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 overrated, full 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.