Joe Strange - Brilliant Barcelona embarrass Arsenal
Published: 09 Mar 2011 - 11:24:43
Since joining Arsenal 15 years ago, Arsene Wenger has developed into one of the most highly-rated and widely respected managers in world football. Having delivered a large haul of trophies, an unbeaten Premier League campaign and arguably the most eye-catching football ever played on these shores, Wenger's reputation is undeniable.
But to accompany the silverware, personal accolades and lavish praise from lovers of the beautiful game, Wenger has also earned widespread criticism for consistently wearing a pair of red-tinted spectacles. In fact, he's even created his own catchphrase, one used week after week in post-match interviews: "I didn't see it."
The Frenchman's obvious bias towards his own side and frustrating ability to always miss contentious incidents involving his own players has failed to endear him to many a Premier League fan, and he was at it again in the Camp Nou last night, albeit in a slightly different manner.
After seeing the Gunners crash out of the Champions League following a 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate) defeat to Barcelona, Le Profeseur insisted that his side would've reached the last eight had Robin van Persie not received a second yellow card for shooting at goal after the referee had blown his whistle for offside.
He said: "I felt Barca gave a lot in the first half. We were completely dominated, I agree with that. But in the second half we felt there was more space, I knew that, like the first game, we could come back into the game and overall I'm convinced we would have won this game."
While the referee's decision to send off Van Persie was indeed ridiculous, Wenger's insistence that it had a major impact on the outcome of the tie is just as crazy. Barca would've gone through if the Dutchman had remained on the pitch, in fact, they probably would've have progressed even if Arsenal had had an extra player on the pitch. They were that good.
As much as Wenger would like to think that his star striker would've popped up with a goal to see them through to the quarter finals, the statistics from yesterday evening tell the story of what was one of the most one-sided matches in recent memory.
Barca's pass-masters completed over 700 passes while the visitors managed less than 200. Arsenal had only two touches in the opposition goal area, Barcelona had 47. Xavi and Andres Iniesta both made more successful passes than Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Cesc Fàbregas, Thomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin and Van Persie put together. Since Opta started analysing Champions League games in 2003, Arsenal are the first side never to have managed an attempt at goal.
The stats don't lie. Arsenal were well and truly beaten last night, not by the dodgy Swiss official but by the greatest team to have ever played the game.
I could dedicate an entire blog to each of Barcelona's starting XI but as a collective, few could argue that they are not the most wonderful team to watch of any era. Iniesta and Xavi keep the ball better than any two players on the planet while Javier Mascherano played the part of workhorse, chasing down the Gunners' midfield and restricting space.
Lionel Messi was close to his best, tormenting Gael Clichy at every opportunity and scoring twice, while his attacking partners Pedro and David Villa gave Johann Djourou and Laurent Koscielny one of the hardest tasks they are every likely to face.
Pep Guardiola's makeshift back-four held up superbly, although in actual fact they had very little to do throughout the entire 90 minutes. Sergio Busquet's unfortunate own-goal providing the only blip in an otherwise expert performance from the Spanish champions.
Arsenal were outplayed and outfought by a far superior side last night and there really is no shame in losing to a team with the ability that Barcelona possess. But, unsurprisingly, Mr Wenger didn't see it like that, if he saw it at all, of course.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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