Tuesday 15 February 2011
No pressure - it's on Barca
There's no doubt Barcelona come into this tie as favourites and we must use this to our advantage. I won't read much into the reports that Barca are fatigued, I'm sure a lot of this is mind games, but the absence of Carlos Puyol is definitely an important loss for them, especially if Abidal plays at centre back, he really is not the most robust in that position.
Tactically I think it's fairly simply, we must smother them in the midfield, this means that Song and Wilshere will have to play like whippets on speed, Cesc is going to have to track back and help out, the forwards are also going to be key. If we allow Xavi and Iniesta too much time on the ball, they will feed Messi and they will kill us. However if we can close the game down in the midfield, with help especially from Theo and Arsh/Nasri, then we have a chance. Jack and Theo have said as much, the importance of limiting the time and space Barca have in their midfield will be key.
The fact that we have a solid centre back pairing of Djourou-Kos is a massive plus. Djourou's emergence has been one of the major positives of the season so far. Koscielny is also speedy and suited to European football. It should also not be forgotten that we can really threaten Barca from set pieces, they are not great in the air, we have some decent aerial threats and with some good deliveries this could be a very fruitful avenue for us. Mark my words.
There's no doubt there is a fair bit of bad feeling between us and Barca, and from my completely objective standpoint I have to say that's largely down to Barca being arrogant tosspots. Their continual use of the media to unsettle our best players and their incessant tapping up of Cesc have been so far below the belt it's not true, for that reason the 'Hands off Cesc Fabregas' chant sounds a thoroughly good idea. This excellent article on the fickle nature of Barca's support is well worth a read too, it's a timely reminder that you always need to make a big effort not to turn into that kind of fair weather fan. Come on you Gunners!