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. Anyone Stateside looking to take a vacation to Barcelona, Delta is having a HUGE fare sale, ending first week of April (for purchase). R/T from O’Hare to Barcelona is $280! No, I didn’t forget a zero.

  2. this milan looks nothing like the side that dismantled parma over the weekend. of course, van bommel & cassano were in the lineup then.

  3. You know i kinda like spurs.Were it not for the Britpress id like them to do well.It helps that i couldnt stomach directly assisting another club’s quest for the cl with a transfer from us so Im pleased to see milan fail thus far 😀

    1. i want tottenham to do well but i’d also like a chance for pep to answer to all those “philosopher” jabs from ibra.

      oh! ouch. ibra denied the tying goal. ha!

    2. yeah same here, i like them but i just dont want english hype. if chelsea and arsenil both get knocked out- im sure united wont- and spurs stay even id be fine.

  4. Of course I want Valencia to go through, but how satisfying would it be for Raul if Schalke gets through to the next round and Real Madrid doesn’t? 😛

  5. Shiznit. I should be watching Spurs Milan instead of watching paint dry (I was saving watching Ibra fail for the highlights…)

    1. I certainly hope so.
      I wanted milan to win but , tottenham deserved it and flamini should get a ban too.

    1. Madness. I KNEW I should have tooned in for the last 10 minutes. 🙁

      But it’s relaying on my TV again, so I’ll just watch it then

    2. NOOOO! How can they do that to ‘Arry?! Actully, how did they get ‘im? He evades the taxman like a seasoned thief apparently–that takes some doing.

    3. *http://soccernet-assets.espn.go.com/design05/images/2011/0215/gattusoandjoejordan20110215_576x324.jpg

      Check out the “respect” on tthe shirt 😀

    1. A LITTLE pressing and he would have won the ball back but no, no need to “track back” (forward in this case).

    2. I’m so torn. I delight in Ninja’s pain, but I would have liked to meet his side in the quarters to give them a whipping, and I want as few English clubs as possible to qualify cos of their press, but I like Spurs personally.

    3. Here I was kind of interested in ACM, just because of all the ‘same old warty faces’, as the saying goes, like our love-to-hate-’em Ibra and Robinho, and once, too, there trod Ronaldinho, and then there’s Pato, who’s just cute as a button! Tottenwho? Oh, yeah, them with the tall guy.

      But you know you’re a soccermom of a certain age when after the 60-minute mark you start pursing your lips and saying, ‘Well! We certainly can’t condone that kind of behavior! Those young men are not playing nicely on the schoolyard!’

      I don’t mind a thug, given my undying Deco devotion. But whiny thugs, ugh.

  6. I’m still calling the Alves-Pique-Milito-Abidal back-line. I know, I know, Pep sees Abi as the 3rd CB, but I think he’s wary enough of Walcott that he’ll put Abidal at LB.

    I also look at the Gijon game where Milito was taken off early, and Maxwell played the full 90. May just have been the circumstances, but I think Milito was given a half and a little bit to get back into the playing groove and then rested.

    Besides, with Maxwell playing, Abidal is bound to put out fires anyway. Why not keep Walcott quiet AND help out Milito if/when needed, instead on sticking to van Persie and helping out Maxwell against Walcott when he inevitably gets burned?

    1. Interesting idea but that would mean sMasch in the midfield, no? Don’t think this is the kind of game I’d put Mascherano in to be honest. It screams Busi, what, with his positional sense and timing.

      If I had to play him, I’d want him as a CB, so the back-line would be: Alves – Pique – Mascherano – Abidal with Busi as DM.

    2. I think this is the kind of game that Mascherano would excel in. Arsenal will play a more attacking game than we are used to, and his ability to destroy attacks would be helpful. His physicality would also be beneficial in Europe where he can get away with more than he can in La Liga. Throw in the fact that Mascherano has experience playing Arsenal and knows the mentality of English teams, and I think he would be a good choice.

    3. All fair points.

      I just see this game as closer to the manita in that both teams want to attack. Possession will be absolutely crucial and there is no-one better than getting the ball and keeping it moving than Busi. He is the mig toc (half-touch) master.

      His physicality would also be beneficial in Europe where he can get away with more than he can in La Liga.

      Funnily enough, that’s one of the major reasons why I wouldn’t play him. Conceding a lot of fouls would be a bad idea, as they have van Persie back who is a FK specialist. Busi wins the ball AND does it in a less agressive, more “I’ll just be taking that. Thank you” fashion.

      Busi’s the safer option IMO

    4. milito played the full 90 vs sporting this weekend so he’s got that going against him. he got off to a rough start but didn’t play that badly, i guess. maxwell played the whole game, too. he got smoked by walcott in the arselona game so i’m pretty sure he’ll be on the bench. yeah, abidal is the third choice center back but he’s also the first choice leftback. in the game i remember where both masche & busquets played(i forget against whom) it was sergio that dropped deep to play centerback.

    5. I think Busquets is too crucial to the midfield to leave out. I’d rather see Mascherano play centerback than Busi, I have a feeling that Arsenal are going to focus on putting pressure on the midfield so Busi’s passing and close control will be critical.

    6. Busi at a holding mid.
      I’m sorry, the three times Barça dropped points this season were when sMasch started. Not saying it was his fault, but still.

      Milito may or may not play, but my bet is Abidal and Maxwell. Pep is not the type of coach to adjust his line-up to the other teams’ strength.

    7. Well he did play Alves as a right winger against Cristiano Ronaldo in the classico at Madrid last year. That was kind of out of left field so to speak.

      I’d be suprised if he started Masch at CB tomorrow, given that he has never tested this option. (Busi has played at centreback this season, but he is too critical to the possession game to leave out of midfield). Given that Maxwell did fairly well defensively (though not as well offensively) on Saturday I’d expect that he will start at LB and Abidal and Pique will be the centrebacks.

    8. NOOOOOOOooooo, Busi is CRUCIAL for midfield!

      I’m guessing: Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell

      The question is, where best to utilize Abidal (since we’ve already established that we can’t clone him 🙁 ).Whom do you fear most, Walcott or Van Persie? I fear VP more, personally.
      Replacing Maxwell with Adriano answers some of the pace questions but poses scarier problems. Miloto+Pique scares the crap out of me right now.

      A cool lineup would be: Alves, Pique, sMasche, Abidal (sMache had a few minutes as the de facto CB in the Sporting match).

      I want to put my manita avatar back up! 0-5 please! (Messi hat trick, P!!, Bojan ((late sub)that was for you, Kari as a Barcenal reward))

  7. Just found out that I can’t watch tomorrow’s match on TV. Feel more angry than Gattuso. AAARRGH!!!


      Sorry, what were you saying, Helge? Something about Roma-Sha—

      Sorry, I’ve got an appointment with the broadcasting director of Sportsnet. If the police comes, I was at…, erm,.. I was in Barcelona. Yeah, tell them that.

    1. i think he makes as much of an impact for bayern(when he’s not injured, which is never) as messi does for barca. maybe that’s what the author meant? he was great for real the season bernd schuster’s team went toe to toe w/us in la liga.

    2. Were Robben not always injured he would be one of the top 10 players in the game right now. What keeps him from being top 5 or better is the fact that he is incapable of looking for the pass. It is not that he is selfish per se, it is just that once he starts his action the only direction he can think of is >>>>>goal. In the cases that he does pass it seems that he had already decided he would pass it before starting his dribble.

      Were he not so one-dimensial, then he could (have) become a truely great player. Be that as it may, even a one-dimensial Robben is pretty friggin amazing (did you guys see his 2 goal, 1 assist performance last weekend?)

    3. I actually think that Robben is one of the top10 players right now. Otherwise, name me 10 better ones 🙂

  8. Wow, Schalke is such a lucky team… Costa actually was not offside when scoring right before Raul equalised.
    They are definitely the worst team that will be in the quarterfinals. I hate them (because they’ve been lucky during the whole CL season, they are actually a really bad team)!!!

    AC Milan is a joke 😀
    Ibra talking about a treble, their coach stating that Ibra is as good as Messi, their president claiming at the beginning of the season that Milan would now be inferior to noone – lots of talking going on there. But in the end, they are still a shadow of their own!
    My only concern is that Ibra wants to leave Milan after the season, or that the club doesn’t want him anymore. After all, Ibra’s bad pass let to the goal from Crouch.
    I bet if Bale had been fit, Milan would have lost by a greater margin. Lennon and Bale on the wings is simply way too much pace for the veteran defense of AC Milan!

  9. how about

    2 – 3 – 16 – 22
    6 – 8
    17 – 10 – 7

    16 moves forward and back as needed
    15 runs everywhere


    *takes deep breath and decides to act her age, besides she likes fellow cule ooga*

    I mean, that’s a nice idea, Dear, but I think you are mistaken.

  11. Revista De La Liga 02-15-11


    *http://www.fileserve.com/file/sxMMrG7/Revista De La Liga – 15-02-11.avi


    *http://www.filesonic.com/file/84054829/Revista De La Liga – 15-02-11.avi

    Credit to Pakman at fbtz.com

    1. I really don’t like watching revista de la liga when Barca lost points and EE win. 😀

      Do they say something interesting about Barca?

    2. Graham was pretty positive. Said Milito has cost us most times we’ve conceded this season. Said we showed hunger and determination in the 2nd half and the changes is what messed us up a bit. He also said there will be no complacency against Arsenal and that Pep will have us raring to go.

      Mark Bolton said Arsenal have gotten stronger and learned from our matches with them and that maybe we can’t the same, but Guillem actually defended us and said we have gotten better also.

      They gave props to Busquets in passing, saying no one really comes close to him at the moment. And they are fairly certain that Abidal will be the centerback next to Pique and Maxwell will be the left back.

      Some other little tidbits, but that’s pretty much the gist. It’s not too negative at all.

    1. And the English commentators were so excited during the second video. Funny 😛

      Oh, and I saw Gattuso on Treehouse one time (that’s a young children/toddler channel). It was funny and scary at the same time.

  12. I must admit that I’m a milanisti too…
    but it’s a well-deserved victory for Spurs…
    and I feel ashamed by Flamini’s tackle and captain (yes, captain) Gattuso’s behaviour…
    wtf… but honestly I didnt have much hope for Milan,
    too much dependency on Ibra… and we all know Ibra…

    anyway, on Arsenal game,
    the biggest question is still, who’s gonna play as a LEFT BACK?
    Abidal, Maxwell, or Adriano?

    and I’m totally with somo4 here, BUSI must play in the midfield,
    he’s crucial there…

    I think Pep will play Alves – Pique – Abidal- Maxwell in the backline…
    but think about Maxwell vs Walcott scares me… 🙁

    1. Idk, maybe because Villa has not been that impressive the last 5 games or so…

      The weird thing is, that I do not prefer Chelsea over Man U or Liverpool or Arsenal – actually I don’t have any real preference for any EPL team.

      However, when we play Chelsea or Man U or Liverpool I just want Barça to win. When we play Arsenal I want us to humiliate them. Does anybody feel that way or am I the only one?

    2. lol it would also amuse me to no end if their hated Spurs advance further in the CL than they. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves (knocking on wood). The most important thing is that we win (the 2nd most important thing is that we HUMILIATE THEM! lol)

    3. no matter how “bad” Villa is,

      he is still defender’s nightmare… IMO… 😀

      you’re not the only one…
      see, I don’t hate Arsenal like I hate EE or the other EE (Inter)…
      but somehow I want to humiliate them… Idk why…

      maybe that’s just TOWANEM (A.K.A. The One We Are Not Even Mentioning!) TRANSFER SAGA effect!
      that’s how Ramzy calls him, TOWANEM…

    4. well, you’re right…
      if Barça fans scare about Walcott and RvP,
      then what about them, with Villa, Messi, and Pedro!! ? 😀

      and I havent mention Xavi and Iniesta… 😉

    5. Between you liking Milan and me liking (when they’re not playing us) Arsenal, I’d say we’re both pretty messed up!

      BTW, Tomorrow my second team is (dare I type a Mouism) dead to me. Tomorrow, I hate the Gunners. Tomorrow, I despise Cesc and co.!

    6. LOL… yes, somo4…

      here’s hoping Barça will save my week….

      If Barça lose too, I will need some medication…

    1. Sure hope the game isn’t ruined by that commentator at FSC that constantly rags on Alves and calls him our weak link!

  13. The ratio of ‘how to beat barcelona’ articles to ‘how to beat arsenal’ articles is approximately 1,00 : 0.5

  14. Wow can’t believe people over at the Arsenal offside are calling Iniesta overrated!!! He would be our deadly little secret 2moro!!!!

    1. If Iniesta is overrated, then their talisman, TOWANEM (A.K.A. The One We Are Not Even Mentioning!) is beyond overrated…

      Let’s show them how “overrated” Barça players are… 😀

    2. Yeah, I saw some of those comments and I just don’t understand why some people think the way they do.

    3. I read the Arsenal Offside comments for the intellectual midgetry.

      -Barca hasn’t had a competitive match in months.
      -We should be able to exploit their weak defense, if we can hold more possession.
      -Iniesta is overrated.
      -Sagna is better than Dani Alves.

      Recall, this is also the blog that complained that the referee was Barca-biased in the second leg last year. You know, the ref that called about the most English game I’ve ever seen called in Europe. Don’t know if it was the same people running the site back then.


    4. To be fair, it looks like it was only a couple of people (I only saw one actually). I sincerely doubt reasonable Gooners think Iniesta is overrated.

      The rest I can believe.

    5. It’s Martin, the main blogger from the Arsenal Offside. Just wanted to say that, while I appreciate every reader we can get, this comment just strikes me as really nasty and mean-spirited.

      As to your specific points:

      –You neglect that I, in my blog post, specifically criticized people who said that Barca’s defense was soft, pointing out that you guys have the best defensive record of any top-level team in Europe.
      –Almost all of us disagree with the assertion that Iniesta is overrated, and I said that if you combined the teams that Iniesta would certainly start ahead of Cesc.
      –I said that I’d prefer Sagna to Alves. I know Alves is a great player, but Sagna has been by some distance the best RB in the Premiership this season, and is a criminally underrated player. But I said that this was certainly debatable, which you left out, I suspect because it made it easier to poke and fun and marginalize.

      I guess overall I just don’t quite understand why you’ve picked our blog, out of all the Arsenal blogs, to brand as some intellectual wasteland. I think Sairax and I run a pretty good ship over there, and most of our commenters are passionate but reasonable — certainly I wouldn’t trade our commenters for the the commenters of any other Arsenal blog. And I went out of my way in my preview of this match to avoid any of the Cesc transfer nonsense (and, in fact, I’ve been blasted by my fellow Gooners all day on Twitter for saying that the campaign to get Arsenal fans to change “Hands off Cesc Fabregas” during the match is stupid and indicative of a small-club mentality, and will detract from what will hopefully be a great game).

      I guess I just find it strange that you would go out of your way to say mean things about our blog, when I think we have gone out of the way to avoid falling into the easy cliches of Arsenal-Barca hostility. And I find it kind of objectionable that you picked a couple of isolated examples out of 100 or so comments and presented them out of context as an example of how anyone who disagrees with you as an intellectual midget.

      Anyway, I’m a fan of this blog and the writers of it, and have been since the offside days. Keep up the good work, and while I obviously hope we win tomorrow, hope it’s a cracking match no matter what.

    6. Well, to clarify Martin, I actually enjoy your blog posts (when I read ’em) and a lot of the commenting. You are not responsible for whatever they say in the comments (a lot of which is quite insightful), but as with any blog you’re gonna get some ridiculousness in the comments. This one included.

      I didn’t mean to make you feel bad about your blog: if it sounds like I am singling out your blog in comparison to other Arsenal blogs, it’s only because yours is the only one I bother to read!

    7. For reference, see the EE offside: excellent content from the bloggers, some good comments, and often enough some ridiculousness (particularly in the run up to Clasicos).

    8. Jose–

      Thanks for the clarification, and sorry if I came off as overly defensive — to me your comment read as if you were painting the blog and its commenters generally as “intellectual midgetry,” and I felt like I needed to defend it.

      And I certainly acknowledge that a fair amount of our comments are ridiculous (especially the ones that call me an idiot, not a real fan, a closeted Spurs fan, etc.), and that’s just, to borrow a line from my favorite television show, “all in the game.”

      Anyway, glad you enjoy the blog when you’ve read it, didn’t mean to come across as attacking you, and certainly no hard feelings on my end. Good luck tomorrow.

    9. “Certainly no hard feelings on my end.”

      None here either!

      As for tomorrow, I will say I hope we get a great match from both sides tomorrow, because those are the only coherent words I will be able to type in the 12 hour run up to the match.


    10. “I guess I just find it strange that you would go out of your way to say mean things about our blog”

      I definitely don’t say anything bad/mean about your blog…
      really, I personally appreciate your blog, even RM The Offside Blog…

      and I know that not EVERYONE in your blog said Iniesta is overrated, etc, etc…
      I know he’s just pointing some comments there from Arsenal fans…

    11. Geez, Martin,
      I just came back from lurking over at your blog. BTW I like Arsenal; they are my second team (just don’t like ’em tomorrow). I was gonna post how good your article was. I think there was just one or two posters that we cules thought were a little over-the top.
      Also, please tell your readers that most of us really don’t want to see your #4 in the blaugrana colors for many more years.

    12. What are you talking about? He obviously mean me–I’ve trolled his blog and spammed them with links.

      A job well done, I say.

    13. Thanks for the kind words.

      The Cesc thing has become harder to kill than Rasputin.

      I think it’s an unfortunate irony that after the events of last summer, when it seemed like it was Barca’s players who wouldn’t let it die, now it’s Arsenal fans who keep bringing it up. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a Barca player (other than the recent Xavi interview) mention it, or seen a legitimate news story linking him to Barcelona, but Arsenal fans won’t let it die. That’s part of the reason why I think it’s so stupid if Arsenal fans sing “Hands off Cesc Fabregas” tomorrow — it’s a huge, exciting match, the kind of match that’s the reason we all became football fans, and instead of singing about our team, we’re singing about a transfer saga?

      I still don’t think the Cesc deal will happen this summer, because, with the exception of Cesc himself and some of the Barca players, I don’t think anyone actually wants it to happen — Arsenal & Barca fans don’t really want it to happen, Arsenal’s management doesn’t want it to happen, and while I realize that from a sociopolitical point of view some of Barca’s management would like it to happen, they don’t want it to happen badly enough to pay what he’ll cost.

      But regardless of what happens this summer, I think almost all of us would prefer to just not talk about it at this point and focus on what will hopefully be a great match tomorrow.

    14. Thanks Martin, and come Sunday, I’ll be back to cheering for Arsenal in the FA cup fixture and certainly against Stoke next Wednesday (curse them for the Ramsey foul!)

    15. Ive read things on different goonblogs like Chesny> Valdes,Nasri= Iniesta. Wilshere slightly behind Xavi(loll) and soon, so yeah…

  15. This is pretty funny:

    Reason why we tied last week – English and Shakira.


    Spanish parts:
    Valdes to Masche: “Tell him to pass me the ball when I’m close by and to not do anything stupid ..and then I ..”
    Valdes to Iniesta: “Man, I have an English that scares me. I don’t know, ever since I started eating at McDonalds, it’s rubbing off on me. That way of speaking.. english… so powerful ”
    Pique to Valdes: “Shakira has a sister that she would like you to meet”

  16. I’m going to say what I said before El Clasico… no matter WHO PLAYS for them, if they don’t get the ball, they won’t score, but we will triumph.

  17. I can believe that Arsenal have the weapons to hurt us, but not the mentality to actually win out especially over two legs. On a personnel level, there are clear weaknesses in what in the center of their defence.

    1. Koscielny has a very similar problem to Vermaelen (who’s a better defender anyway) in that he gets dragged out of position very easily, and also has a propensity to lunge in horribly at times as evidence by his disciplinary record this season.

    2. Djourou is a very good centreback IMO and deserves credit for being the only Arsenal defender in recent memory to contain Drogba consistently, but that owes a lot to his physical attributes. I know that Samuel and Lucio succeeded through old school defending last season, but a) Djourou is nowhere near as well versed in the dark arts and b) he won’t be playing against a static Swedish pylon – he’ll be wondering where Messi is and who that dark haired guy with the dodgy soul patch is in his peripheral vision and that weird balding ghos-you get the picture.

    3) The predicted pivot of Wilshere and Song both have been playing all season in a very ‘loose’ way under instruction from Wenger, taking it in turns to go forward which has allowed the more defensive Song to get a couple of good goals. I am sure Wenger will instruct Song in particular (Wilshere is talented, but v young and better going forward) to be very watchful over that key area of the pitch, but it will be a huge ask. Given that Fabgreas has a very important attacking function and will have to play higher up the pitch, probably also closing down Busquets, I find it hard not to see Wilshere and Song being given the run around by the Xavi-Iniesta-Messi triumvirate. The CMs who have contained us in big games have been tough bastards like Ballack, Cambiasso, Motta, Essien – these 2 are footballers first, jailkeepers second IMO.

    These 3 vulnerabilities will be very hard for Arsenal to overcome, and I think Wenger realises this. He will obviously make minor adjustments, but as we all know Wenger has created a set of principles which he rarely averts from (only exception I can think of is FA Cup ’05 v Man Utd – incidentally the last trophy they won, but also had midfield of Vieira and G. Silva) and I don’t think it is possible for him to instruct his team to do much more than ‘press’. His theory will be to employ the press – which they do well some days (Chelsea) and other days errr not so well (Ipswich 1st leg) – and then really on quick interchanges between Fabregas-Walcott and Van Persie. I think that we are best off with Abidal at CB and Maxwell at LB to cope with this because Abidal can read the game more clearly from CB and Maxwell will naturally be cautious after last year. This also leaves Busi in his best position where he can just screen. With Walcott’s pace there is no guarantee, but this is the best system for me and the most comfortable for the players. As always, in Pep I trust, though!

    The other element with Arsenal is their mental state. This is not a team that yet truly understands how to win the big games – they’ve fared better this season against the big teams than they did the past couple with a win against City (who had a CB sent off after 5 mins) and Chelsea (who were/are just not as good any more), but they still contrive to epically fuck up every few weeks (WBA, Tottenham, Newcastle). So, I guess I am saying that I just don’t think they can be relied upon for 180 mins of football against Barcelona without caving in. One thing in their favour mentally is that the team’s demons v Barca should not be so pronounced – Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Wilshere and RVP were all not present last year, whilst Walcott and Fabregas were two of the more positive stories (‘heroic’ injured penalty and person who sparked comeback). Then again, last year’s lot didn’t have any baggage either and look how much it helped them. :S

    Ramble over. Visca Barca etc…I don’t do predictions, but reckon script will be similar to last year.

    1. Rambles are good, especially when they are informed ones!

      Honestly, I just want the game to start. I have steered clear from the BritPress and any other Arsenal blog (except one, but I’ve been spamming them with linkz. Tee hee) so I don’t explode when I see a comment or article saying “Busi sukz cuz he did teh peak-a-boo. dirty cheat.”, or “With a suspect defense, Arsenal must exploit it at all costs”.

      Wilshere is playing his first CL knockout round. While I don’t think the occasion will get to him, our pressing and intensity certainly might.

    2. Look forward to seeing how Wilshere copes. He’s an interesting player, very combative and an unusually intelligent user of the ball for an Englishman so young. His role will be vital because if Arsenal are to win then it will be up to him to not only keep an eye on Messi, who will occupy his space a lot as Wilshere plays to Arsenal’s left hand side, but also to make the right passes to Cesc + Nasri under extreme pressure. I’ve also seen him play some good diagonals before, and he will obviously be instructed to look for Walcott in behind our LB.

    3. Ok, my last point is a bit contradictory – ignore where I say they fuck up big games, the jury is out on that one still to an extent since like I said moments later, they’ve actually done better this season against big clubs. My main point is that over 180 mins they have meltdowns in them as they demonstrated last season against us and repeatedly this season – sure the problems v Newcastle & Tottenham were a case of taking foot hugely off the pedal, but I always feel Arsenal don’t ‘manage’ games very well.

      Ugh. I’m tired, just let the match start already. I can’t wait, it’s going to be fun to watch.

  18. By the way, here is my favourite moment from the series of Britpress ‘HOW TO BEAT THE BARCA DEVIL’ articles that are doing the rounds. It’s by ex-pro, current-hack Tony Cascarino who somehow writes for The Times, a paper that I actually respect. Here are the opening lines:

    “The weakest part of Barcelona’s team is central defence: Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. So Arsenal must tailor their strategy to exploiting that chink in the armour. That means playing Theo Walcott at centre forward in a 4-5-1.”



      jajajaj, that summarizes it perfectly. While I admit to liking the fact that going up against am English team means there is more coverage on Barca in English sites than usual, it does get absurd how off the mark they can be. Remember how “Abidal is their weakest link”?

    2. The collective lack of dissent against this line of reporting it is maddening. I know they’ve got their cliche ridden ‘WONDER OF BARCA’ backtracking articles ready if Barca win and most don’t have the imagination to do a balanced build up, but just give it a break. Yes – Arsenal have some fantastic players, but can you please stop saying ‘Barcelona might have 7 World Cup Winners and Leo Messi, but Arsenal have Theo Walcott’s pace…’ as if putting a ‘but’ in adds some extra weight to the second point. I am definitely not asking for Barca’s lily to be guilded, God knows the English press make just as clumsy a job of that, I just want bala- oh, ok. Silly me. 🙂

      A few words on the ref from The Times. Arsenal have a poor disciplinary record, so this bodes well for them:

      Nicola Rizzoli, the referee tonight, is referred to in Italy as an “arbitro all’inglese” — an English-style official — because he lets the game flow (Gabriele Marcotti writes). His style is close to what Arsenal see in the Premier League, whereas for Barcelona, who often deal with more officious Spanish referees, it may be more of an adjustment. Rizzoli is seen as a “commonsense” official who manages situations rather than pedantically implementing the letter of the law and is known for his dialogue with players on the pitch. The 40-year-old took charge of the Champions League quarter-final, second leg between Manchester United and Bayern Munich last year, when Sir Alex Ferguson accused him of being intimidated by the German side into sending off Rafael Da Silva.


  19. Well, that was the first time I’ve trolled a place. Even though I was making fun of them, it still feels like my IQ has dropped.

    Need to go read some philosophical Pep quotes. Or a SoMa post.

  20. 5 things I hope happen tomorrow:
    1. Messi shaves
    2. Messi gets a new haircut
    3. The real Barca shows up for the game. The one with the game faces. The one that brings the RPG launcher to the knife fight.
    4. Messi shaves
    5: We see an epic battle from 2 great attacking teams

    Good night y’all, sweet dreams!

    Blau-grana al vent,
    un crit valent,
    tenim un nom, el sap tothom
    Barça! Barça! Baaarça

  21. Kxevin, could you explain the super cheap Delta tickets to Barcelona? I would totally take advantage of that deal, considering I’m going there anyway! Delta’s website has the more normal $800-1000 fare.

  22. If we win by more than 5 goals I will get a David Villa soul patch, a Barca jersey with the number 3 and the name ‘ooooh moc moc’ and change my gravatar to a picture of Villa’s orange striped shoes.

    1. Villa soul patch? new gravatar? and Ooooooohhh moc moc jersey?

      that sounds very tempting, now I want Barça to win by more than 5 goals…

      I blame you for that…

  23. I think that the voting process will be clean since no one will have any benefit from forging it, We changed the constitution so Judges and Ministry of Justice will monitor and moderate the voting process, They were always true and made many sentences against Corrupt people and they said that the voting should be re-done in several states but the former administration ignored them.

    Even The Arabic Media failed us during reporting on this Revolution, We Overshadowed Tunisia but they’re still changing and choosing the cabinet and the new government, They were far more suppressed than us,.

    Muslim Brotherhood are about 1 Million of the 85 Million Egyptian, People usually supported them as a way or a method of opposing the former Administration, They don’t represent the majority as I don’t think they have the popularity to be elected in the presidential race, But they’ll probably be Heavily featured in the parliament (In 2005 They won 88 seats from the 454 seats available.) Since They know that fact their Leader issued a statement saying they won’t run for presidency. People want a President who isn’t a part of any party, A former Politician who has popularity and proved to be good. We have many who Politicians and former Ministers were suppressed or exiled by the former regime.

    It’s not Particularly the Army, It’s the “War Committee” to make it closer, They’re formed of 4 systems, Air force, The Navy, The Minister of Defence (Commander of the Army), and the Land Force ? “I don’t know the English Term”. They’ve issued 5 statements in which they say they’re following the people’s choices, by Removing the current Parliament, Canceling the former constitution among others, The Tahrir Square was evacuated after those statements.

    How Will Things unfold ? No one knows .. But we have 6 months from now till September in which we’ll choose a President, a Parliament, and the Cabinet.

    Thanks Lev again for your kind wishes, If you ever think about coming to Egypt, Just tell me. 😀

  24. YES !!!!

    Google Translator or no Google Translator.
    Van Persie – Priceless !!

    (love u soccermomof4 xxx)

    Thnx to all for the Spanish lessons.

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