Barca 4, Arsenal 1, a.k.a. “Pulga power! Pulga power!”

Darren Staples/Reuters

Usually, I start reviews with some observation, some moment of clarity that starts things off in the right way. Today, all I got is HOLY CRAP!

Now, I realize that this isn’t the pinnacle of eloquence by any linguistic or journalistic measure. But as an extraordinaily well-educated friend of mind says, “Sometimes, swearing is all ya got.” And so it is. Four goals. Four exquisite, astonishing goals, none of which were gimmes, or tap-ins. All required touch, skill, grace and balance from Lionel Messi, the man who, if anyone questions whether he’s the best player alive, we should all laugh until our sides ache.

Yes, Arsenal gave him gobs of space. Yes, the Alex Song injury really hurt their man-marking abilities. But when our little genius smoked that first goal (seen above) through a hole barely large enough for the ball, leaving Almunia with absolutely no chance, you had the sense that this was going to be a special match.

I confess to being clueless as to exactly how special.

Ultimately, despite the brilliance of our pint-sized, one-man army who is barely bigger than some of the kids who trot out with us for the pre-match festivities, this was a battle of systems. Arsene Wenger is an excellent coach, who season after season, manages to get the most from his charges. But it hasn’t been since the great Arsenal undefeated side, that he has had pure pedigree of the kind that we can trot out. Arsenal have talent. Gobs of it. But we have world-class players at almost every position, and it was the real difference in this match.

Put another, far simpler way, they had Samir Nasri and we had Xavi. They had Bendtner and we had Messi. Yes, if their club were whole, this would probably have been a closer match. Would Fabregas have found a streaking Walcott in space and delivered the pass to put him in on a helpless Valdes? Almost certainly, because we raised him to do that. Diaby didn’t even look at Walcott, dished a weak ball to the wrong side, and there went their chance to put us to the sword. Maybe.

I won’t go any farther without crediting Arsenal for a hard-fought tie. The injuries were too much for you to overcome. Yes, we were without Ibrahimovic, Puyol and Pique. But when our system is working, the ball never gets to the back line. Or when it does, it’s a desperate long ball that is easily scooped up. Because we live in the midfield, and are firmly rooted in a system that says “If you don’t have the ball, you can’t beat us.”

People deride tika-taka as minute upon minute of meaningless possession, but is it, really? We have the ball, and the other side chases it. They get tired, we spring into action and put one past them. More importantly, while the other side is chasing the ball, they can’t score with it. It’s as simple as that. When Arsenal had the ball, they showed signs of danger. But as with the Bilbao match, it was all about options. As Xavi stands there with the ball, he has four or five available passing options, making it impossible to get the ball from us. And whoever he passes it to has four or five options, and every one of those options has the foot skill and comfort with the ball to peel away pressure like layers of an onion, calmly choosing the right option.

And tika-taka continues.

You wonder if Guardiola’s lineup card looked like this: Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Milito, Abidal, Keita, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro!, Krkic, MESSSSSIII. You wonder if our practice sessions told him that this was going to be one of those nights for our Lion, that the one man Arsenal had who could man mark him was watching from a chair. Who knows?

Yes, this was another of those extraordinary team efforts. No, we didn’t play as well as those glorious first 30 minutes at Emirates. But we didn’t have to, because we had two away goals, and Arsenal had to chase the match. And nobody chases a match in the Camp Nou and lives to tell about it. Yes, they scored first, on a scramble of a play. Say all you want that Milito was fouled, but they took that ball man-style, and charged down to the other end. Valdes was standing his ground and parried the shot, almost long enough for Alves and company to come in and put out the fire. But Bendtner knocked the rebound past him with a nice finish, and it was 1-0, 3-2 on aggregate.

And I was a little surprised, because if you’d told me before the match that Marquez would be a better defender this match than Milito, I would have laughed, peed on your shoes, then back-kicked at it with my feet, like little dogs do in the park. But that’s what happened. The usually sure Milito was a little loose with possession, and was out-manned. Yes, he made up for it, but that first goal, and the abovementioned chance at another, were troubling. Yet the side remained calm, even as the advantage rested squarely with Arsenal, because they seemed to know.

Guardiola paced a bit, and then the first bit of magic happened. Messi makes a run, the ball isn’t cleared effectively, pinging off two defenders right back to Messi, who smokes a shot between them and past a stunned Almunia, who barely had time to move. It was a pretty absurd goal when you think about it, precisely the kind of goal that enables a team like ours to stay calm, keep the ball and hang around, because we always seem to have someone who can do something magical. A kid scores a brace? Sure, why not. A maligned BANGS bangs in two crucial away goals at Arsenal? Okay. Gotcha.

And now this. At the 26th minute, our passing efficiency was at 85%. Theirs was at 55%, with having had the ball about a third of the time. Much of this had to do with our aggression, as we challenged for every ball in the midfield as if we knew that our back line, if anyone got there, would be tested. So keep them from getting there.

The second goal came as the ball was worked loose, and a perfect pass to Abidal results in a joke of a cross that bangs around in the box, until it falls to Pedro!, who does the right thing and slides it to Messi for the brace.

Carl Recine/Action Images

Suddenly it was 2-1, and Arsenal looked stunned. They were still scrapping, but it was clear at this point, as every time they got the ball we just applied pressure until we got it back, that it wasn’t going to happen. Then came the third goal, which built from the back, as Marquez worked a ball to Keita, whose deft header into space found Messi on the dead run, leaving two defenders for dead. As he’s running at Almunia, two people are thinking very different things. Messi is thinking “Lob or corner. What about between the legs? Man, the world is my oyster.” Almunia is thinking “If I run at him, he’s just going to round me. If I stay put, he’s going to put it to one side. Better come out and be big …. what the??!!”

Messi lobbed him, with a beautiful, stunning finish that most players screw the pooch on, but not Messi, not on this night of nights. Great players aren’t thus because they do a lot. Great players are great because they do a lot in situations. Say what you will about Ibrahimovic, but his goals this season have been huge. And Messi’s hat-trick half came in a match in which Arsenal came in with a shot. But rolling into the locker room at 3-1, 5-3 on aggregate, they looked a beaten side.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

The second half continued as the first. There would be no letdowns that would allow Arsenal back into the match. This was clear as even in the 85th minute, Maxwell ran like crazy for a ball that was going out of bounds, just to retain possession and the certainty, rather than a throw-in. It was that kind of effort and committment, by every player who touched the pitch for us, that won this match.

Yes, you can cite the immense talent gap and Arsenal’s unfortunate injury bug. And people will. Looking at our lineup, almost every player starts for his national side, and that was also part of the difference in this match. When great players play as hard as they can, very good ones don’t stand much of a chance. It’s as simple as that.

And then Messi, not being content with a simple hat trick, wanted to stamp his name with authority into the history books. He made a run that Xavi saw and, while holding the captain’s armband in his hand, casually slid a ball to Messi, who was stopped once, but was quickest to the rebound, whereupon he put it between Almunia’s legs.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Yes, that’s beating a keeper high, low, to the side and over the top. It was amazing, and a performance that has all the pundits buzzing. As I said in the run-up to this match, Messi wasn’t going to be mediocre against the same team twice. I didn’t think he had four goals in him, but if you let him run around with the ball, bad things are going to happen to you.

Team: 10. It was an amazing collective display. Not every player lived up to the perfect standard but as a group, they dominated, helped, pressurized then killed the match with style.

Guardiola: 10. Is it genius to write Messi’s name on the lineup card? No. But he had this side about as ready to play as I have ever seen them, and hats off for riding the hot hand and giving Krkic the start. He’s earned it.

Valdes: 7. On form, he holds that Bendtner shot rather than spilling the rebound, but he was pretty much perfect after that.

Alves: 8. A true hell-raiser on that side, with some pinpoint passes and exceptional defense. Sometimes, being an irritant is just as effective as playing very well. When you can do both, watch out.

Marquez: 8. A few giveaways, but the Kaiser kicked ass and took names tonight, stopping attacks, starting attacks for us, intercepting balls and making a liar out of the anti faction. Was it the haircut?

Milito: 7. He’s been better, but a very strong match after he got out-manned for that first Arsenal goal. His strong challenges change the way players approach our box. Keep sharpening that hatchet, curly.

Abidal: 7. His passing gyros were WAY off, but excellent defense in mostly shutting down Theo Walcott, who was getting increasingly frustrated.

Keita: 9. Dude was magnificent, doing that thankless job of running around everywhere in the midfield, to keep anything from happening that doesn’t benefit us.

Busquets: 8. Good Busi. Gooood Busi. From making the right passes to breaking up attack after attack, you can see the future in this gangly assassin. I’m deducting a point for the silly exaggeration in the coming together with Eboue. Come on, dude. We’re killing them. Just man up.

Xavi: 10. Truly an all-planet display from the world’s best midfielder. Pass after pass, he had our midfield on lockdown. The only way to get the ball from him was to foul him and even then, he’d already released it and sent an attacker on his way.

Pedro!: 6. Some good and some bad, but he wasn’t quite his usual self today. He was playing with more calmness, which was good. But we will need him to be much better against EE, since it’s looking Henry isn’t going to see the light of day this season.

Krkic: 8. An excellent all-pitch match, with insane amounts of forward pressure, midfield battling and possession and all-around control. It’s the kind of match that Henry used to play for the side, in which he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but is very influential.

Messi: 10. Unfortunately, I only have 10. He deserves more. Yes, he had a couple of bad passes. But every time he touched the ball it meant danger, and his aggression, constantly running forward to pressure Arsenal’s back line, displayed a kind of energy that is that of a true leader. Has there ever been a clearer Man of the Match?


Maxwell (for Abidal): 7. Continued the overall excellence, and seemed to better understand how to positionally play Walcott. He was much better against the speedy attacker today.

The Yaya (for Krkic): 6. Clunky and funky at first, but began playing his way into the match.

Iniesta (for Pedro!): incomplete. But man, was it good to see him on the pitch, sliding those balls around on Xavi’s wing.

And now we’re in the semis, against Inter Milan, who are playing excellent football right now, scoring when they have to, and not conceding. It is said that if you give a good coach enough shots at you, eventually he will figure out a way to beat you. We’ve seen Inter in the group stages, where we drew them away and spanked them at home. Should be some good football.

Yes, people will say that we depend on Messi, but here’s how I look at it: If you’re going to war and you have the ultimate weapon, why the hell wouldn’t you use it whenever, and wherever you could? People used to scoff at the Chicago Bulls and say “They’d be nothing without Michael Jordan.” But you know what? They HAD Michael Jordan, and they won six championships.

Likewise, we have Lionel Messi, and we won six trophies last season, and are on track for two this season. Do we depend on him? No, because other players on the side can kill you. Do we revel in him, and understand that we have the best player in the game right now, bar none? You bet your bottom dollar we do, and what of it?

Finally ….

Whose bright idea was it to wear white?

Darren Staples/Reuters

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. A mesmerizing display by our own little Flea. Any of the four goals he scored could easily crack the top 10 most breathtaking goals of his entire career – if not because of the sheer class, because of the game’s significance. We face Inter in the semis. Mourinho is a master strategist, and giving him another shot at beating us worries me. With a football brain as astute as his, I expect his side to give us a much tougher go this time around. But before that, we have the EE! Fuerza Barca!

    1. i almost want to say the 2 games in the group stage give no idea as to what we will see in the semifinals, because the nature/context of the games is very different. buuuut, whatever, we gonna show we better….again.

  2. Barring anything funky, we should be at full strength for the Inter ties, with Abidal back in the fold, as well as Ibrahimovic. Man, imagine if we can get him and Messi scoring goals like crazy at the same time!

  3. i think you forget that Rafa was the one playing Walcott onside for the first goal, by being slow and gormless. i’ve defended him here before, but that can’t go without mentioning; he nearly gave me a heart attacking yelling at his dumb ass today, and i’ll be VERY upset if he’s put in Pique’s place for anything shorter than a life-threatening illness or injury again this season.

    1. That’s a rather harsh view of the situation BA.

      First of all Milito’s obvious pass when receiving the ball was to Alves who had gone wide to receive it – try to pass the way you’re facing. However, Milito tried to feign the pass then turned inside. Wrong move. His next best option was to turn the ball all the way back to Marquez who was providing depth – remember we had the ball – but he chose not to. Another wrong move.

      After that we’re screwed anyway with two of our back four the wrong side of the halfway line and three or four attackers coming at pace. Abidal knew he was on a loser ( not blaming him, just saying) decided at the last minute to step out rather than chase Walcott and Rafa who had to stay central to half cover Bendtner (Alves’ man) makes a last gasp attempt to step up but not quickly enough.

      To blame this on Marquez is quite frankly ludicrous. This was down to Milito – we can argue whether or not it was a foul but personally, we did this to them all night – and we paid the price for high FBs which we always do if we lose possession unexpectedly.

      Btw, both this incident and the one at 19.30 just two minutes later show exactly why I was cautioning about all the folks here who said Maxwell got humped by Walcott but Abidal wouldn’t. On both occasions Abidal was toast. Again, I’m seriously not blaming him. I’m trying to make the point that firstly if Walcott is travelling at pace nobody will beat him but secondly it’s more about starting position and making him go round the outside rather than allowing the ball inside the fullback.

    2. Dani could have been quicker tracking back when the ball was spilled by Milito, as well. He should have known it was trouble instantly but he got a slow start.

  4. oh, and would someone care to post Xavi’s passing numbers (passes/% completed) for us all to marvel at?

    1. Found on for Xavi:

      95/105 passes completed for 90%

      Next closest was Rafa with 64/71(90%) and Milito 61/72(85%)

      Just dominant.

    2. *

      “But again, the graph makes for amazing reason because of Xavi’s sheer dominance. To complete 41 more passes than any other player on the pitch is absolutely incredible.

      Over the two legs he completed 65 more passes than any other player.”

  5. Abidal out for 10 days,will miss EE and Depor. but should be back on time for inter match…
    we are going to madrid, they know we are coming there for our CL finals.
    (more than a football club BARCA)

    1. is your name xaviesta4fab saying you would trade xavi and inesta for fabregas???

  6. Good review, and what a game by Messi! To see that kind of performance from a player is amazing. He is the one guy you put all the hype on, then comes back and outperforms his hype. I don’t even know what to say about Messi. Simply unbelievable. Hope he continues the same way, because now I think he has the worlds attention, if he didn’t have it before!

  7. Yay, your review is up! Messi was awesome today, total joy to watch. Don’t really have much to add, Pep sent out a prepared team and we came away with a fantastic win.

    And – glad Marquez had a good match. No one is saying he should replace Pique as a starter, but it’s good to know he can step it up when needed. Not sure whether he was the only one playing Walcott onside, but I think that’s splitting hairs.

    Finally – can we haz an “Anatomy of a Goal” x 4 in honor of Messi? Please?

  8. Ah…in truly spoiled cule fashion I just wanna say he could’ve had 6!!
    And glass half empty cule fashion…at 3-1 we almost let them back in the game.
    And in worrying about the future cule fashion: the last 2 games tell me Abidal’s defense somehow makes our offense purr. We’re doomed without him, Saturday.

    And now that that’s out of my system, I’ll just be speechless like the rest of the world.

    wait I watched the game with 2 forlorn gooners…I must add what I couldn’t say then:


  9. I have no words to describe Messi’s performance….:O

    I’m not diggin the Kaiser’s haircut, and as the chairman of the Anti-Marquez board, I have to hate on something about him haha.

    I thought Dani Alves was overrated today. He left Rosicky WIDE OPEN on one cross. I guess THE cross. He was giving away balls throughout the second half and his crosses were CRAP. But, when you run your ass off and harass, you’re doing a great job, ask P! and Bojan.

    I’m not surprised Henry did not play. He was awfully distant in the first leg. Yes, lets be friendly AFTER the game.

    Did anybody else feel a weird vibe about the second half, like Guardiola told our troops not to score or something? I was SCREAMING at Xavi to pass the ball to Messi for that last goal. I mean, I saw him staring right at Messi, almost as if he was really considering passing the ball back AGAIN.

    After the Bojan substitution we had 2 attackers, and NO ONE down the left third of the pitch. Just Keita when he was not pushed in the middle and Maxwell when he was played through on an overlap. I have to say this really worried me. Yes, we were winning but we cant do that against EE or Inter if we have a lead. I mean NO ONE down the left, like we were playing minus a player. After the P! substitution we went down to 1 attacker, which made everything even more weird since our philosophy is the best defense is a great offense, and we were always passing backwards. But, whatever, I’m stoked. AWESOME match.

    1. Actually, el Kaiser’s haircut brings out his dreamy side. 😀

      I think my biggest worry going into the match against EE is the loss of Abidal. I think so long as we got the XavIniesta tandem going, we’ve got a good chance of winning. Hope Ibra is back too. And Pique and Puyi will be out to destroy after not featuring in this match.

    2. jn,
      I agree.
      I was a weird gear we were in. Like 1 and a half.
      I saw at least 3 instances of an obvious pass to Messi being looked at then overlooked. Maybe Pep didn’t want his legs broken if he scored 6.
      If it was a “close down gear” it didn’t look oto be copletely working (despite the score0 cause they had some greast opportunities.
      Maybe pep wanted something for the glass half empty crowd to worry about…

  10. Well done, Barca thoroughly deserved to win the tie.
    Our missing players wouldn’t have made much difference.

    As said before though your blog wreaks of arrogance. You taught Fab4 so he would have found that pass. Get over yourselves for fuck sake.

    You’re by far the best team in the world at the moment. So someone should tell your players that going down like a sniper has found his mark isn’t really necessary. Get that out if your system and there would be no reason to dislike you, except for your arrogance of course.

    1. Thanks for the compliments. Arsenal is every cule’s second favorite team.
      We need you to teach us how to get “it” out of our system, although many EPL fans might argue that you need to get it out of your system first.

    2. Ah… we did teach Cesc and Marida, no denial to that…weather u hate to admit it or not. Yes we are proud of our team after what they have accomplished over the past few years playing the kind of football every other team would dream to play. About players going down? coming from an Arsenal fan? Hippocracy!!!! And do check out the nasty fouls you were throwing in (not complaining here, as that should be the way to press us but do not complain if we counter it with our own cunningness…)

    3. Dear Gooner,

      I was wondering where the hell were those Arsenal trolls in this blog today!! I just found one!!! 🙂

      Let me tell you something, I have just arrived from the gym here in London. I have sported my Barça shorts (as I always do) and I have enjoyed every single dirty look from frustrated Arsenal fans like yourself. You should stop critising Barça and focusing on how to improve your squad (or pity yourselves for not achieving anything…once more).

      We are not arrogants. YOU ARE! Your team cannot be considered not even the fourth nor the fifth in the UK. You only have a UEFA and a Cup Winner’s Cup. Do the names Celtic, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Manchester United ring a bell to you? Come on! Even Chelsea was far closer to get it than you…

      Stop blaming everybody but your own team. You Arsenal fans started hating Barça when we beat you in 2006. You blamed the referee on that one. Have you seen the non-existent fault that lead to your team’s goal? NON-EXISTENT! Yes, my friend. You DIVE as well!
      And Barça should have gone a goal up and Lehman sent off at the same time. Harsh decision? It was a soft one for your team.

      The quicker you accept you are (so far) a bunch of losers, the faster you will find a solution to re-address the issue.

      Well, thanks for your time. I am making myself a tea. I am not offering you one…it does not taste god along with sour grapes!!

      Kind regards,


  11. Nice review, Kxevin. Great match although at 3-1, I was tense for awhile.

    Pique throwing things at Cesc in the stands. Even Puyol and Ibra have a chuckle:



    1. That’s an awesome pic!! Just goes to show that with all those people around them, at the end of the day, they’re just kids 🙂

  12. Very nice review, Kxevin.

    Messi’s first goal was the wonder for me. It really looks easy as he makes everything look simple. But I recommend that you try it. For his size, you can imagine how well balanced he is to make the perfect body swing to put all his energy in the shot to generate that velocity and accuracy.

    About depending on Messi, who care? I depend on Messi. Dare to call me stupid for doing so!

  13. I was glad that they started the hyped Walcott, and it served us well. They were playing with one player less.

    1. I agree. Half the gunners I spoke to had a master plan that was essentially Walcott making runs at Maxwell and totally killing him with his speed. Except, Maxwell didn’t start, Abidal did.

  14. Arsenal aren’t as good as Barcelona and all us Arsenal fans know that. We cannot afford to pay 68 million (or whatever the total value was) for Ibrahimovich or any top players and unfortunately we’ll never be able to play the same sort of football because we play in a totally different type of league. You get to play football on a weekly basis, where as we have to fight first.

    Then we come to injuries, our first team would probably have lost to your lot, so what chance when we are missing Gallas, Cesc, Song, Arshavin, Van Persie & even Cesc’s backup player Ramsey. Thats half our first choice outfield players missing, it’s too much. If Real Madrid had to spend in excess of 200 million just to get close to Barcelona then what chance does a team that makes a net profit on transfers each year really stand??

    I hope you go on to win the competition, but as someone else said there is a lot of arrogance about the Barca fans & the club in general. At least your manager Pep stays grounded.

    1. We probably do reek of arrogance right now. But that’s because we just won every cup available to us, and are having a great season following that historic one. And are playing practically everyone else off the pitch. You must always show humility, and we could still end up not taking any silverware this season, but I think there are plenty of reasons for cules to feel proud right now.

    2. yea, arsenal does have to get in a fight every week, tis a pity. the 68 mil for ibra is a bit high. i think some of the smarter people on here calculated it as much lower, at least half that price, maybe lower.
      and since i also cheer for arsenal, i think most gooners would agree that wenger spends much less than the board gives him the option to spend. at least he is being wise with his debt unlike most people in the world

    3. I’m reading “Soccernomics” right now, and am in the section about Arsene Wenger and his intelligent transfer philosophy. Great reading.

      I think that Arsenal can afford to make the one or two purchases that take the club to the next level. Wenger chooses not to, from what I observe. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

      But it looks to me that his philosophy is to buy low and intelligently, a series of very good young players, train them in the system and capitalize on that talent and training, without breaking the bank. It’s a laudable ambition, that allows him to put his team in Europe every season, and be in the Prem title race.

      I don’t know Arsenal’s finances, so I won’t pretend to know how deeply the new stadium hampered what the club can do. And yes, the Prem has a different revenue sharing system that is more egalitarian than the Liga. But (and this is an honest question) can Arsenal really not afford to play in the big-money transfer market, or does Wenger simply choose not to?

    4. I guess that is the word that they taught you today at Goonies’ school (oooops! Sorry! I meant Gunner’s school). Arrogance.
      You have no money to spend because you built one of the most beautiful stadiums on earth!! You are still paying for that.
      Ibra cost 46 million Euro. A lot. But do not count a penny for Eto’o. He would have been a free agent a few days later than the date we transferred him to Inter.
      Secondly, our youth ranks are ours…we do not get players at 16-17. That is hardly an academy. These lads, at that age, could be playing in the Premier League or La Liga. How come have you “formed” them? Is it our fault that we have a good academy? That 6 or 7 of Barcelona’s products play regularly in the initial team? Arrogance? Or good work?

  15. Credit where it is due – you lot were better than us and deserved to go through. I know we had injuries, but even at full strength we would have struggled to handle Messi and Xavi on that form.

    Hope you beat Inter in the semi, as you play football in the right way and – the diving of Busquets apart – there is nothing to dislike about your team. Interesting that your very best players are actually the most level headed ones.

    1. True about Busquets, Pete. You see that I actually took a point off of his match rating for that silly move against Eboue. Alves has reduced the dramatics of his play. Busquets has to as well. It makes me sick when he does that nonsense. Just play football.

    2. Busquets’ demeanor on the field drives me crazy. That aside though, I was really surprised that you rated him that highly yesterday. It seems to me that when our possession/midfield passing goes off like it did for a big span of the second half that he’s usually a part of that. He has a habit of not moving to receive the ball and thus losing it…you could say in a lot of those cases that he’s a victim of a less than perfect or poorly chosen pass (we had a LOT of square passes yesterday), but really good players make up for those passes by changing the way they move to receive them…or by moving toward it all, more to the point. Anyone?

    3. Pete,

      We appreciate the way Arsenal play. But there is something missing in your team. Wenger was the creator of it all. But I think it is time for you to get another point of view. He is infusing in the squad and the fans his positive and negative qualities.
      The positive will linger, as they have already settled (your game). The negative ones can be erased from your hard drive by getting someone fresh to direct Arsenal.

      I excuse myself for being a bit hard on you guys (well, some like yourself) in some comments above. I have been the last few days surrounded by comments coming from Arsenal fans on how they would run riot at the Camp Nou and blah, blah, blah. If there is one thing some Gooners must learn is to talk after winning.

      Having said that, good luck in the Premier. I won’t be supporting you, but if you do win it, it will be a triumph for good football.

  16. before i read the other comments i want to say a few things.
    I thought the team looked great, pressuring the ball and keeping possession. The passing was a little off today, but when the ball was lost, they got it back. Marquez is no Pique when it comes to passing, but he did a great job in this game.
    How injured is abidal? I must say his defense was excellent, did you notice the time that walcott was going against him and ran into him and just bounced off? Yea, that cross on the second goal, was terrible. but i’m glad he put it where he did. great composure by Pedro. And Pedro! wow! he was working his butt off. I remember that he was done on the right flank, even with the arsenal box when they stole it from him, or someone there with him and pedro chased the ball all the way to the opposite end and stole it back in the same place. I thought he looked very mature out there. and then he had to go and miss the one on one opportunity.
    Amazing Header from Keita for the assist!
    and it was very interesting to see that neither team crossed the ball in the air. the only header on goal was the one from bendtner when he was offside.
    Excellent article kxevin and i love the captions. Why did they wear white?

  17. In the opening 20 minutes, the game was well balanced and Arsenal did well pressuring our back 4 and not letting our defenders pass to our midfield meaningfully. Once they scored the goal, they went easy on our defenders and that was their biggest mistake, and they never really realized it.
    On the other hand, Arsenal was never able to get back into the match in the second half because Keita, CT and P! harassed their back four to such an extent that they could never connect with their midfield in any creative/relaxed manner.
    That for me was the biggest difference between the two teams, Messi aside! 🙂

    1. Exactly. It’s the kind of pressure we used last season to win matches, and it’s nice to see it back. Yes, the players have to work like dogs each and every possession, but the payoff is in silver.

  18. Man, I am so happy that be beat them that I didn’t even realize I had fever! XD 😯

  19. Another great review, Kxevin. It’s interesting that your review has, for me, now become part of the match itself. I get up the next morning and go straight to my laptop to check out your thoughts to see your take on events. Now all I need to do is make a mental note not to get so hung up on the numbers you give to everyone 🙂

    Can’t say much that hasn’t been said already about this team. I felt so proud last night. For the first time my wife sat down with me and said she was going to check out what had caused me to be a nervous wreck all day. To see her marvelling at Messi meant a lot.

    I’ll say it now though. Although I want the lot, it’s not fair of us to expect them to go on and lift both of the trophies that are left. That would be superhuman so if they do stumble let’s go easy on them, huh? This, to me, was the last hurdle at which if we had fallen I’d have felt let down. It was interesting that Pep on the highlights last night was more proud of the fact that we are still in both this year than winning all of them last year.

  20. I don’t believe that it is arrogance to suggest that Fabregas would have made the pass that Diaby didn’t, because of his roots in our system. Sorry, but that just isn’t true. The fact of the matter is that our Masia brings players up a certain way. The reason Wenger grabbed him is precisely because of that talent, properly kick-started in a system that teaches intelligence with the ball. If you watch the way that farm-raised players approach the game, it’s easy to see. Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro!, Messi, even Puyol who is a defender always face the pitch with squared shoulders and head up. It’s a way of playing that is learned, that facilitates passing and movement.

    Yes, it’s painful that your side lost. We’ve been there this season. But please don’t let those sentiments make you suggest that a simple observation is rooted in arrogance. That is most emphatically not the case.

  21. Holy crap! Messi breaks more records! From the official site:

    Messi equals Rivaldo: With 25 goals in the Champions League, Messi has drawn level with the club’s leading scorer in the competition – Rivaldo.

    Tenth all time leading scorer: At just 22 years old, Messi is now 10th on the club’s list of all time goal scorers, having overtaken Stoichkov (117) and Escolà (118) and he is now just 3 behind ninth placed Patrick Kluivert.


  22. WOW.
    Leo te queremos may your star shine on us for long time to come!

    I missed the game does anyone have a clue as to where i can find it so i can watch the whole thing? (i’m saving my “I’m sick can’t cough come to work sneeze” days for the semis and the final if we get there).

    I only saw a 10 minute highlight reel. It almost seems as if Arsenal loves Messi more than we do, that was some really, really horrible defending on all 4 goals, Messi’s brilliant finishing notwithstanding. Internazionale won’t go down like that.

    So once again we stand accused of arrogance. Well we just tore you a new arsenole, now who’s your daddy? LOL just kidding. What you refer to as arrogance is mostly pride and joy.

    That being said, it is true that us cules are inflicted by a smugness that is hard to get rid of.

    But for the gooners out there, after Arsenal’s unbeaten season were the fans smug? Hell yeah! You made history not only by going undefeated but also by the manner in which you did it. It was marvelous football, made possible by Wenger’s dedication to our beautiful game which was luckily for the world, matched by the brilliance of henry and bergkamp and the sheer class of the likes of vieira and pires, amongst others.

    So yeah, a lot of you felt smug, right? And this is after 5 years or so of Wenger’s beautiful football, passing, attacking, playing the game the right way philosophy. For which you are to be commended, btw.

    F.C. Barcelona has always had this philosphy. We want to inspire. We want to first and foremost play beautiful football. And do so with homegrown players, players we love and cherish. And we refuse to pimp out our shirt. This is part of our identity.

    Frankly el Barça always aspires to be the greatest, regardless of the scoreboard at the end of the game or the trophy cabinet at the end of the season we are mes que un club.

    So yeah, we are smug I think we can all admit to that. So let’s look at those who inspire us, may I quote Guardiola when asked about Messi:
    “mañana se levantará y seguirá buscando el cariño de su gente, los jugadores y su familia y esto es lo que le hace ser tan querido”, aseguró”. “Tomorrow he will get up and seek searching the effection of his people, the players and hs family and this is what makes him so loved”….

    Damn. Playing so well and staying so humble like that, it makes me even more smug!!!!!!!

    Please if somebody can pass me a link so i can watch the game, my eternal gratitude will be all yours (even though I might not get to thank you til i get home from work tonight, lol)

    1. Sky Sports Broadcast

      1st Half:

      2nd Half:


      or Mediafire:


      If anyone wants the postgame stuff, let me know.

      If anyone has rapidshare or hotfile and wants an HD cap of the game, let me know.

  23. btw, link to guardiola’s comments about la pulga last night //

  24. really great review, thanks!

    it was a total celebration of football, total football. credits to arsenal too, it was a great game to watch no matter how dominated we were, but it was a celebration of great football. enjoyed both legs to the max especially the dramatic turnarounds.

    feeling a little wary to play inter again as well. not that we are lacking confidence or me lacking confidence in our team, but it is just as you said, the good coach can find a way to pull off a win or two if u give him more shots. still, we have a higher overall quality than them. should feel better that we ain’t gonna play against a side that doesn’t wanna play football aka chelsea. we will enjoy the ibra/eto’o comparison once again after the majority of the season passed.

  25. I am so glad that Marquez redeemed himself in such a big game, and I also believe it was because of his haircut! 😀


    Secondly guys i thought only yesterday, but today I HAVE COMPLETELY LOST MY VOICE as a matter of fact i am whispering. Yesterday i just could NOT believe what i was seeing. The Messiah showed me that actually God decent from heaven and started playing football in the form of Lionel Messi! Praise the Lord playing for Barca.
    Saying anything about Messi will just be not enough! Thats why i’ll comment on my idol Xavi. I was really interested in his play and i was counting his passes. he made exactly 146 accurate passes with 0 do you believe, 0 wrong passes! He owned and like our commentary on the TV said Xavi just made the midfield a place where Arsenal would think that actually getting to VV’s goal its like the trip from london to barca by foot hahahahahah!

    Once again i must say In Pep we trust, indeed!!! he is just master at this game, every possible sports newspaper here said that yesterday with both teams divided by inj. and etc. Barca demonstrated an extraterrestrial football, which for many years it will be out of this planet!

    Mo joy is soooo huge that i can not come up with any other suggestions! i must leave it for a time where i will calm down a bit :)))
    have a nice day guys


    p.s. by the way does anyone of you guys have a Facebook or something!

    1. “only” counted 105 passes. I mean, Xavi is legendary, but 146 passes is not possible, even for him^^

  27. Did anyone catch what the crowd was chanting towards the end of the match? It seemed to make Leo laugh. Perhaps, he was just happy.

    1. yup they were doing the OLE you know where in the corrina the matador fakes the bull to run into the red flag and playing with him!

  28. Best Team in the World, currently playing the Most attractive football in the World and winning titles at the same time. Damn right I’m smug!

  29. Arsenal, how can you still say we the fans are arrogant after these two games? There is a fine line between being arrogant and simply stating facts. We say alot of things, simply because we know what Barcelona are capable of. When we say things, we are merely stating facts.

    Are Xavi and Iniesta better than Fabregas? FACT. Is Messi the greatest player in the world right now? FACT. Do we have a better midfield than Arsenal…or any team in the world right now? FACT. Offense? FACT. defense? FACT(goals allowed) Do we play as a team better that you? FACT. Are we technically more gifted than you? FACT! ARe we in a different level to you? FACT!

    It may come off as arrogance to you, but it surprised some of us when everyone kept comparing arsenal to Barcelona, and then go ahead and excuse Arsenals performances in the premier league by stating, “barcelona would have a hard time playing that way in the premier league”. No we won’t. We would not be drawing with Burnley or be beaten by portsmouth and the other teams.

    Sorry if I sound as if I’m kicking you when you are down. We actually think Arsenal is on the right track, keep it up. Your phillosophy is great, but you also have to spend something if the need arises. Around here, we usually have praise for teams that play great football. Go back to the review of the first game against Valencia or Atletico Madrid and see the praise we have for good teams playing good football and outplaying us.

  30. I recommend this: *

    1. I was thinking of Sid Lowe … poor chap, he writes a good-ass article after a Messi hat trick only for him to have to write another because Messi scored 4. LOL 😀

    2. This comment is spot-on: “One of my favourite moments of last night’s game was when Messi was gifted the match ball, and he was just bouncing it on the ground over and over again, and smiling like a little child. I can just picture him 10 or so years ago in the canchas back home, walking off the pitch with the ball in his hand, and smilling knowing that he’d just scared the hell out of the bigger boys.”

    1. For those who don’t know: he was the commentator for those of us who watched it on FOX in the States, and probably for England and other places too. Announced the game as if he was Arsenal’s cheerleader, didn’t een attempt to hide the bias

  31. Everyone, we need to understand how special this club is right now. I know that it’s part of my “job” to evaluate performances, give grades and break down the match.

    But I’ve been a fan and soci for some time now, through some dire years, some okay years and some good years. But this club that we have right now is great. Well and truly great. When Cruijff was thinking about Total Football, this was the group that he had in mind. The Yaya plays attacking mid while Xavi breaks up an Arsenal attack in our box. Defenders attacks, attackers defend, midfielders slide balls around with style and elegance.

    It’s amazing, and it’s all ours, to enjoy week after week. People often scoff at bandwagon-hoppers, folks who have come to the club recently because of Ronaldinho or Messi. Lay off them, I say. There’s plenty of brilliance to go around. We were passing the ball around yesterday, and I found myself about to cry from the joy of it all. It was just so beautiful, and so soul-stirring.

    I do wonder if there is something a bit more special in having gone through the lean years, but I don’t know. Maybe someone more recent to the fold can answer that one. But make no mistake, the cycle of life is that our beloved club will, at some point, be ordinary. I will love them no less, but I will remember these days for the glorious times that they are, fire up the highlight DVDs from the past two seasons, and marvel.

    1. I want to echo that sentiment. I feel Barca is reaching new/newish heights (I know this is a little controversial to say). It feels like the culmination of a lot of history and evidence of a club striving towards an ideal. I’m not saying it will last forever, and I’m not saying that there isn’t further to go.

      Perhaps I’m getting too carried away. I hope Barce finish the job and take out Inter and ManU. It would really suck if that didn’t happen. Barca is the only remaining torch carrier for beautiful, principled football.

    2. I guess as a more recent fan to Barca, and to futbol for that matter, I can say that the sight I saw last night and what I have seen these past two years have changed my life. You know as a fan of most American sports I had become somewhat disillusioned. Steroids in baseball, free-agency in all sports, and the general lack of quality human beings left me questioning if sports inspired me at all.

      That’s when I started watching Barca. I realized there still was a pure sport, a beautiful game, and nobody was doing it better than Barca. I learned about every player and how these players were more than athletes: they are role models, heroes. Players committed to spending their entire careers to a club and a philosophy of futbol, not just money or fame. And then I watched them play. It made me feel young again. It gave me heroes again. And since 2008 I haven’t been able to miss a match.

      So I may not have been through all the years where things weren’t so great, but because of what I have seen, I will follow Barca for the rest of my life. And Kxevin is right, this team is special, in fact I think this season’s team is actually better than last year. But my oh my how lucky we are to take this in, remember how it feels to be the best club in the world!

    3. Even since Ronaldinho there were lean years, the two years when things just didn’t work out and when nothing worked out. Losing to united when we just needed to draw 1-1 to go through was heart breaking.

      To pummel them last year in the final was gorgeous.

      After the 2006 final we all wanted Arsenal again to show them it wasn’t the Red card but our superiority that won that night. Now they will talk about injuries but we all saw Messi’s finishing and the class passing and movement that put him in on goal time and time again.

      If Messi this year doesn’t get the UCL and La Liga it will be the biggest travesty since the Ronaldo (the one from Brazil that I think was the best striker of our generation) played his one season in Red and Blue.

    4. Seconded. I’ve never lived through a truly dire season with the club, but I still know that every year we win a trophy must be considered a special year. To win six is unbelievable.

      Just enjoy the success. We won’t win like this forever. But when we return to a low point in the cycle, it’s important to remember to stay true to the principles of the club.

    5. I’m a Ronaldinho baby, but it’s had to imagine an oldtimer being any more giddy. (unless you were in Barcelona last night.)I hardly slept.
      …my lean years were spent following other sports, like 162 game baseball seasons. So I paid my dues in other ways.

      Yeah that DVD collection will come handy come mid summer cicada whining baseball time…if I’m not to busy running end to end on the soccer feild in my Ronnie shirt…

  32. Okay great review.. minus. Keita. I thought for most of the first half he was lost, Messi was chasing back for balls as far back as the top of the box (this becomes busi and keita together, not doing their job), and it just felt we were missing something, plus he lost possession a large number of times where Abidal had to save the loss and chase it down for us.

    On that note, Abidal, I thought did great!! Im quite upset we wont have him this weekend, hes truly having his best season with us. I thought Maxwell replaced him well, but…. this was when Walcott was already burned out, so is it really to his credit that nothing occurred on that side? Im not sure.

    And Messi, well .. said it for me, Dios Messi !

  33. Well, this performance has to bring into question what exactly Pep asks Messi to do when Ibra plays.

    I noticed in the first leg vs Arsenal that he was playing the so-called ‘Thankless Ibra’ role where he links play, drag out defenders, etc. For our second goal vs Arsenal, you can see Vermaelen (their best CB) marking Messi leaving a huge space for Ibra to exploit. Also both goals we scored in the Emirates were from exactly the same position, the position were Vermaelen usually plays, leaving Ibra alone vs an inexperienced (compared to Yaya) DM-come-CB and Almunia .

    I’ll have to watch the other 3 or so games again, but I don’t think Kxevin’s theory of ‘Ibra being a threat to Messi and/or vice versa ad that why one or the other are quiet’ is the case. Tactics definitely has a big role to play here, and maybe the meetings with Maradumber have something to do with it (Higuain/Milito will be playing the ‘Ibra target man’ role , and Messi will have to play similarly to how he played vs. Athletic Bilbao).

    1. Oh, my “theory” is more of a supposition. I’m not sure what the real answer is, because when both are on the pitch, defenses should be at our mercy. But though that started out happening, it isn’t now.

      We need someone with The Knowledge to explain.

      Ohhhh, Hector!

    2. I wish journalists would bother to ask that kind of question rather than, “is Messi great or is he great?” Maybe Pep wouldn’t really answer that, but I’d love to get a few minutes to pick his brain. Or maybe I’d send someone like Kxevin or Hector…

      I feel like it has to be something tactical, because we know they have played together well, and they seem to like each other just fine. I will say that I think Messi has moved into a more central role/play-making role this year as compared to last year where he was still more of a winger.

  34. Well Kev, thanks for the thoughtful consideration of us sensitive readers with one eye sobbing for poor Arsenal.

    At least Arsenal can say that they came in well-dressed. I didn’t realize until I saw the picture that they wore the same colors as…well…but I’ve always thought this season, in those rare occurrences when they’ve worn the white, that “damn, that’s sharp.” Much better than the blackish-greyish rags they wear in league away games.

  35. Oh dear, Desi Gunner is at it again: *

    According to his stats, Xavi scored 12 goals from 0 shots during 2001-2004. Talk about efficiency! Feel free to troll the hell out of him 😛

  36. First of all, congrats to Barcelona. Messi is a class apart at present. Best ever? Not yet, yet…

    That said, the arrogance of the team and supporters is shocking. This blogger expended some serious currency accusing Cesc of diving ion the first tie. Really?

    We were not going to win Wednesday no matter, but the shameful diving of the Barcelona players is equalled only by the hypocracy of the supporters such as many of you and their players.

    You will never be one of the great sides until your side stops cheating. Xavi, Alves, et al, were a disgrace to football. Xavi actually did a full flip and almost landed on his feet with a pure dive. By the standards you all were trying to set last week, a disgrace.

    You may win the title again, and better then Arsenal? Yes.
    One of the great football sides? You jest.

    1. Okay, first, THIS blogger “expended some serious currency” regarding the Cesc thing. If you think it was expended, of course. The blogger who wrote the particular review above is not that same blogger. There are actually three of us who write here, not just one.

      Second, you mistake Busi for Xavi. See next thread for the Busi bashing.

      Third, I’m unsure as to what your standards for a “great football side” are. Could you elaborate?

  37. interesting comments. i think football journalism in Europe and the rest of the world is a lot more subjective than US mainstream sports journalism, which is something I guess Kxevin could have an interesting viewpoint on. Also it is normal for the TV commentators especially to show national bias, we wouldnt want it any other way, lol!

    1. Actually, sports journalism in the States just pretends to be objective. But it really isn’t. It’s why I have welcomed the surge of sports blogging, both with official sanction (media outlets, etc) and independent.

      Today’s reader doesn’t really want objectivity. Balance yes, objectivity, no. They want a point of view, something to react to.

      Now it is true that U.S. media entities don’t (usually) align themselves with a club or team in the same way that European ones do. To use my own home as an example, White Sox fans believe that, despite their club having just won a World Series in 2005, that the Tribune is still Cubs-centric.

      It’s different, not necessarily better or worse.

      Now the comments by the ESPN broadcaster at Theo Walcott are another matter. He didn’t realize that the Dutch broadcast was rocking the open mike, as he had some choice things to say about Walcott during Tuesday’s match. I reckon that’s also a point of view, but it’s just stupid. 😀

  38. i’m late to the party, but great entry! i was starstruck allll day, crushing on leo like those crazy twilight girls. man oh man he is such a joy to watch and i feel so privileged being able to witness his playing week after week

  39. Congratulations on a fine victory Barca. Messi truly is a talented player and the world’s best at the moment. My take on the game – Barca were obviously superior on the night, especially with Messi. Without Messi the two teams were more or lesss equal. Arsenal gave Messi and the entire Barca team too much space and because our defensive Midfielder was injured, Messi was able to run freely without being man marked. You were extremely nervous for the first 20 minutes and up until Bendtner scored a glorious goal. It took Messi, a genuis on the night, to get you out of trouble soon after, and it seemed your team and fans were nervous, even leading at 3-1. Had Arsenal had Fabregas, Gallas, Van Persie, Arshavin AND Song fit and playing, I believe we would have crushed you.

  40. Anyway my little Barca friends, enjoy the victory, and savour it. Congrats again. I wish you all the best in the CL, and of course against Inter Milan.

    I believe both our teams will be playing Champion’s league football for years to come. If so, can assure you, we will meet again one day.

    And maybe, maybe this time you will be playing against 11 men instead of 10, and maybe against a team without half their 1st team players out.

    We’ll see what happens then. Vengeance is a dish best served cold made only sweeter by the sands of time…..

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