We Did This Last Year, Right? – Arsenal-Barça

CL Preview: Arsenal- Barcelona, Wednesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Soccer Channel (HD)

Good day, chaps and chapettes. Top o’ the morning, guvna. And there, right there, I’ve just exhausted my supply of British-isms that might also just be English-isms, but are more than likely neither. For someone who grew up in the cultural shadow of England/Great Britain/The Empire That Was (and if you grew up in an American public school system, denying that your education leaned heavily in that direction is silly), I know surprisingly little about the place.

Facts from a cursory googling: it’s an island, it has people who speak with a wide variety of accents, they invented bridge collapses, and they have a governmental organization devoted to struttin’ your stuff. Unsubstantiated rumors from a cursory look inside my thinkin’ cap: it’s not really an island at all, but an interdimensional portal between earth and a place where people are made entirely of heart and passion. In that gritty other galaxy, they have knees chiseled from intensity and elbows of pure Stoke City on a dark, damp night. It sounds like a lovely place to vacation.

The capital of this enigmatic country is a place called London Town and it is there, where once frolicksome youths played games in the street and Romans conducted three ring acts, that Barça will play tomorrow. It’s a showdown, a grudge match, it’s style vs, well, style. It’s Barça present vs Barça past (and perhaps future), Guardiola vs Wenger, and it’s the United Arab Emirates vs Qatar. Except the blaugrana are overratedfull of themselves, and they’ll be plastered by the English contingent, of which only 2 are actually English. 3 if you include the Welsh. Foppish Arsenal, incapable, week-in, week-out of handling the rigors of the EPL (yet are in 2nd) will destroy the effete, effeminate Barça. We’ll call them Farça and everyone will laugh.

And so it is war. Not one sided, not particularly even. They’re doing well recently except for that second half against Newcastle that probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Diaby’s idiotic reaction to Barton’s tackle. Nasri is back from injury (though perhaps he won’t start), RvP is playing up to potential, and Fabregas is, well, Fabregas. Their offense is probably better than Barça’s back line, but Barça’s offense is capable of pouring on the goals like few other teams in history and Barça’s entire strategy is to keep the ball from Arsenal’s midfield midgets. It’s up to our own little people to wrest control of the match from them and keep the pressure on them throughout the match.

Like I said, though, it’s a goddamn war. Yes, we beat them 6-3 on aggregate last year, but the trip to the Emirates was so full of poopydoody that I’m still miffed and I’m still feeling a bit of bad blood despite Arsenal being the closest approximation of Barça’s style this side of Real Betis. In war there are no prisoners, so I expect—demand, even—that none of our players attempt to capture anyone during the match. Ask no quarter, give none. There will be no monetary exchanges.

The soundtrack to your sleep (and you really should get some because this is the Round of 16, dammit) should be Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet so that you wake up with 310/150 blood pressure and an all-consuming need to break things that are red and white. For breakfast, make sure you eat nothing but hatred and spiders. The former for the game, the latter to kill the butterflies. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll also get spidey powers—remember, he dresses in blaugrana so that everyone knows he’s a good guy. The not as loveable, not as interesting version of him, the Scarlet Spider, dressed in red and white. I’m just sayin’.

Tactics, in two paragraphs:

What happened against Sporting Gijon—not really showing up, being lethargic—is completely unacceptable against Arsenal, not simply because it’s a game we should be up for, but because they’ll cut us to pieces if we give the same sloppy, energy-less performance as at El Molinon. And no rolling on the ground, Busi. None of that assholery, porfis. We don’t need it, don’t want it, and shouldn’t have to worry about you doing it if you keep Bad Busi in check. I hope he was left behind in Barcelona.

But speaking of the gangly one, where will he play? Your guess is as good as mine, but there are basically 2 options worth discussing: either he starts as the DM like usual or he plays CB. The former puts Abidal in the center with Maxwell out wide or Milito in the middle with Abidal out left. The latter puts Abidal out left and Mascherano at DM. I prefer Abidal at center with Maxwell on the left, but I can understand the concern with how well he tracks back (or, rather, doesn’t) and I can also understand wanting to put a second DM at CB such as when Yaya played there. Busi has been perfectly acceptable (neither massively positive nor massively negative) when played at CB, so there’s no reason to think he’ll have a stinker, but he also won’t have a stunner and Abidal’s pace in the center could alleviate some of the danger from RvP, Nasri, and Walcott.

That stuff is something for others to consider, though. Tomorrow (or today for most of you) is about fighting fire with fire and hating on some jolly chaps and whatnot. But don’t forget to cheer because it’s not all venom, death, and dragons fighting g-g-g-ghost pirates who have with lightsabers for arms. And legs. Though that is awesome. And totally plausible.

Official Prediction: 1-3. I think we take it to them and convert some chances through Messi (2) and Villa. Then we get hit on the counter cause we’re chumps like that sometimes. Should be a good one, especially if Arsenal come out to play.

Other prediction: I can’t watch this match live, so I’m going to have a panic attack somewhere around 2:46pmEST and I’m going to run screaming out of my office and waving a Barcelona flag I’ve cobbled together using printed out sections of a blown up logo.

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. jaymin
    February 15, 2011

    Let’s endeavor to hope there’s no hatching nastiness should Cesc’s leg be broken.

  2. momo
    February 15, 2011

    Line up prediction:
    score prediction: 4-1

    Mark my words…

    • Benj
      February 15, 2011

      Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, no Masch at CB!!!!

      If his time at Liverpool is anything to go by (the only other team that I watch religiously), he was rrrrrrrubbish at CB.

      I’d rather putting either Milito at Centreback for a bit of experience or Abidal with Maxwell at LB, just making sure that Busi plays close to the back 4, so when Walcott strips Max, Abi is there to mop up with Busi helping in the centre.

      Or something like that…

      • momo
        February 16, 2011

        Can’t say much to that since you’ve seen him play there before at liverpool. On paper at least he seems to possess all the qualities to play CB in this current barca side (Pace, last ditch tackle, passing ability).
        You’re probably right though in that Pep will go with the predicted Abi CB and Max LB.

        • Benj
          February 16, 2011

          The thing that scares me, Momo, is his tendancy to make very rash challenges in and around the box (took lessons from Jamie Carragher).

          He is also prone to getting alot of handball calls against him, a la Carragher aswell.

          It would be freaking typical if he played at CB and we lost or didnt get the result we wanted due to a free kick/penalty from a Masch challenge.

          Having said that, I love the guy.

    • February 15, 2011

      I see Guardiola trusting Maxwell, he did last time too, Abidal will be CB.

    • Whatever
      February 16, 2011

      Can’t wait until tonight!

      Guardiola has prepared something special, probably. He didn’t want to train at the Emirates; instead, he’s training the team at Queens Park Rangers’ stadium.

      I don’t think Mascherano will play CB. I think Guardiola would prefer Busquets there. However, I don’t think either of those will happen. My line-up prediction:

      Alves – Pique – Abidal – Maxwell
      Xavi – Busquets – Iniesta
      Pedro – Messi – Villa

      The best we have at the moment.

  3. February 15, 2011

    No Milito, Maxwell – Abidal – Pique – Alves will be the lineup. Abidal is a monster !! and IF (and thats a big if) Walcott runs past Maxwell, Abidal will be there to the rescue, and Busquets to Abidal’s rescue, that is the Barça way.
    I’m thrilled !! hope to see a good clean match (not like that death-fight that Spurs vs Milan put on) if we do win, hope the gooners stop with the “Cesc is ours” crap.. cause whether some of us Cules (myself included) don’t want him, we know he’s coming back, he just is.
    Prediction 0-2. We bring it home.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      February 16, 2011

      that’s exactly my prediction…

      Maxwell – Abidal – Pique – Alves…

      last Pique’s performance was horror,
      but I think he really mis Puyol/Abidal… I agree with Ade in Barca The Offside about Pique,

      “The responsibility of babysitting Milito, covering for Alves and marshalling the back four was still too much for him; he is in no way ready to stp into Puyol’s shoes yet.”

      Milito – Pique pair is just horror to me…

      about Cesc, I heard the gooners will sing a song about him, huh…
      “Hands Off, Cesc Fabregas!”

      whatever, most of our players dont understand English, anyway… ha! 😀

    • I would still prefer Milito. Remember we may have four defenders as the line-up suggest, but most of the time Alves is going to be playing further up front. Now that means we will have three defenders present. Walcott will beat Maxwell easily and once that happen don’t expect Abidal to cover that, because he has to cover Van persie in the centre. Abidal’s pace, experience and form could be useful to negate any attack from the left.

  4. February 15, 2011

    I’m just going to post this last thing before I call it a night, so everyone can read it ahead of time:

    I am running the LiveBlog. If you want to join, please come before the game starts not when the game starts (that’s BEFORE 2:45pm EST). I will be watching this game as well and as such will not approve you right away. When I do, it’ll probably be when there is a lull in the game, or at halftime.

    It’ll start 10-20 minutes early so people can get themselves settled.

    Sorry if it puts a wrench in your plans, but I’ve very bad at multi-tasking and LiveBlogs really distract me from the game. I’ll try to stay vigilant as I can, but this game will probably be take all of my attention away.

    • mei
      February 16, 2011

      bad at multitasking?
      What kind of a woman are you ? 😛

  5. tutomate
    February 15, 2011

    New rule: From here on forward the word “suspect” is BANNED from use in anything pertaining to football.

    Anyway great preview Isaiah you were able to hype up a game that needed to hyping up. i just hope our defense is not suspect…… damn.

  6. Jose
    February 15, 2011

    I’ll say… 1-1. We’ll score an away goal and not concede more than we score. Anything else is cheddar.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      February 16, 2011

      a draw 1-1 or 2-2 will be fine to me…
      and then get it done in Camp Nou…

      though I’m praying for a win in Emirates, of course…

  7. BarcaGirl_Indo
    February 16, 2011

    “And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll also get spidey powers—remember, he dresses in blaugrana so that everyone knows he’s a good guy.”

    OMG… LOL… 😀

  8. outerspacedout
    February 16, 2011

    The hours leading up to the game and the pre-match should HAVE to be to the background music of Requiem for a Tower. To capture the epicness.

    HAVE TO.

    • beeeef
      February 16, 2011

      I believe Arsenal have also never lost a UCL match at home to opposition outside of England.

      I expect that record to be broken tomorrow however.

    • ooga aga
      February 16, 2011

      “Guardiola has never won an away leg of a UCL two-legged tie.”

      the only explanation is that he did this on purpose

    • outerspacedout
      February 16, 2011

      But we have gone medieval in each of the home legs almost every time we played, especially when the first leg was away. 1-1 Lyon, 5-2 at home in R16 08/09. 1-1 Bayern, 4-0 at home in QF 08/09. 1-1 Stuttgart, 4-0 at home in R16 09/10. 2-2 Arsenal, 4-1 at home in QF 09/10.

      The exceptions are Chelsea where we played the second leg away and not the first, and Inter where we lost the away leg and still won 1-0 at home.

      Our home record in CL knockouts under Pep is 5 wins 1 draw, combined score 17-3. On the other hand our away record is 5 draws 1 loss. And we’ve never won by less than three goals on aggregate under Pep in every knockout round until the semis. 4 goal difference for Bayern and Stuttgart, 3 goal difference for Arsenal and Lyon. Arsenal’s 4-1 loss was actually the BEST result by any team at the Nou Camp in pre-semi knockouts under Pep.

  9. blaunero
    February 16, 2011

    This has draw written all over it, and anyway Guardiola hardly ever wins his away matches in the CL. (In fact he has won no away matches in the knockout rounds; but he has lost only one too.) We have to stay humble and not take Arsenal for granted. They can hurt us, and badly too. Besides, the month of February is where Guardiola wins the fewest games.

  10. Extreme barca fan
    February 16, 2011

    Nice review Isiah
    I dont like predicting line-ups, but its beyond me why are there talks of Mascherano playing at CB, Milito had a terrible match against betis, so what?, my main concern at CB is Pique, he is having a terrible season (by his standards).
    So i dont see Smasch playing at CB, i also think he will be terrible there (As Benj mentioned above, he was terrible at that position), my favourite defensive line would be Alves-Pique-Milito-Abidal, with abidal coming across the area to help defend when needed.
    Score prediction: other than a fluke or something extremely strange happening, we will be able to win, i’m going for a 1-3 score
    Good news: Muniesa renewed untill 2012, good boy

  11. outerspacedout
    February 16, 2011


    Not counting cup games where Barcelona had won the first tie by a huge margin (Krakow, Betis) or CL/league games after they had already qualified or won the league (Osasuna, Mallorca, Shakhtar), Barca have only lost NINE games where the result had ANY possible weight in two and a half seasons in all competitions.

    Numancia (league), Espanyol (league), Atletico x2 (league), Sevilla x2 (Copa and Supercup first leg), Inter (CL), Hercules (league), Rubin Kazan (CL groups).

    And I don’t think ANY club has a winning record against us in total in the Pep era, or even a tied record. Kazan drew us twice, won 2-1 and lost 2-0, Inter beat us 3-1, drew 0-0 and lost 2-0 and 1-0, Atletico got thrashed in the Camp Nou every season they beat us at the Calderon, Hercules lost at their stadium 3-0. Does anyone know ANY team that doesn’t have a losing record in total to us in the Pep era?

  12. Eklavya
    February 16, 2011

    There are many options for our defense tonight.

    Here are the most likely lineups:




    There are problems with all of them.

    1) Milito isn’t on form
    2) Abidal playing CB, means Maxwell will have to handle Walcott
    3) Busquets as CB, means Mascherano will be in the midfield

    Here are so other possible formations (which less likely):




    Pros and cons:

    4) Mascherano hasn’t played at CB for us ever.

    5) Alves plays on the left to contain Walcott. But then we lose him on the right side. Messi plays centrally so with Maxwell will have any width?

    6) Adriano is very fast, and “theoretically” should be able to contain Walcott. But we all know his defense isn’t great so he probably won’t start.

    Personally, the one I like and is with playing CB and Mascherano playing DM. Essentially, Busi CB > Mascherano CB. Busquets playing faster and Mascherano and is also taller. We could instead use Masch in the midfield to keep out Cesc, Wishlere and co.

    Last year, we played both the matches without Iniesta – with Keita taking his place. Anyone think we could see Keita as DM?


    This lineup is unlikely…

    I think Pep is going to start the lineup with Abidal as CB and Maxwell and LB. Maxwell got roasted in the 1st leg but did great in the 2nd leg (he came on for Abidal early in the first half) using only positioning. Besides, it’s not like Walcott will only be coming towards Maxwell. If Abidal starts anywhere – which he will – we have a good cover.

    • Whatever
      February 16, 2011

      Alves – Pique – Abidal – Maxwell

      This is what Guardiola is rolling out with.

  13. Eklavya
    February 16, 2011

    *Personally, the one I like is with Busquets playing CB and Masch playing DM.

    God, this is so annoying!

  14. Eklavya
    February 16, 2011

    **Busquets plays faster and is also taller than Mascherano.

    • soccermomof4
      February 16, 2011

      Don’t make me throw my laptop against the wall again!


      Have a nice day, Dear.

  15. Diego
    February 16, 2011

    My Reply to you is in the bottom of the last page if you want to read it 🙂

      • Diego
        February 16, 2011

        Sorry I missed your reply but Lev said @Diego, that caught my attention 😀

        Thank you outerspacedout, We’re hoping things get better and we’re working on it, we started cleaning the streets among others, People are still doubting but we’re hoping it’s a new better era.

        I heard you were rocking this blog during my days of absence, Keep on rocking 😀

        What’s your avatar ? a guy in front of a train with 2 guys on the side ?

  16. Diego
    February 16, 2011

    My Squad you ask ?

    Alves Pique Abidal Abidal

    That’s the best option there is, Abidal can mark RvP and with his pace Walcott will suffer.

    • Para
      February 16, 2011

      I’m only half-way through the article, to be fair, but I find it interesting that after the clasico ZM said that Guardiola rarely makes tactical ‘changes’ so to speak because barcelona always play the same way…and in this article (so far at least) he lauds guardiola’s tactical changes.

  17. Ian
    February 16, 2011

    Too many people are looking for wrongs and fussing about how Arsenal will be able to beat Barcelona, but nothing the other way around. Maybe because the thought of Barcelona losing is so strange and unusual that it fascinates everybody, especially the skeptics. 0_o lol

    • soccermomof4
      February 16, 2011

      Not sure I saw anything nasty in that article.

      • Extreme barca fan
        February 16, 2011

        According to BS.com he is saying we snatched Messi just as he sntached Fabregas, which isn’t true.

        • soccermomof4
          February 16, 2011

          The Messi thing is different. We took a chance on him and paid medical bills that his home club was unwilling to pay. Other than that, yes, they all do it. That is they all look for and recruit talent locally and abroad. What was fishy about the Fabregas thing (and Mocmoc to ManU as well) was that it was done in a more underhanded way (contracts and pre-professional contracts differing between UK and Esp.) and the fact that they were “stolen” after years of FCB investment. Personally, and I don’t think it’s just the rose-colored standard cule issue glasses that I wear, I think we do it more ethically.

  18. blitzen
    February 16, 2011

    Now who’s tapping up Cesc? 😛


    Since I feel like utter crap today, it looks like I might make the liveblog after all. I’m going into work for an important meeting, but I doubt if I will stay. So, YAY I get to watch the game live! I won’t be drinking any manitas though.*

    *Of which I have completed the recipe and taken a lovely craptastic photo.

    • soccermomof4
      February 16, 2011

      Feel better! 🙁 Good timing to get sick, though 😀

      • Vj
        February 16, 2011

        I take it a lot of people are on the edge here..

    • outerspacedout
      February 16, 2011

      heh. I got sick the day of the clasico and had to skip work. Think it was partly cos i wanted to get sick so i wouldn’t miss the game, as in i was feeling a little sick but not sick enough to normally miss work. I delighted in that match and then a day after that i got actually sick and couldn’t go to work the next two days.

    • soccermomof4
      February 16, 2011

      Glad your not drinking manitas while sick. A friend I grew up with died at age 30. She drank beer after taking acetaminophen for a headache and died from liver failure.

      • blitzen
        February 16, 2011

        That is why I don’t take acetaminophen, it is terrible for your liver.

  19. soccermomof4
    February 16, 2011

    ohnmygoshohmygoshohmygosh it’s Wednesday! Thankfully, I’m really busy so maybe the time will fly. Past caring about lineups (in Pep I trust(but so help me if I see Mocmoc and Milito together….)) and if I hear about the one we’re not to mention again I think I’ll barf. Let’s do this thing!

  20. Lev
    February 16, 2011

    @diego just read your reply – thnx! To be honest I had not followed the situation the last two days or so, but what you wrote gives hope. For the sake of all the others here I will refrain from indulging further into socio-political comments though (y’all know me, I can go on and on about non football stuff)

    As for Wenger he should not talk about Barça doing the same as Arsenal with regards to Messi. Nobody in Argentina wanted to take the risk to give the boy the medical treatment he needed. Arsenal and the other EPL clubs systematically raid the academies of Spanish, French and Dutch clubs, which, especially in case of smaller countries, further erodes the chance of those clubs to compete in Europe. It is disgusting, and to compare it to Barça of which the majority of players are Catalan or/and Spanish is misleading.

    I was very confident we would win today, but the closer we get to game time, the more my nerves are making their play. I think we will draw or might even lose. yikes.

    • Jose
      February 16, 2011

      “Arsenal and the other EPL clubs systematically raid the academies of Spanish, French and Dutch clubs”

      Systematically is the key word here. Totally agree with you.

      Besides, whenever somebody defends their actions by saying nothing illegal was done, that almost always means something morally dubious was done.

      For another day, though.

      • Extreme barca fan
        February 16, 2011

        Thats why i said he can put his team up his Aresenal.
        now there is one thing and one thing only i like about Arsenal: they never beat us. LOL

  21. G7
    February 16, 2011

    YES !!!!

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

    (love u soccermomof4 xxx)

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