Friday, 2 April 2010

Too artisan, unfit and not as good as Barca

Having had a couple of days to reflect upon the performance against Barca I am somewhat depressed. There was no doubt that the final result of 2-2 flattered us. Overall the biggest frustration for me was that we did not do ourselves justice, the fact that we did not have eleven fit players on the pitch meant we were never going to be able to press and compete with Barca as we should have, the whole of Europe were watching and we did not show them what we can do.

Cesc must have fractured his fibula against Birmingham thanks to that appalling Gardner tackle, and although he papered over the cracks with the late penalty, he was clearly not fit enough to be starting the game, he wasn't moving freely from the first whistle and given Barca's work rate and pressing game you need to have all hands at the pump. The gamble to start with Gallas was also wrong, he hasn't played a game for weeks, this backfired badly and resulted in Alex Song, who was having a decent game in midfield, being played out of position at centre back. It was no coincidence that Song was caught well out of position for both Barca goals in the second half, he is no centre back and will be caught out like this when playing out of position.

Fundamentally we didn't have eleven fit players on the pitch and even the fit ones didn't work hard enough to close down Barca, the way Barca hunted in packs and pressed in groups was the way we needed to play but didn't. Arshavin hasn't looked himself for a few weeks, I suspect he's been carrying injuries, for whatever reason he didn't track back enough before his calf injury ended his game prematurely. Starting the game with two players of dubious fitness was not clever and Arsene must surely regret this decision in retrospect.

The first half hour or so was as one sided a game as you will ever see, we couldn't keep the ball and Barca tore us apart time and time again, luckily Manuel was on fire and thanks to some truly outstanding saves we somehow managed to stay in the game. Barca had far too much time and space on the ball, only Song was closing people down, our full backs were left exposed as our wide players failed to track back, it was poor for the first half hour.

After this first half hour we did come into the game and for the rest of the match Barca never looked as dangerous as they did for the first thirty minutes. We cut them open several times with some nice moves, Bendtner almost scored when offside, Nasri beat the keeper but was narrowly wide, while a couple of dangerous cut backs were only thwarted by last ditch defensive lunges. It was perverse that Barca scored twice in the second half, as they didn't really threaten all that much, twice long balls saw Song far too far away from Ibrahimovich, the big nosed tosser finished well to be fair to the cockhead.

The referee was utter gash, he made it very easy for Barca by giving them free kicks whenever they dived to ground after minimal contact, while he let them shirt tug and trip with impunity to win the ball back, Messi was constantly fouling but the ugly little bastard was allowed to do what he wanted because he is the golden boy of world football at the moment. The ref booked several of our players for nothing and Cesc's booking for a clean tackle beggared belief. One decision to give Barca a free kick when Song toed the ball away from Ibrahimovich cleanly as the Swede backed into him was demonstrative of just how incompetent this wanker of a referee actually was.

Strangely several of our much maligned players were our best players against Barca. Almunia kept us in the match, Clichy was excellent in my opinion, Nasri did well offensively, Bendtner worked hard up front, then there was Theo. It was a great moment for the young man, his brilliant cameo for the final twenty minutes or so will do his confidence no end of good, his goal was well taken and his pace gave Barca so much trouble that they were panicked into a defensive substitution in order to hand on to the 2-2 draw.

So my overall summary would be that we were not fit enough or good enough on the day, Barca were great and the ref was useless. However somehow we are still in this tie and Barca have both their centre backs out of the second leg, stranger things have happened, but we will have to score at the Camp Nou. Generally I think the match showed up a few problems that have been evident in our squad all season, our squad is not strong enough in certain positions, we do not have enough battling midfielders and we do not work hard enough as a team in pressing the opposition. Quite simply if you are going to line up as a 4-3-3 against Barca then you need all eleven players to be fully fit, you need both wide front players to work extremely hard defensively in complementing the midfield, and then you may well still be outplayed, if you don't do the aforementioned then you do not have a chance of competing.

Cesc is now out for the season, Gallas probably too, while Arshavin will miss a few weeks. Attention turns to Wolves and this will be no walk in the park, we need to turn up and fight for every point between now and the end of the season, we cannot afford any more first halves like Wednesday's against Barca.


Anonymous said...

It was one game. Let's play the second leg before we crown em.

Anonymous said...

At their best they could not beat us, Wenger was tactically shocking, strangest decisions i have ever seen him make, but i guess thats what 4 throphless years will do.

If Wenger gets his tactics right, big if, we can beat Barca i am sure of this.

I mean seriously, 3 very unfit players, a hairless diaby and playing players out of position, what did we expect.

1979gooner said...

I'm not crowing them!

Just saying they were far better than us on the night.

I think if we performed well with a fit side then we could do ourselves justice.

1979gooner said...

agree. tactically it was poor and that is arsene's biggest weakness, always has been.

Anonymous said...

will the 'champ man' managers please enlighten us on the right tactics...knobs

wenger played his first 11 bar van persie against one of toughest teams we were ever going to meet....get a clue

Anonymous said...

There has been too much Barca worship after this game. What you say about the ref and Barcelona diving is absolutely spot on- when a Barcelona player was tackled or looks like he will lose the ball- he dived and the ref like a metronome gave a free kick. It all worked in Barcelona's favour- and it has to be said was an interpretation of the rules of physical contact that you will only find in Spain.
We actually played badly-players like Diaby and Song were too slow- mentally and physically , not agile enough and misplacing passes throughout the game.Bendtner gave the first 6 balls played up to him straight back to Barca.
I dont blame the players-many were unfit- playing so many tough no holds barred games in the EPL where they have been kicked off the park has the cumulative effect of being run over by a bus.

Anonymous said...

never played "champs manager" in my life mate.

Strongest first 11? They were not even out fittest first 11 u dickhead. Howe were they meant to press and win back the ball when they had injuries.

Any dog could also see if barca press so high up the pitch there was space behind to exploit and who else in world football can exploit that space them usain wallcott.

Not really the stuff geniuses are made of, but obvious changes.

We were not playing Wigan mate it was Barca so some tactical sense besides "playing our best 11" could have been useful.


Anonymous said...

Actually the ref failed to award a penalty against Arsenal in the 27th minute when Clichy fouled Messi, so he can't have been all that biased against Arsenal...

1979gooner said...

anon 'champ man'

i would agree with the prat comment on your words,

the eleven players weren't fit, this much was obvious


messi was hardly touched by clichy, never a penalty,

messi is a great player but a dirty little cheating twat, his elbow on Bendtner was a disgrace, his diving is also a disgrace, his never ending shirt tugging is also a disgrace,

frankly if Barca didn't cheat so much I would love the way they play, however the way their game revolves around diving and cheating means they lose a lot of respect in my eyes

Anonymous said...

i agree certain players weren't 100% fit. fine.

but to say wenger got his tactics wrong is predictable and bs.

good luck to you though.

really, you should give champ man a try. amateur.

1979gooner said...

it's predictable because it's true,

the tactics were so wrong because barca completely overwhelmed us in the midfield,

if they hadn't missed countless chances, we would be out already, that's the point

marcus said...

Agree totally with your comments on the ref.

Lots of criticism of Arshavin recently. But the simple fact is that Arsene is not using him in his best position. He is 29 yrs old, not 22. He is not a winger who backtracks, never has been, never will be -- and his fitness problems won't allow him to in such a physically demanding league at his age. Arsene is totally wasting his talents. Arshavin is obviously frustrated and has been playing thru pain for large portions of the season. He often says in his blog how in some games he can barely breathe and he's allowed no freedom to play at his best. At Zenit and in his national team he's always been given a free role thru the middle. If Arsene feels that he just can't fit Arshavin into the team using the best of his talents, playing him where he plays best, then he should be sold because he's being wasted.

I saw before the game many gooners blithely making easy comparisons between us and Barca, talking only about the passing game, showing they don't know Barca at all. There's a big difference between us and then and it has to do with their CONSISTENT, COLLECTIVE FIGHT FOR THE BALL for the entire game. Now in Spain, where the game is slower, they can do it for 90 mins (actually, they often don't have to do it that long) but against a quicker paced PL team like us, they tire earlier - that's an advantage for us. But the crux of Barca's success is not just their passing game but their ruthless, often cynical fight for the ball when they don't have it--and their ruthless ability to keep it. And there's the in-synch, precise understanding of each other in their passing of the ball, their clockwork anticipation of each other.

That almost psychic understanding and consistent (and collective) fight for the ball is something we don't have. We showed signs of it at the start of the season with a pressing game but we couldn't keep it up because it takes a huge amount of energy - and we do not play in a slow league.

Too many gooners are saying "oh they're defense is suspect" -- again, showing they don't get it. Barca's forwards commit more fouls than their back line. They didn't have their first choice defenders against Utd and handled them just fine. Barca defend collectively, they don't need to have the world's best defenders - just guys who consistently battle for the ball and use every means possible to get it back.

I don't know if Theo should start at the Camp Nou because Barca will now be prepared for him. If he starts he could be less effective - then again, he could make a huge impact straight away.

I really don't know this for a fact but it looked like Arsene just sent out our players with no plan or instructions, just telling them "play your game." That's what it looked like, it's often what he says (don't worry about the opposition, let's just play our game). And it was fkg embarrassing. The Guardian published a terrific piece this week interviewing 3 managers who'd defeated Barca this season (one in the CL) - their tactical thinking made for great reading. I really don't understand why Arsene doesn't do this kind of thing.


Mohan Kodali said...

No mention of Denilson!!
I thought he had a good game.

1979gooner said...

agree Denilson had a good game, good point,


well said, agree wit everything you say on Barca, their subtle fouling is too good for most refs too, agree on Arsene's lack of tactics to combat their game too