When playing the best team in the world, the opposition has to get the elements right:
- Tactically well prepared
- Best squad available to execute the plan
- The entire squad to have a very good day at the office
- Good fortune: Eg: injury ridden opposition, few refereeing decisions; world’s best player to take a day off.
Apart from the single goal conceded due to a defensive lapse of concentration, Arsenal were well worthy of the result.
There were no elements of surprise in the playing XI with Puyol out injured and Sagna suspended. Both teams went out to play their natural game with their usual formations. Return of Nasri from injury was Wenger’s boost.
With a backing of a vociferous home crowd, Arsenal started the game with a wonderful tempo, bossing possession and giving a piece of their own football to the best passing team. With hardly 6 min into the game, a late but intentional tackle from behind on Messi, saw Alex Song getting into the book, which in the circumstances was very harsh. This didn’t seem to hamper his game much, as he continued to be involved in a series of small fouls thereafter [4-5] and each time he fouled, the crowd waited with baited breath, hoping the dreaded second yellow wouldn’t pop out.
A couple of free flowing passes in the final third saw some lovely link up between Cesc, RvP and Theo. Nasri seemed to take a bit of time to get into the game, not willing to stretch his hamstrings. This lead to a lot of space opening up for Alves to run behind Nasri and every movement forward through acres of green pitch on the right, threatened to punish Arsenal.
Twice Villa – Messi duo coupled to beat Arsenal’s high line with through balls, whilst Messi missed his opportunity, Villa didn’t and the score read 0-1. Though in this case, Clichy was culpable for losing shape and playing Villa on. As the half grew on, the possession stats quickly reversed, with Barca homing into easy possession as always and threatening to breach Arsenal’s high line.
At the other end, RvP had a couple of good opportunities to test Valdes, one stinging the keeper, the other abysmally wide, after being sent thru with some lovely quick short passing. When such opportunities pop up we expect, RvP to convert and it seemed like it might come to haunt them.
Barcelona resumed services in the second half, but Arsenal looked keener to make an impression and the impressive defensive work by Koscielny to thwart off threats was remarkable. The lad played with a lot of confidence and authority, and seemed to be marshalling the line very well. Jack Wilshere was getting some nifty footwork going in the middle of the park, and was soon finding himself speeding from box to box with an intent to deliver. One such beautiful run, sent RvP through but again he failed to test the keeper. In another he dribbled past 3 players, played a 1-2 with RvP and was denied a goal scoring opportunity by a desperately diving Abidal.
Barcelona were surprisingly getting stifled in midfield with the gritty work by Cesc and Jack working up Xavi and Iniesta. So Pep swapped David Villa for Keita to address some defending. Walcott was hardly given any space to rip down the channel today, so Bendtner came on. Arsene expressed his intent replacing Arshavin for the booked Song. Nasri moved in central, leaving the left wing for the Russian. The Arsenal full backs were making more open runs on the break whenever possible and one such beautiful reverse pass from Clichy, released RvP into the box, who scored a lovely goal from a tight angle between the keeper and his near post.
The impact of the goal and the sudden change in tempo was evident. The Arsenal players had an extra step in their attack, were making more positive runs and soon caught Barcelona on the break where a superb cross into the box was curled in from 15 yards by Arshavin beating the keeper and two defenders. The quality of the strike deserves due credit, for a player who had just come on and made the most meaningful contribution.
Barcelona came close to an equalizer in the dying moments of the game when a soft back pass header from Arshavin almost landed Szcesny in a bit of bother but Arsenal managed to hold on to mark a remarkable comeback.
- Arsenal have improved as a unit. Did not let their shoulders drop after conceding. Were defensively very impressive though one lapse cost them an away goal.
- Koscielny, Wilshere were standout performers for Arsenal.
- Messi uncharacteristically missed 2 bread n butter chances on goal, and was ruled offside for the one he did net.
- Will 2-1 help them withstand the barrage at Nou Camp.. we will have to wait and see.
- It was an eye soothing 1.5 hrs of football and that is why we follow this beautiful game.