s guile and habit of scoring against the big boys? Is Danny fit enough to start? Will Alexis’ frustrating lack of form evaporate into a glorious exhibition of destruction against his old club? Do we defend as against Bayern or go for it and try to surprise them?

Today I am full of questions. Tomorrow I fear I will only have more. What can we predict with any certainty? Death and sex according to Woody Allen who went on to add “Two things that come once in my lifetime. But at least after death you’re not nauseous” he might have been talking of victory and defeat.

According to the form book we are Hull and Barca are us tonight. The switch from shoe in to also ran is a curious one for us fans and I suspect for the players. Supporters are swinging between the moodiness of an anticipated mauling and the thrill at the thought of overturning the odds and of a famous victory. We could of course defend with heroism and whatever luck is going around (apologies to Millsy for use of the forbidden concept) and stun them on the breakaway. We could get tonked.

But if we are cast in the role of Hull just remember what happened as you ate your lunch on Saturday and remember that as crazily talented as their players are they can only field eleven of them. As long as the referee doesn’t intervene to send any of our chaps off for an ill deserved early splash in the team bath then we too will have eleven guys out there and none of them will be there as a reward for winning a competition in Take A Break.

Our players are not mugs and our manager is not wet behind the ears. No one gave us a prayer before any of the historic European victories we have enjoyed down through the years and so what? Fuck the doubters and the spineless and the agenda driven anti Arsenal mainstream media; win lose or draw we’ll give it everything we’ve got and who knows we might just stagger out of the evening bloodied but unbowed. We might even give the darlings of the pundits a couple of bruises of their own to think about on the slow boat back to Catalonia.

I hate being underdogs, I hate the thought of defeat to certain teams more than any others and tonight’s opponents are among that select, foetid few. It makes me nervous not because I assume we’ll lose but because in the event of a defeat the taste will be so much more bitter. I believe we can do it, I know it will be tough. Obviously it won’t be the end of the world if we lose but it will put a dent in the momentum we’ve been trying to build since our run of unwelcome results in January. Then again it won’t mean a thing because of course tonight will end at the start of a kind of long drawn out half time.

Nothing will be settled. Nothing will be known. Nothing is certain. A curious sensation of detachment accompanies the butterflies and tension as I anticipate what may be a great European night. One nil to the Arsenal is my preferred outcome. Three nil would surely be too much to hope for and they’d rip into us with a nothing to lose attitude in the second leg. Two nil is a mischievous lead. Seemingly impregnable until you concede a goal and then the momentum shifts horribly in favour of the other lot. One nil might put them in fear of the away goal and so cause them to keep half an eye on the back door. Gives us at once something to defend and something to aim at. That’s not a prediction you understand. That’s just a positive scenario and one which I can actually imagine.

Anyway, time to stick the kettle on and rinse out my lucky Arsenal mug. Or not. I could of course wait and use it for a cuppa at any time in the next three weeks and I still would have employed it’s nebulous, recondite charms during the course of the tie. It’s an odd one to be sure. But then these two legged ties are odd aren’t they? Curious chaps. Jigsaws with missing pieces. Sausage sandwiches with no brown sauce. Story arcs with no denouement. A concerto with no final note.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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93 comments on “Arsenal Versus Barcelona : Unsettled Scores

  1. 20 minutes to go

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  2. Ah well. It was going so well.

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  3. Welbeck is on

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  4. nearly caught on the break again, suarez shot off cech and off the post for a corner

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  5. Ramsey almost in on a welbeck knock down

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  6. 10 minutes left

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  7. Coquelin off, Flamini on

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  8. per trying to be too clever and flamini takes down messi, who scores the penalty, the tie is over it seems. Self inflicted

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  9. Disappointing as we had our chances and didn’t take them. We matched Barca but tonight was not our night. Penalty a killing blow. Devastating. Fucking hate that team so much.

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  10. infuriating really..shot ourselves in the foot..

    they were there for the taking

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  11. its our old failings again steww, not clinical enough with our chances, and then get caught at the back. We’ve had four or five great chances, but no goal, its just happening too often

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  12. shit now Ramsey looks kaput.

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  13. cech with another good save

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  14. I see Flamini is getting lots of hate, the penalty was pers fault 100%

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  15. Full Time: Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona

    lots of good chances and good positions spurned by Arsenal, and Barcelona make us pay with a breakaway goal and a carelessly given away penalty, both scored by Messi.

    Ox very wasteful in first half, and Alexis stunk the place out in the second half after being good in the first, Theo completely anonymous
    Bellerin, Ramsey, Giroud, Kos and Cech all very good

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  16. Alas again, damn cheats!

    At least the goods guys are winning in other fields besides those of my beloved Arsenal.

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  17. Unlucky boys – some great football against a top quality Barcelona side, we needed that opener but it was not to be. And if you give Messi a chance he won’t miss. Disappointing it finished 2-0 but not with the effort and the quality – small margins – important margins but within our grasp

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  18. going to be a lot of uproar tomorrow when AFC announce their latest accounts, expect lots of “lose 2-0 to barca with the likes of Flamini in the side, but its alright we’ve got £180M in the bank”

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  19. My takeaway: At the top-top level you have to take your chances. Unfortunately we paid the price for failing to take advantage of the opportunities we were presented unlike Barca, who, by the way, suckered us into leaving the back door open for their first goal. This inefficiency in front of goal is the biggest blight on our season so far.

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  20. If every Premier League game was refereed like that we’d win in a canter! What skilll was on show and some great moments. It is just not falling for us at the moment but it so easily might have done. I felt very proud to support us tonight.

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  21. Yes Shotta: we just need a player to thwack it in!

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  22. I will disagree with you anicol, yes no fault with the effort, but the quality was not there, if it had been we would have scored at least a couple of goals, we can’t keep saying we were unlucky cos we did not take our chances, it happens too often for it to be down to luck, we really do have to look at the quality, especially the quality of our finishing. It is indeed as you say small margins, but those small margins are in what defines the difference in quality, especially in attack.

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  23. Seems to me Eddy the difference in front of goal was one player tonight – Lionel Messi who sprinted the length of the field to finish his chance excellently, then moved like a black mamba over 3 yards with the result that the Flamster caught him

    The rest of Barcas supposedly world class £80 million per head forward line did not appear to be able to hit the proverbial bovine posterior with the comic stringed instrument made popular by George Formby

    So yes Eddy if you can get me Lionel Messi, or someone who does what Lionel Messi does, then send him along – I am sure even Stan would oblige

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  24. Wenger: “I felt we were technically average today. When we looked like we were dominating, we conceded. Like Monaco, it’s naive.”

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  25. Don’t misunderstand me – clearly our efficiency in front of goal needs to improve – that work is required from every single player, probably barring Cech.

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  26. anicol we had great chances, ox one was what is usually called a sitter, our finishing was not even good enough to make their keeper make great saves, his save from Giroud’s header was probably the best, Cech made far more quality saves than Der stegan, its been happening us for large parts of the season, our conversion rate is poor this season, and in recent weeks its been awful. We are just not clinical, so many of our attacking players finishing is so off this season its unreal, Alexis, Walcott and Ramsey are not putting away the chances we’d expect them to, Giroud has done a decent job, but he has never been clinical finisher, and Ox’s end product is downright awful. I would say the biggest concern for us in the title race is will we take enough of our chances
    Wenger pointed out after the game that once again we failed to take our chances and that it cost us.

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  27. one thing I found odd about tonights performance was the marked difference in the quality of performance of some of our players from first half to the second. Ramsey, Giroud and Alexis in particular, all 3 had good if not very good first halves, but none of them were nearly as good in the second half, and in Alexis’s case, he was very poor in the second half.
    Ox was very wasteful in the first half, but he was causing them lots of problems, and I for one was very disappointed by Theo’s performance, he has been poor it lots of games lately, but he usually is good in the big games, but he was hopeless tonight, no impact at all.

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  28. Quite simply another great game against the best side in the world in which we performed very well. A little more clinical up front and we’d have come away with qleast a draw. Over to you A5, you have some great material to work with.

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  29. I agree Eddy – the finishing has been inefficient from the striker and from the attacking midfield players on several occasions. We have not, as often happened in previous years, even had the useful drip drip drip of goals from defenders, centre backs and defensive midfield players

    The answer I think is either a) you sign Messi – or someone who can do the same as Messi or b) the whole squad works harder on finishing

    I suppose c) is that we could say ” this is not good enough” but as we know on occasions this year our goal scoring has been just fine,

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  30. Don’t worry ladz the goals will come.

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  31. Not at all disappointed with the boys in red & white. We matched the so called ‘greatest team in the world’ for 70/80 minutes until our non-enhanced players started to tire and made a couple of errors to hand them the initiative at half-time.

    However, I feel the need for a rant and I warn you now, if you do not like swearing look away…

    I fucking hate barcelona, bunch of dirty, diving, cheating, drug enhanced prima donnas, aided and abetted by the coward aptly dressed in yellow. It’s easy to be the greatest when the most obvious dives are rewarded with free kicks and you can foul your opponent without fear of sanction. They can fuck right off and take that chemically enhanced tax dodging dwarf with them.

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  32. I think we miss Wilshere more than we realise. He is the nearest to Messi we have because he runs at players and injects pace. It also seems to me that Ramsey is having to work so hard that he is shot to pieces by the time he is in a goal scoring position.

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  33. WENGER ON DEFEAT, DISCIPLINE, BARCELONA

    Arsène Wenger faced the media after Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday. You can read a full transcript of his press conference below:

    on the result…
    Of course I’m disappointed because we put a lot of energy into this game. I felt that we lost at the moment that we looked more capable of winning the game, and we also lost it in a way which we could not afford to give them. It’s a bit disappointing to give them the goals that we did, especially the first goal. I feel that we were extremely guilty and have no excuses for that goal.

    on whether he has spoken to the players about it…
    I haven’t spoken to the players yet.

    on whether the defeat is hard to take…
    We were disciplined defensively but we knew that if we had to keep it at 0-0, we would keep it at 0-0. They are better than us, everybody knows that, but I think we could’ve won the game tonight if we kept the discipline until the end. Once again, like against Monaco, exactly the same thing happened. We were caught in exactly the same way.

    on not learning from last season’s mistakes…
    Barcelona master all aspects of the game. As soon as you’re in a bad position, one or two players can punish you. We had two or three opportunities to stop the first goal which we didn’t do because I don’t think we had the right response to the situation that our players faced.

    on the away goals feeling like ‘a knife in his heart’…
    Of course. When your players put in the energy that they have put in tonight, it’s very difficult to take because you want the players to be rewarded. We were impatient in the build-up, we lost balls that we usually don’t and that’s not because Barcelona forced us to do it, but just because we were not precise enough in our passing.

    on whether it was nerves…
    I don’t know.

    on a lack of composure in front of goal…
    We had an unbelievable chance in the first half. The way we finished our chances today is a problem because I felt that we missed something in the final third.

    on whether he will play his strongest team in the second leg…
    Barcelona are certainly through, 95 per cent, but we want to go there and play. We are Arsenal Football Club and we will not go there to just have no chance. What we want is to focus on our next game. It’s a shame that the players have not got any satisfaction tonight because energy-wise we put absolutely everything in.
    on whether there is an angry dressing room…
    When you lose 2-0 at home in the Champions League then you don’t have a happy dressing room.

    on whether Barcelona are the best team in Europe…
    It’s difficult to deny because they are world and European champions. I think they are. Our failure is that the chance was there to beat them tonight, that is the biggest regret I have. Sometimes you can lose against a team and you can do nothing about it, but tonight there was room to beat them.

    on being frustrated not to keep it at 0-0…
    Of course you’re frustrated when you lose the game and it’s always easy to identify the moment where you made the mistake. I feel that maybe we felt on the pitch that we could win the game and we lost our cautiousness to defend. What we knew was going to be vital for us was not to give them a counter-attack, that’s where they’re at their most dangerous.

    on whether Arsenal did not play to their game plan…
    The players didn’t give them a counter-attack on purpose. They want to defend it. It’s just that the first pass is not right, the first position is not right, you lose the ball when you don’t want to lose it and then suddenly you’re out of position and they take advantage of that. It’s not because the players do not want to respect the instructions, they were just caught by the pace of the game. It was an unexpected wrong pass or unexpected position of the first play.

    on whether Gerard Pique got a yellow card on purpose…
    I don’t know. They are tricky. When they go down, they shout. They never go down silent. That influences the referee every single time. All of them do it, not one of them goes down without shouting.

    on whether Barcelona did it a lot in the first half…
    I have to watch the game again. I didn’t look out for it. It’s like they provoke a reflex for the referee.

    on whether he had any complaints about the penalty…
    Honestly, from the bench I didn’t see it at all. I saw that he went down but did he touch it or not? I don’t know.

    on whether Flamini was not up to the pace…
    He warmed up.

    on whether the Barcelona players influenced the referee…
    I felt so but let’s be honest, we haven’t lost the game because of the referee. We have to look at ourselves and analyse ourselves. Maybe he gave one or two fouls which were not fouls but overall he has had no major influence on the result of the game.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20160223/wenger-on-defeat-discipline-barcelona#BLQeSQk6B6JgJfiC.99

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  34. not been a good day all round for Arsenal, our U15’s lost to WBA U15’s in the national semi final 4-3 after extra time today. WBA will play Chelsea or Man City in Final

    one other bit of youth news, Charlie Gilmour has switched his allegiance to Scotland again, he played for Scotland U17’s in a 2-1 win over Iceland U17’s. Midfielder Gilmour had played for Scotland at several youth levels(U15 & U16) but changed to England at U16’s but is now back with Scotland, he qualifies for Scotland through his father Ian, who is an Arsenal scout.

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  35. Dont worry lads, we’re going to win the second leg 0-3.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. That was a top, top rant Passenal…loved it.

    I saw an excellent performance by Arsenal. They can anihilate any team in the EPL if they play to that level.

    Barcelona are simply the best. No shame in losing to them.

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  37. Dear all – I think we may have had a bit of a cock up today. I had a conversation with DC about writing up the FCB game before the Burnley match as I was not sure of seeing it and would have had to write it up on my phone.

    I’d swear he said yes !

    Unfortunately I think I may have got my wires crossed.

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  38. I slept on this:
    My more considered view of last night’s game is one of disappointment that we let slip a great opportunity to get something from the game despite 70 minutes of perfectly executed tactics. As far those exalting Barca, I have nothing but contempt especially if you are a Gooner. They, together with Madrid, have for decades milked all the privileges granted by a lop-sided league in Spain yet they and their players have to resort to cheating and tax-dodging to maintain their dominance. How could any lover of fair-play celebrate their successes. Passenal speaks for me when she rants:

    “I fucking hate barcelona, bunch of dirty, diving, cheating, drug enhanced prima donnas, aided and abetted by the coward aptly dressed in yellow. It’s easy to be the greatest when the most obvious dives are rewarded with free kicks and you can foul your opponent without fear of sanction. They can fuck right off and take that chemically enhanced tax dodging dwarf with them.”

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Yep, I entirely agree with the Passenal rant.

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  40. old fart’s thoughts
    Such a shame that our shooting boots have gone missing. We could have been 2-0 up by half time despite Barca having more of the possession. That they didn’t manage a shot on or near target for the first half says an awful lot for the tenacity of our defence. Many of our guys simply didn’t deserve to be on the losing side but…and it is a big BUT…when you’ve wrapped up, arguably the best player in the world, to the point of near invisibility, letting him off the hook for just a couple of seconds can only result in disaster. And it wasn’t Nacho who let him off the hook, it was an over-commitment on attack that allowed Iniesta, Suarez, Neymar to slice us open like a can of beans to leave Messi in lots of space.

    We then had a stroke of fortune when the tooth fairy hit the post leaving him goalless against us, unlike Messi who whilst scoring for the first time when Petr has been in goal, has been a constant pain in the butt to Arsenal.

    I was surprised that le Coq was subbed, maybe he’d taken a knock?, but even more surprised when the Flamster came on to replace him. This was not one of AW’s better substitutions. Mind you, the fault was not all Flamster’s doing; what was Per thinking when he soft shoe shuffled that appalling pass straight to Messi? Matthieu had been on the field for no more than 30 seconds and was moving backwards when the “pass?” was intercepted. His attempt at a tackle was a terminal blow.

    So no celebration, just regrets at what could have been. Let’s hope for a return to the goal standard on Sunday. Keep the faith.

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  41. On the upside, last night’s game and performance did lead to this outstanding Rant of the Season candidate from the always erudite, on point and concise Passenal (10.54 pm):

    “Not at all disappointed with the boys in red & white. We matched the so called ‘greatest team in the world’ for 70/80 minutes until our non-enhanced players started to tire and made a couple of errors to hand them the initiative at half-time.

    However, I feel the need for a rant and I warn you now, if you do not like swearing look away…

    I fucking hate barcelona, bunch of dirty, diving, cheating, drug enhanced prima donnas, aided and abetted by the coward aptly dressed in yellow. It’s easy to be the greatest when the most obvious dives are rewarded with free kicks and you can foul your opponent without fear of sanction. They can fuck right off and take that chemically enhanced tax dodging dwarf with them.”

    Very well said Passenal; I particularly appreciated the patience of your build up play in the first two paragraphs before taking little bit of handbrake off and really letting rip.

    Well it made ME feel better.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. I still fucking hate barcelona, but I’ve calmed down a bit today and can accept that they were efficient with their chances and lucky to catch us while we are in a goal scoring slump. It’s not that we are not capable of being efficient – just ask man city and man utd against whom we were ruthless earlier in the season. Whatever has gone wrong, I hope the manager finds it and fixes it soon.

    The positive from last night I hope is that our players realise they are not that far off the best team in the world and take confidence from that. If they play like they did last night against any domestic opposition and start converting their chances, they should fear no one.

    Liked by 1 person

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