A Brief History in Barcelona – Arsenal

There are a great many things you can learn from studying history – it is suicidal to attack Russia in the winter for example. The rapidly approaching Barcelona – Arsenal match presents the opportunity to reminisce about the not-so-distant history between the two teams and to get pumped up for the match. Who knows, we might even learn a thing or two along the way.

We start our stroll through history with the most remote of the three games, which is also the least informative of the three for our upcoming match. In fact, only six players who took the pitch in the 2006 Champions League Final still play for their respective club: Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta (sub), Almunia (sub), Eboue, and Fabregas. Xavi, van Persie, and Clichy were unused subs. There is also a certain Hleb who started the match, but he is less relevant to the upcoming match than Mubarak stepping down in Egypt. Although this match may not help us know what to expect in the upcoming match, it still holds some important timeless football lessons.

It was also an extremely exciting match. I’d even go so far as to say there hasn’t been a more exciting Champions League Final since that scintillating night in Paris. The match started at a fiery pace, and while Arsenal had the first chance through Henry both teams came out intent on attacking and had several chances in the first twenty minutes. Disaster struck for Arsenal in the 18th minute when Lehmann, their somewhat erratic keeper, got sent off for tripping Eto’o outside the box. Arsenal didn’t give up and to their credit they took the lead on a powerful header from Sol Campbell.

The second half saw the introduction of a young Iniesta for an injured Edmilson, and a continuation of the attacking intent from both teams. However, it was only with the introduction of Larsson that Barcelona was finally able to find the net. Iniesta was surveying the field from deep and picked out Larsson posting up in the box, who kept the ball moving to Eto’o with a beautiful half touch and Eto’o made no mistake. The second goal saw Larsson pick out Belleti (playing right back at the time) with a cross from the right before Belleti slotted the ball through Almunia’s legs to secure Barcelona’s second Champions League win.


The easiest lesson to take from this game is that anything can happen in a knockout match. Lehmann was the first person ever sent off in a Champions League Final, and that completely changed the game. We all know this but it is important to remember that Champions League knockout games often hinge on decisive moments in the game, and these moments can go either way. Two years ago the decisive moment was Iniesta’s phenomenal goal against Chelsea, while last year it was Bojan’s goal against Inter called back for a hand ball. No matter how well Barcelona is playing they still need to be wary of these matches as anything can happen.

The other important lesson from this match is the impact substitutes can make. Iniesta helped set up the first goal, Larsson assisted both goals, and Belleti scored the second goal; all three of them were substituted into the game. Larsson in particular changed the momentum of the game, and his performance remains a testament to the fact that having an experienced striker who could come off the bench may not be a bad idea. At the moment our bench looks very dependable, but at the same time I wonder who could come on and really change the momentum of the match. We will revisit this lesson again shortly…

Now we are going to jump through time a la Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five, which takes us to the Quarterfinals of last season. In the first match in the Emirates Barcelona came out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt on crack. They were so dominating, so precise, and so ruthless in the first twenty minutes I thought they were going to get bored and pillage the stadium. And yet they just couldn’t score. In fact it wasn’t until after half time that Ibrahimovic popped up to score his two goals. Interestingly, both goals came when the game was a bit more open and Ibrahimovic was able to take advantage of some suspect decision making from the Arsenal back line (and some perfect passes from Pique and Xavi). Arsene’s introduction of Walcott proved to be inspired, and is another perfect example of the impact substitutes can make. Walcott’s pace coupled with Barcelona’s fatigue unsettled Barcelona’s back line and he was crucially involved in salvaging the match for Arsenal – scoring their first and generally being a nuisance.

This match is the most comparable to our upcoming match, and so there are a lot of things to be learned. First, and most obvious, Barcelona must play the WHOLE match. Despite completely dominating for the first 20 minutes and leading 2-0 in the 60th minute, Barcelona didn’t win because they couldn’t finish the game. I hate to belabor this point, but this is also a match where Arsene obviously outclassed Pep with his substitutions. A final general lesson to be learned from this match is that in the last few years Barcelona hasn’t been winning away in the Champions League. Last season Barca drew in London and at Stuttgart, and in the 08-09 season they drew away to Lyon, Bayern, and Chelsea. While not winning in any of those matches, Barcelona did score in all of them. This is the key – even more than winning, it is essential to score goals away from home in the Champions League. This is especially true when playing the first game away from home as scoring puts pressure on teams to attack in the return leg, and this opens up the game for Barcelona in the Camp Nou.

It was eye-opening in this match that Walcott was able to destabilize the Barcelona back line solely with his pace. The easiest and most direct way to neutralize this in the upcoming game would be with pace of our own, in other words, Abidal (Maxwell was playing left back in this match). It is a bit worrying that with Puyol out it seems either Maxwell or Milito will start. Neither of them is particularly quick, and it will be important that the team doesn’t let whoever starts get isolated. While Arsenal is lauded in the English media for their ball retention this match showed they can be just as deadly with quick counterattacks. Dani Alves may have to play a more reserved role than normal to prevent them from exploiting the hole he leaves on the right side of the pitch – this is also where Nasri generally likes to create from. Finally, both goals scored were scored because the Arsenal defenders had been pulled out of position. Movement from the front line is going to be absolutely essential to break down the Arsenal back line, even though it is looking very different than last year. Djourou has been great for Arsenal lately, starting in every game in January and not letting a single goal past him. Barcelona will put his discipline to the test and ultimately I think that the Arsenal back line will show weakness in their positional discipline just like last season.It will be up to Barcelona to take advantage of that.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

What is there to say about the second leg match from last year? Bendtner snuck in an early goal (which Walcott assisted) for Arsenal and while my heart sank Messi’s hardened. What transpired after was a display in virtuosity that won’t soon be forgotten. While the team played well, Messi was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch. Whether he was passing to himself off of Silvestre’s foot, starting a move with a fantastic pass and then sneaking in to finish it, delicately lobbing Almunia, or fighting his way to his last goal, he was unstoppable.

There really isn’t that much to take from this game other than when Messi is on he is unstoppable. Couple that with the fact that Arsenal was missing some key players and had to field the likes of Silvestre and there was really only one possible result from this match. Although there is a lot of luck involved in the Champions League, and matches can hinge on crucial moments, quality still shines through the fog the majority of the time.

The upcoming tie with Arsenal will be difficult, even more so due to the familiarity between the two teams. While the Arsenal players are chirping to the media about the lessons they learned from last year, you can be certain that Pep is preparing his squad with the knowledge he gained from last season’s tie. Hopefully the matches will be just as entertaining as they have been between the two teams in recent memory… and hopefully we will see Barcelona triumph over Arsenal again.


  1. Interesting looking back at the 2006 UCL final. Belleti’s reaction to scoring that goal is one of my most enduring football memories… 😀

    Also, I would like to apologize in advance for the crazy ish I will be spewing tomorrow during the liveblog. Oh yeah, it’s gonna get WEIRD 0_o

    1. The Iniesta goal against Chelsea ranks highest among mine. I saw both games live, but, I think, because the Iniesta goal was more recent, and also, Barcelona were playing with a man down, that goal, always, brings a lot of emotions to my heart.

  2. Excellent preview, vicsoc! I won’t be able to participate in the liveblog, unfortunately. Tomorrow is going to be SO hard to get through!

    1. I’m pretty sure you still have an Isaiah preview to look forward to. Today is hard to get through already, I can’t imagine how bad it’s going to be tomorrow. The smack talk between my brother and I has already started.

    1. My Reply in the Last Post :

      Thanks Lev for your kind wishes. The Atmosphere was amazing and we had many foreigners participating in the protests.

    2. No, I tried “be afraid, be very afraid” on Google translator. This guy wasn’t close. I don’t think the translators do a very good job with the imperative verb mood.

      @ Merge Please help the troll. How do you say “Be afraid! be very afraid!” in Spanish?

    3. How do you translate an English phrase that people don’t speak in Spanish?

      Besides, don’t the trolls know they have to speak(type?) in Catalan?

    4. You expect a thoughful troll? A troll who knows that people speak a different language in Catalunya? Trolls can’t be knowledgeable, it would be oxy-moronic!

      OK, Merge, please help the troll. Can you translate the above attempt into both Spanish and Catalan?

    5. in Spanish it is “tener miedo” or HAVE afraid, mmm have fear I guess. “ser muy muy miedo” would be like saying “to be very very fear”

      @Diego yeah, I bet. I am very curious how the situation will continue.

      What is so amazing about your revolution is that it so spontaneous (for lack of a better word) and swift. However more often than not after a revolution comes another miserable regime. I wonder whether Egypt will truely have democracy and whether the people truely will have a say in what happens next – something which in my mind is far from clear.

      One thing where the international media have failed us (well, apart from the Independents’ Robert Fisk, international media invariably fail us when reporting on the Middle East), but one thing that has happened is that everything which has happened in Egypt the last 3, 4 weeks has completely overshadowed the aftermath of the overthrow of Tunisia’s president. Will Tunisia have freedom (or democracy, if this is what the Tunisians want)?

      What do Egyptians want? (not saying the situation in Egypt and Tunisia are necessarily comparable). How big is the biggest opposition party (Muslim Brotherhood, right?), are they representative of the majority of Egyptians, and if so, how big of a majority? If they do have the majority (or whoever does) would they be willing to compromise with those who oppose them in order to create a new Egypt in which all will be represented? And if they do not have the majority, how will they oppose those the new goverment?

      What will the army do now that Mubarak has handed them the keys? Have the army decided what they will do? Have the army decided who in the army gets to decide what they will do?

      I believe, incredible as it may sound, that getting rid of Mubarak was the easy part, because that at least was one thing in which most Egyptians were united. How to continue is the hard part, because it is easier to unite in order to get rid of something than to unite over how things should be done from now on.

      Anyway, good luck to you and yours, diego, my thoughts are with your people.

    6. Here in Maldives we managed to overthrow a dictator and promptly installed in a new era of awfulness. Manipulative egomaniac president who controls all the media that the outside world sees and makes a big show of being magnanimous and democratic while bending the constitution how he sees fit and doing some dictatorial things himself, a small group of rich and powerful ppl allied dominating the parliament judiciary etc, who also control street gangs, ppl so politicized by party politics that ppl in some areas don’t talk to family members from the opposite party, ppl so party blinded they’re ok with anything their party does even when they screw the ppl over. I will hate hate hate it if the same happens to egypt. I wish i cud go and be part of the stuff there, i’ve been telling my egyptian friends ‘now comes the hard part’. I’m so hopeful they can do it right but i will feel a sense of loss if the hope i felt for my country which failed also does for egypt.

    7. Should be written … “Ten miedo, ten mucho, mucho miedo!”
      My parents are from Spain and I speak Spanish … so there you go!

    8. Ooops, sorry justsayin! I didn’t see your post!

      It is absolutely correct, it just sounds weird to me.

    9. We are that kinder, gentler blog that treats our trolls well. You rock (bet that idiomatic expression can’t be translated either ;-D)

    10. (Your wish is my command!)

      I don’t think I can help the troll because, really, I don’t understand a jot. As Lev said, be afraid is “tener miedo”, but the imperative is usually used in the negative form (don’t be afraid = “No tengas miedo / No te asustes”).

      If you want somebody to fear you then it’s necessary to use a pronoun: “Tenme miedo (to me)/ Tennos miedo (to us)” but even when it’s gramatically correct, it still sounds weird.

      I would use the verb “Temer” instead, with the same meaning; If I was the troll I would have written:

      ¡TÉMENOS!. SOMOS MUY, MUY TEMIBLES (or something like that)

      Or, to be rude (and possibly the option chosen by a troll):

      ¡ACOJÓ*ATE! (= shit your pants? Just with an ‘N’ instead of the ‘*’.)

      Sorry, I don’t know if this was unacceptable language, Spanish writing is full of expletives accepted with no problem 😉

      In Catalan it would sound softer:
      “Tingues por de nosaltres. Som temibles!”

      or else:
      “Tingues por de nosaltres. Tiingues molta, molta por!”

    11. You’ve just gotta love this! We get Catalan and Spanish lessons. You are both BFB heroes!

    12. Que tengan miedo … muchísimo miedo.

      G7 better not attend a certain Spanish class taught by a certain SoMa class in a certain Big 10 University in a certain American continent or she is taking off Big Points for both grammar and afiliation mistakes.

  3. I remember I hosted the LiveBlog last season (during the 1st leg vs Arsenal) and when Puyol was sent off things became really – er – funny?

    1. I have no idea what they’re saying but I find it really interesting to see Mascherano coming there and translating for Afellay. From a social point of view…

    2. Very funny. As you know VV is trying to tell Afellay to pass the ball back to him if he sees him close by and calls Mash over to help translate. When he walks over to Iniesta, VV tells him that he doesn’t really understand but ever since he’s been eating at McDonald’s, his english is improving.
      Pique whispers to VV that Shakira has a sister she wants to introduce him to.

  4. While waiting for Issiah’s preview, you can read Ramzi’s Barcelona Offside preview at:


    (Not sure if we still need to add an extra character to avoid links flagging a spam filter, so I put one in just in case).

    My favourite part:

    ” This is not an easy game but here is an incentive to win: Barcelona meet Arsenal now and at the weekend Arsenal will play Stoke city. If Barcelona beat Arsenal and Arsenal beat Stoke, the Catalans odds to beat Stoke will rise in EPL’s betting system! Let’s go for it!”

  5. Why would anyone campare Real Ronaldo and Messi? One was on the pitch solely for scoring while the other is… em… any short description for what he does?

    1. Ronaldo in his prime as in teens and early twenties or so was unbelievable though. He wasn’t just a finisher a la RvN. Messi has a bigger role as in creating and playmaking and all but real Ronaldo was a beast and could pull goals out of thin air.

    2. I really don’t know why someone would. The Real Ronaldo was awesome in his own right, but all he really did was score. Messi is infinitely better than the Real Ronaldo and can be anywhere on the pitch. We’ve seen Messi as a striker/forward, midfielder, and also a defender. There is absolutely not comparison whatsoever. Ronaldo is a legend and so is someone like Zizou but I would say that Messi just at age 23 is better than both of them.

    3. Gotta say i have absolute respect for Ronaldo. At the peak of his powers he was as good as a striker can be; quick feet, deadly accuracy and all that. But at the end of the day he was just a striker. Leo is something like a playmaking defensive goalscoring passing foward.

  6. I’ve been reading this site for a while and I finally just joined, and it is well worth joining. 🙂
    I can’t wait for this match! It will be epic. I am cautiously optimistic that the boys will win this. I’m hoping that Leo will score tomorrow and maybe VIlla and Pedro too.

    1. Welcome Blaugrana, you came to the right place.

      Today was/is a very long one, tried to pass time by working (how silly is that), that didn’t cut it for me, tomorrow will be much harder, i just cant wait.

      Like Lev; ill state what i think about the match when Isiah puts his preview up.

      @vicsoc and Kari: whoever is running the LB keep a seat for me please

  7. @ Kxevin and the rest..

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have that purple color on the background, the same color we had at the offside..

    White is so.. Boring..

  8. Shubhankar Mondal has a article on goal.com which contains the scores of all our loses ever since Pep became coach (including the 1-0 lost Wisla krakow – remember?). Anyway, look at this hilarious comment from an EE fan:

    Real Madrid I told u
    5:14 PM Feb 15, 2011
    I told u .. They suck!! They lost 13 matches..! LOSERS! Thats why Madrid and wil always be the BEST!

    Did a 9 year old write that or what? 😀 No, it’s not as good as the “rise from the assess” one but still…

    1. “Rise from the assess” will remain a classic.I shudder to think of the combinations that could be made with “up the Arsenal”. Don’t take it there guys.

      Yes, the quality of writing can be poor on the other blogs!

  9. The CL preview folks are ridiculous. They’re saying Crouch has had 23 European goals in his career and Ibrahimovic has had only 6- doubt it, he scored 6 this season alone right?- that Crouch doesn’t get the same recognition only cos of his name and if he was called Crouchio or was Italian and had a hairband he would be rated that much.

    Look I hate Angry Ninja but the guy can do things with a piece of gum that Crouch can’t with a football. The guy made Serie A his little bitch every one of the past few years he played there- then again the hosts mentioned how Milan weren’t that great cos the Italian league just like the Spanish league is much lower in quality than the EPL.

  10. Milan vs Tottenham is going to start! Let’s see how Ibra is doing these days, while keeping an eye on Gareth Bale!

  11. Can anybody provide me with a good Barca v Spurs link?

    Veetle just keeps on freezing. Hate when that happens.

  12. As much as i hate ibrahimovich, i still like Milan to progress, this will make it 2 English teams knocked out early so all those EPL lovers can understand how GOOD their league is.

    1. Cheating (more than once), prozzies, drunken douchery, robotic dancing, general uselessness….

    1. hahaha i just watched 25 minutes (without sound) and kept thinking “wow, everybody is always talking about bale but he isn’t doing much”…then i read here that he is injured, lol

    2. Watch the Valencia game instead!

      It’d be funny if Valencia advance and EE fail yet again at this stage. 😀

  13. Only caught bits and pieces of Milan v Spurs first half… pretty uninspiring stuff overall. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  14. Milan have Gattuso, Flamini, Thiago Silva, and Seedorf in midfield. How do they expect to give Ibra and Robinho any decent service?

  15. Bleh. I’m under moderation at both Arsenal and Barca Offsides.

    There goes my Good Samaritan act…Well, I’ll try totalbarca and that’ll be it.

    1. TotalBarca worked fine, and they don’t even moderate links! Do the Offside moderate them? I put * before each of the links there and I still got moderated. Maybe if I take them off..

    2. Kari,

      It’s Martin from the Arsenal Offside. To be clear, we don’t really have much control over the moderation stuff. It’s all to do with Disqus — we don’t even get an email when a comment has been held for moderation, so we usually don’t realize someone’s comment has been held. When we realized, your comment was approved.

      Just wanted to make sure you knew that we appreciate the comment and input, and our general policy is only to moderate or delete comments that are sexist, racist, homphobic, or excessively profane.

  16. hahaha Gattuso getting into a little tussle with some Spurs coach on the sidelines. Always been a big fan of Rino; a real no-nonsense passionate guy on the pitch.

  17. From barcastuff:

    Guardiola: “Cesc? He’s an Arsenal player, nothing more to say. If one day Arsenal want to sell him, we might or not be interested.”

    note: guardiola answering question in – so far – 4 languages: catalan, spanish, english and italian


  18. Lol, are the Valencia fans chanting Villa when Raul gets the ball? I could’ve sworn I heard the “Illa Illa Illa”

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