Arsenal 2, Barcelona 1, aka “Maybe now people will take things seriously”

Well, there aren’t going to be any pictures because of the ongoing server complexities, which is just as well. I am absolutely disgusted with our club right now. Did we deserve this loss? It depends on who you ask. Barca fans will say that it could easily have been 4-0 going into the half, and the tie would have effectively been over. They will also say that Messi’s goal was unjustly disallowed. Whatever. Fact of the matter is that we had chance after chance to win this tie today, to make it all effectively academic.

But that didn’t happen for so many reasons, most notably because not everyone came to play tonight — three of the club’s most rock-solid, reliable players, let the side down. Then Guardiola made wrong-headed substitutions, underestimating an Arsenal side that some might have thought was punching against its weight, but they have been playing like that all season. And we didn’t just lose, we got whipped by and at our own game.

I know, I know, possession, passing, stats, whatever. Fact of the matter is that once again, the other club wanted it more than we did, and that disgusts me. As Guardiola has said time and again, we’re terrible without the ball. And almost every time we gave it to Arsenal, they did something with it. We faced a mirror image in a club that likes to press the ball, wants possession, plays a high line and is deadly off the break. And in the first part of the first half, they were all over us. Walcott was marauding up the left side, owning Maxwell in a way that many predicted, they were passing into space, pressing the ball, regaining possession and steaming off on the attack. You’d almost think they played like us, or something, but that can’t be, because all of the world’s press say that we have a patent on that kind of football. Perhaps we can sue Arsenal, to have the match results overturned for patent infringement.

Or perhaps not. Now, you’d think their assault would have sharpened our wits, and made us more ready to play. But you knew what kind of day it was going to be when Villa threaded a perfect through ball for Messi, who took, controlled, and flat-out missed a scoring chance that he usually turns in his sleep, a shot that drifted wide of the far post. The keeper did it all right, but Messi had him dead to rights. The best player in the world is supposed to turn those chances into goals. He just is.

On the up side, we got control of the match in a way that, if our attack wasn’t on vacation, would have had this match sewn up by the half. It was a beautiful display of possession, passing and movement as we pressed Arsenal into possession mistake after mistake. Maxwell put on his big boy bloomers and regained control of his side of the pitch, and we sprang into life. You could see that the machine was hitching and sputtering, but all it took was one pass, one shot, and Villa did the trick. If big players show up for big matches, Villa was Gulliver today, exploding into being right as I jotted in my notes, “Where the hell is Villa?” Oh. Never mind.

This was war in the midfield and on the flanks, a war that tilted back and forth in pitched battle. Maxwell got the better, then the worse of Walcott. Alves had acres of space, creating danger that only lacked willing players charging the Arsenal box. Think of the time and time again that Xavi, or Busquets, or Iniesta had to hold the ball because of a lack of attacking movement, then ask yourself how much this club wanted this tie. Then ask yourself how much Arsenal wanted it.

A great team isn’t great until it is defined by silver. Guardiola rolled out with his best available lineup, Valdes, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro (who loses his exclamation points) and Villa. It was a lineup that is usually good enough to beat most clubs in the world, and we were creating chances with abandon, chances that were left begging, mostly by an uncharacteristically dull Pedro.

Thankfully, Villa came to life with aggression and movement, tracking back on defense, anticipating free kicks to win back a header, and a goal that is typically Villa. Messi made a run at the defense, and six Arsenal players gave him their undivided attention, allowing Villa to break into space with a perfectly timed run and clinical finish. It was 0-1, and then we started squandering chances, acting as if Arsenal were Almeria or Racing, batting the ball around and playing like Barca.

But this was Arsenal, a team that, as I noted the other day, has so much to prove: that last year was a fluke, that Fabregas made the right decision by staying, that they are every bit as good a footballing side as we are. And on this day, they were absolutely right, finishing with the clinical quality that this stage and this tournament demanded. Hats off to them. And you know what else Arsenal did? Played like us in that they let us run ourselves down. We’ve all seen it before because we’ve done it, as an opponent nicks a goal, then starts pressing like crazy for the second one, and we just absorb the pressure with strong defensive plays and last-ditch defending. And when they’re good and tired, we put the knife in with late goals.

Ah, their goals. Both came off the break, and both were evidence of my aforementioned Alves Complexity. If your attacking right back gets caught up the pitch against a fast team, you’re probably going to be screwed. It happened against Gijon, and it happened here. Even worse, they were goals that came because once our best offensive player went off the pitch, Arsenal looked at an attack of The Three Ineffectives, and decided “Hell, they sure aren’t going to score. Let’s press harder.”

The first conceded goal was a comedy of lackadaisicalness, as Alves didn’t shut down Arshavin, then Clichy was allowed an uncontested pass to Van Persie who left Pique stuck in concrete, then beat Valdes to the near side in a goal that should never have happened. The keeper is supposed to be the last line of defense, to make things as difficult as possible for the attacker. Valdes gave Van Persie a hole, and he stuck the ball through it. Simple. What the hell he was thinking, I leave to greater minds than mine. Because Goalkeeping 101 is cover the near post. If he can curl a ball around you into the far corner, rock on. Hell of a goal. Valdes’ blunder was a killer, because it gave Arsenal hope, and seemed to take some juice out of our legs.

Their second goal was an almost complete breakdown that all began when Messi gave the ball away, and Arsenal sprung into action with an attack that flowed through the midfield, unimpeded directly into our box, where Fabregas found Arshavin with a pass that he spanked past a flat-footed Valdes. It became a comedy of errors when precious few people did what they were supposed to:

–Messi stood there and let them pass the ball around him.
–Where was Alves?
–Iniesta stopped in the box, instead of running to press.
–Xavi did a half-hearted lunge at the ball.
–Maxwell was done for pace, leading to a wide-open pass for Arshavin.
–Keita went out for coffee.
–Abidal got screwed because Pique didn’t seem to know what to do, so he drifted over to cover Van Persie, while Pique screened Valdes.
–Abidal guessed right, moved to Arshavin, then turned his body to the side, instead of facing the shot to block it.
–Pique decides that he needs to screen his keeper.
–Valdes decides that “Hey, I know that Pique will be there to block a shot, but I don’t believe it, so I’m going to drift right along with him.” So he was caught flat-footed when Arshavin hit the curled ball into the space just vacated by Valdes.

Team goal. Worse, it was the kind of team goal that we aren’t supposed to concede, because we are supposed to make the hustle plays, no matter what point in the match it is.

Shameful. Yes, they played an excellent match, never-say-die in their house. And we kept being surprised that they kept springing back to life, until it finally bit us in our smug, exhausted asses. We missed Puyol today, for so many reasons, not least of which is that he would have made the right decisions on both goals, and maybe, just maybe, have buttressed a flagging team with his indomitable fire.

Team: 5. Solid display that all fell apart at the end, thanks to young legs. We were tired and looked it, but things shouldn’t have gotten to that point. This is why you finish your chances. We were sharp in that first half, when we had the chance to end the tie. Then the second was a disaster.

Guardiola: 2. Outcoached. Villa looked fit and fine. More importantly, he was our best offensive player. To pull him for Keita struck me as absurd. But I’m sitting on a sofa throwing things at the wall, instead of coaching the best football club in the world. So what do I know, except when do we ever play not to lose? By putting in Keita, that looked to be the decision. Would Afellay and Mascherano have been better subsitutions? The former would have kept the offensive pressure on, and the latter would have been a midfield lion. But usually, so is Keita, right?

Valdes: 2. You made the simple stops, but when the club needed you to step up, it was two significant failures. Bad distribution also, and an unusually high number of balls that were just hoofed up the pitch. Was Valdes feeling the Arsenal pressure?

Alves: 4. Strong on the attack, but a right back also needs to be a defender. Our right side was Highway 101 to Arsenal, as both of their goals flowed through the acres of vacated space there. I’m also not a big fan of his uncertainty in the box. At some point, he needs to shoot the damned ball.

Pique: 5. Some excellent last-ditch defending, strong play and he won almost every header that came near him. Is it his fault that he’s slow? No. Blame genetics. But Van Persie owned him on the first goal, and he just stood there on the second. Center backs can’t be indecisive. Do something. With Puyol, we probably win 1-0.

Abidal: 8. He came to play today, and is my Man of the Match, with intervention after intervention after intervention, on both sidelines and in the center. He even started yelling at his fellow defenders, trying to impress upon them the urgency of the situation. But if you’re going to block the shot, block the shot. Don’t turn your body sideways. Take notes from Arsenal’s defenders.

Maxwell: 5. Not as bad as some might be alleging right now. Yes, Walcott was putting the wood to him early, on both ends of the pitch, then Maxwell came into his own, battling Walcott to a draw and even taking advantage of his slack positioning to go on the attack.

Busquets: 7. Omnipresent, and worked like a dog in trying to be a DM and deputize for a slack Iniesta, who was on walkabout for this one. So smart on and off the ball, but victimized by too much space for him to cover all by his lonesome.

Xavi: 6. Was getting the better of things, but again as at Gijon, hampered by a lack of movement from too many of his attackers. Xavi will kill you when you give him time on the ball, unless the attackers just stand there. Then he can be pressured, and that leads to back passes.

Iniesta: 3. We still haven’t had Iniesta against Arsenal. After a very bright start, his influence on the match was nil. His runs free up space for the other attackers, and work with Xavi to retain possession. But he was completely invisible for too much of the time.

Messi: 1. My nadir in a litany of horrors today, as he constantly made runs at multiple Arsenal defenders, displayed terrible touch and played a match that was so far below par, I was thinking “Maybe he’s sick, or injured.” Yes, lovely pass to Villa for the goal. The end.

Pedro: 1. Too cute with two finishes, one a side footer that was smothered, the other right into the keeper’s belly because he was uncharacteristically slow on the draw. And he returned to Headless Chicken mode. Terrible performance.

Villa: 7. After a sleepy beginning, he stormed into life. Brilliant movement that made the goal easy, and what a finish. He tracked back on defense, pressed and made life generally difficult for Arsenal attackers and defenders. So when he shows up, nobody else does?

Substitutes

Keita (for Villa): 2. Usually, he’s in the right place at the right time. But like almost everyone else, he was way off today. And where’s the athleticism that holds down the fort in the midfield? That’s why Guardiola put you in, to be the Malian Menace. So what happened?

Adriano (for Iniesta): incomplete. Not enough time, though he certainly had a hand in the goal, as did the entire side.

And now that I have done my job as a reviewer of this match, it’s time for the fan to weigh in. We nabbed a crucial away goal. If we win 1-0 at home, or any combo platter that has us a goal ahead, we go through to the next round, and will be looking back at this match as a bump in the road to potential silver. Arsenal won’t park the bus, which will work in our favor. Messi can’t be as bad as he was today. Neither can Iniesta.

Now, we don’t get much of a break running into the return leg which is, thankfully, at home. We’re away to Mallorca on 26 Feb., then away to Valencia on 2 March. We’re home to Zaragoza on 6 March, then Arsenal on the 8th. This is a savage stretch that begins with Bilbao this weekend, a 5-match stretch that could see us falter in the Liga and get bounced from the Champions League.

The cule in me says that neither one will happen. We don’t need a remuntada against Arsenal as much as a return of even a semblance of our form. I am confident that this will happen. Visca Barca!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:

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

330 Comments

  1. February 17, 2011

    here’s an interview w/former arsenal player ghanaian quincy owusu-abeyie who’s plying his trade @malaga, currently.

    http://www.football365.com/spanish_thing/0,17033,9405,00.html

    “What about your tip for the Champions League? Anyone other than Barça?
    You’ve got to go for Barça. The football they play is just unbelievable. What’s so funny is that when you are standing in the tunnel and you look at the Barça players, it doesn’t look like a team that’s going to tear you apart. Xavi, Iniesta are not big players, although they’re not exactly skinny. But when you go out onto the pitch you think ‘what’s happening?’, they’re moving the ball around like you’re not there. The only big players are Piqué and Abidal. The rest of them are five foot something. It’s unbelievable the way they move the ball around, unbelievable.”

  2. PhepheSa
    February 17, 2011

    One thing that made me happy was how gracious the team was in defeat. Didn’t blame the ref or anything else but themselves. The press tried to bring up the disallowed goal, handballs and all that but the team responded well to the questions.

  3. tutomate
    February 17, 2011

    So I wanted to say a few things.

    First: I’m gutted! I don’t know why, it was loss to a strong team who played very well and though we could have won if not for some bad calls (Messi’s goal) and some sad performances (Iniesta,Messi,Pep) It still feels rather shameful. I know we were tired but Arsenal showed a lot more heart in the game. Like Kxevin said about the Gijon match “They just wanted it more”.

    Second: It is nice to see so many new additions to the BFB family after a disappointing loss. It really speaks to the quality of this here home of ours.

    Third: @Bassam-Eres un crack. Your comment truely almost made me cry in public ( like I said I’m gutted ). Also thankful for the gracious Arsenal fans that have spoken here.

    Fourth: I am confident that this tie is not over we HAVE to win at home and i expect Pep to prepare everyone including himself. By the way Pep’s decision to sub Villa for Keita was cowardly.

    • February 17, 2011

      Third: @Bassam-Eres un crack.

      But of course, tutomate! We only associate with cool villains 😉

      Seriously though, he’s always been —checks thesaurus– has mucho panache. Same with all the Arsenal fans that have come here.

      • February 17, 2011

        Must. Stop. Commenting. From. Phone.

        You get the gist of what I’m saying though. I AM PRAISING PEOPLE.

  4. cliu
    February 17, 2011

    OK, I’ve gotten over my disappointment. Thank you BFB. Although the team should have wrapped this up yesterday, it aint over til it’s over and who said CL was easy? We’ve gotten spoiled all of us look to the team for uplift. It IS great to see so muh support for such an amazing team.

    • February 17, 2011

      oh, i get it.

      “The worst part is that the tools the ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act’ would give the Dept of Justice to fight the problem are fairly heavy handed. Now it’s always been able to lock and suspend domestic websites, but now it would be able to go after foreign websites in order to ‘prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities if…(it) harms intellectual property rights holders that are residents of the United States.’”

      -what, i live in china now? this has got to be appealed sooner or later.

  5. February 17, 2011

    Whoa! Deep breath, everyone …. WHEW!

    Okay. Good.

    To clear up a couple of things, as noted above, I am and was disgusted with the team yesterday. It didn’t do what it needed to do. That in no way, shape or form indicates anything other than my stance as a reviewer. Those of you with tenure from The Offside days, and the silverless seasons, will remember that I was always the last one to admit defeat, until it was mathematically impossible. I love and believe in this club.

    Which isn’t to say that they can’t be called out.

    As someone noted above and I fully agree with, I would have pulled Messi instead of Villa. As a hustle and talent player, Messi needs both to be fully effective. My double sub would have been Afellay (for Iniesta) and Mascherano (for Messi), to load up the midfield with talent and pace.

    But neither one is fully trusted by Guardiola yet. Wenger knew that the first sub would be Keita, because it kinda usually is. But this wasn’t a match for Keita. This was a match for younger, more dynamic legs, as Arsenal showed.

    Now it’s done. We know that Puyol will be back for the return leg, which is good, because Pique will be suspended. This will give Guardiola another selection headache of whether to return Abidal to left back with the all-hair central pairing of Puyol/Milito, or try something bold with Mascherano at CB (something I like a lot).

    Our club hardly ever loses. But it’s madness to expect it to win all the time, just as it’s madness to think that the sky is falling whenever it doesn’t lay a manita on an opponent. Arsenal played an excellent match, and Arshavin coming off the bench is quite a luxury. We don’t have a similar luxury.

    Imagine what a Krkic who is playing up to his place in the side does for Guardiola. You can sub Villa or Messi with another viable offensive threat. But right now, he’s terrible, and would have wilted in the cauldron of that match. So until Mascherano and Afellay win the full confidence of Guardiola, Keita is it.

    And the reality is, as I note above, all we have to do is win at home. I’m not sure why members of the BritPress and many Arsenal supporters are acting as if the tie is already won. Last I checked, we nicked an away goal, and left four chances right on their doorstep, begging. I wouldn’t be willing to place any money on the odds that Iniesta, Pedro and Messi will all be bad at the same time again.

    I’m full of confidence for the return leg, but I’m always full of confidence in this club, and the fan in me always will be, even when the evaluator in me has to utter unflattering words.

    • Helge
      February 17, 2011

      No, a win at home is not all we have to do. We have to win with 2 or more goals advantage, unless we play 1-0 (which is VERY unlikely, because Arsenal will score). The danger is that any +1 goal win with Arsenal scoring does not qualify us for the quarterfinals…

      We better score within the first 15 min, and we better score before Arsenal does. Otherwise, it will get tricky.

      • February 17, 2011

        I don’t understand why you’re so confident that Arsenal will score. Even at home, it took a ridiculous Valdes error and a complete defensive breakdown for them to score against an exhausted team. Full credit to them for the goals but our defense and keeper, on form, don’t concede. Yesterday.

        Midfield control is the key to our keeping a clean sheet. We didn’t have that yesterday because of fatigue and smart substitutions by Wenger, which allowed the Arsenal attack to get at our back line. I don’t expect the same mistakes twice.

  6. Crimguy
    February 17, 2011

    Hi – first post and an admitted arsenal fan. I think you’re all being a bit too hard on your team and not hard enough on Guardiola. His substitution of Villa was about as bad a decision as one could make, unless he had picked up a knock or something. I think your player ratings are likewise unfair. Arsenal are not as good a side as Barca, but they’re not some 2nd league team either, and when they’ve brought their A game they will compete with anyone in the world. The only proven way to stifle Arsenal is to park 10 of your men in the box (sound familiar?) unless . . . you’re a gifted attacking team like Man U or Barcelona. I saw a side that, once they went up 1-0, played more to protect their lead than to take it to the opposition.

    Arsenal, on the other hand, made some adventurous (reckless?) changes in the 2nd half, including bringing off Song and Walcott, the one player who was in a position to exploit the only weakness in the squad, i.e. left back. They brought on two attacking players in Arshavin, who is getting his Euro 2008 form back, and Bendtner, who has a lot to prove to Wenger, who is shuffling van Persie and Chamakh around the striker position. And it worked. Arsenal did not stop trying and I think they have learned a couple things about their game since last year.

    Arsenal has had more than its’ share of meltdowns in the final minutes (Sp*rs last year, Newcastle last week), but one thing I’ll credit Wenger with is that he believes Arsenal’s best chances to win are to continue to press their opponent and get an insurance goal. From what I’ve seen of Barcelona, they pretty much do the same.

    OK, Messi missed one he normally gets with his shoes tied together, and a disallowed goal of his was clearly onside. But you can’t fault him for Arsenal clogging up his lanes with 4 players and, in my opinion, taking Barca off their game a bit. The only player I saw that had a truly off day was Iniesta, but it’s not like we had a string of 9’s on our performance scale. I thought Fabregas had an off day too, and Eboue was tragic in many respects. Song was sloppy and it’s a miracle he didn’t get sent off at one point.

    I can understand why Valdes thought v.Persie was going to cross, but there’s still no excuse for his shoulder not being pressed against the post when the shot came in. Arshavin’s goal was actually typical Arsenal and you can’t blame Valdes for that one. The rest of the defense went to sleep for a bit though. . .

    Guardiola should have adjusted his strategy a bit, and never should have let up the pressure in the final 30 minutes. I’m pretty certain you would have won this one handily if he let Villa stay the course and kept the tempo up. I’m also fairly certain your team’s blood is up and the first 10-20 minutes of the 2nd leg are going to be brutal on Arsenal’s back 4.

    You’re capable of another 4-1, but this is not the gutted side you faced 12 months ago, and they can surprise anyone at times.

    • February 17, 2011

      When I evaluate players, it’s taking into account the match, as well as their personal standard. And it’s clear that they were off. WAY off. Yes, Arsenal deserve credit for the effort and never say die attitude. But if our players weren’t as off as bloomers on a burlesque stage, Pedro has a brace by the half, Messi has a goal and Villa is just icing on the cake.

      But that didn’t happen, because they didn’t perform up to any acceptable standard. It happens. February is always a cruel month for us. Both sides had players with off matches, and I still don’t know why Song was still on the pitch, except that the ref didn’t want to affect the match in that way.

      High standards mean high expectations. The return leg is going to be amazing, and if I weren’t going to be on vacation, pedaling my bicycle up hill and dale in California, I’d be sitting on the Lateral side in the Camp Nou, on those rock-hard seats over there, basking in the cigar smoke of the know-it-all Catalan Man while screaming my fool head off. Instead, I’ll be at Kezar’s Pub in Haight-Ashbury, screaming my fool head off.

      But I’ll be there in spirit.

      • psqd
        February 17, 2011

        hit magnolia gastropub whilst you’re that close.

  7. February 17, 2011

    The other thing we should fix right now is the talk about handballs, bad calls, etc. Every match has them. Never forget that Chelsea fans say our most recent Champions League win was undeserved because of terrible refereeing. As we scoffed at those notions, we shouldn’t ignore the irony present in some cules saying the same thing.

    We lost because we got outplayed and outhustled. If a draw and a loss don’t return the hunger to this side, nothing will. Because it’s hunger that makes you keep going when your legs are tired. And for the last two matches, the players haven’t looked hungry to me. Here’s hoping that changes, starting this weekend.

    • mega_tajh
      February 17, 2011

      I believe a hungry team makes their own luck and thats what we got against Chelsea 2 years ago as even though being a goal down the team pushed on never letting their head drop. That spirit was with Arsenal yesterday as you could see the fire in them to prove a point even to the end.

    • February 17, 2011

      I am not sure how you can say that we were outplayed and outhustled. For long stretches of that game we completely dominated. The English commentators on Sky were even swooning over how amazing we were and how Arsenal couldnt get near us. Up untill Peps rather weird sub, they didnt look all that dangerous. We may not have been our usual supreme, superhuman selves, but these players are only human and Arsenal were working their asses off to make life difficult for us. In games like these its the small details that make the big differences. The few inches that would have meant one or two Messi goals, the wrong decision on a perfectly good goal, VV not covering his near post. Sometimes these things go your way, sometimes they dont. Had they gone our way and had we won this match would anybody be saying we were outplayed? The best team doesnt always win and despite the fact that we did not play at our best, we were better than Arsenal on the night. They just got the rub of the green. It happens.

      Sometimes I really do think that people expect too much from this team. They are not machines. They cannot give 110% for 90 mins every single match and blow every team out of the water. We went to one of the best teams in Europe and for almost 70 mins we controlled it, that is with them playing like they have probably never played before. A fluke of a goal got them back in the game and then the momentum was all theirs. Shit happens. Thats football. I think its completely unfair to question the players’ heart and commitment, or to say they didnt look hungry. They looked tired. As they did at the beginning of the season, when ppl started questioning them too. As they did last year at the same time, and the year before. They have had a tough run of games, mixed in with silly internationals leading up to this very difficult away game. Not sure what everybody was expecting but I for one am proud of every single one of em.

      I cannot wait for March 8th to come around because I have no doubt in my mind who will progress..

      • mega_tajh
        February 17, 2011

        One thing for sure is that at this level a loss like this will surly teach something to the team and Pep on how to deal against teams like ourselves and Arsenal.

        Since Pep took over, he has always learned something from the difficult matches he has faced.When faced against Chelsea he learnt from that, to move on to beat an Inter side with 10 players playing defense(even though we where still knocked out we did however still beat them at home). This side is miles better as a unit that last season so I’m positive we can turn this around at home. Just need a little more fine tuning to beat a side in Arsenal in which we don’t have that much experience playing against.

  8. no me jodes
    February 17, 2011

    I agree with Kxevin. Not only isn’t this the time to make excuses but we should also act classy and remain above the fray. I think the most frustrating part of it is the fact that we were outhustled not necessarily outplayed. We had our chances and blew them; simple as that. But I have faith in Pep and in the resolve of the squad, in particular our leaders, (Puyol, Xavi) who won’t let us go out without a fight. I anticipate its going to be a war out there and should Arsenal somehow prevail (here’s hoping they don’t) no one can say that they didn’t earn it. One thing’s for sure, they won’t show up like Inter last year parking the bus.

  9. Lev
    February 17, 2011

    1. you are being very, very, hard on Messi imo

    2. idk why we cannot discuss bad calls, since they are part of the game. Chelsea fans had every right to be disgusted after the last time we played them because they were royally screwed by the ref that day.

    Likewise it is frustrating that for the CL 3rd knock-out match-up in a row, huge decisions are called against us: Fabregas penalty, Milito offside goal, Bojan goal disallowed and yesterday alone we had Djourou handball / Messi offside (still believe it was due to bad breath), Pedrito penalty and the Arshavin handball.

    Granted, some of those calls were debatable, and some less so. And some, like the offside cals were blunders. This means that of the last 5 CL games, we have had 4 in which the outcome would have been better for us had the refs not made these mistakes.

    In a game of 90 minutes, only a couple of moments prove decisive. Those moments are always worth discussing.

    For the record I don’t believe it takes anything away from Arsenal’s victory, they were dangerous throughout the whole match (not just the 2nd half!) and converted their chances when it mattered.

    3. With the exception of one, all the Gunners commenting today have been pure class 🙂 Congratulations on your win, Arsenal were great. It must have been amazing to be in the stadium.

    4. Anybody who is online right now should go to rojadirecta and check out Cerro Porteño against Colo Colo – they are playing on the coolest football pitch ever, definitely worth the trouble of finding a link and checking it out!!

    • February 17, 2011

      i’m watching the colo colo game on tv now. that is cool! looks like a crop circle! 😉

      • Lev
        February 17, 2011

        Personally I keep comparing it to the Rising Sun like the old Japanese flag. Miguel where do you live for copa libertadores to be on tv?

      • February 17, 2011

        yeah i was gonna say japanese flag but that was too easy. 😉

        i live in los angeles. it’s on fox sports en español or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days. they show a lot of copa libertadores games.

        how did #7 just miss that?

      • Lev
        February 17, 2011

        i know, that would have been a golazo!

    • February 17, 2011

      Not saying bad calls can’t be discussed. Just saying they aren’t an excuse. We made the plays, Chelsea didn’t. Arsenal made the plays, we didn’t.

      As for me being too hard on Messi, we’ll agree to disagree. He didn’t live up to any personal standard of quality that he himself has maintained, in movement, passing, scoring or hustle. He looked an exhausted player. Not saying he didn’t want to make the plays and the efforts. But he didn’t. And the scorecard doesn’t take want into account, right?

      No, the best player in the world won’t play like it every match. But it doesn’t exempt him from being called on it when he doesn’t.

    • mega_tajh
      February 17, 2011

      To accept the miss calls you also have to acknowledge that those errors wouldn’t still be discussed if Messi converted his chance, if Pedro didn’t try to be fancy and actually score or even if Alves took that chance @ the death of the game.

      Football is a human sport after all, so humans are expected no matter what level of the game to make errors. One thing for sure,I certainly notice that Refs are more confident in making game-decision calls against us. Like offside calls for example, we tend to keep getting them on the narrowest margins, I always thought Refs where told to encourage attacking football so if you aren’t sure you don’t call it but this is surly not the case in UCL this season.

      • Lev
        February 17, 2011

        yeah, you are both right of course…

        Personally I would like a system similar to the NFL where a coach can challenge a call. Or when it comes to offside goals, how difficult would it be for a 4th ref to instantly check this on tv and pass on the right call to the 1st ref? I am saying this not just for yesterday, but for football in general.

        As for Messi I agree (to disagree 🙂

        Now check out the cerro porteño pitch already! lol

      • mega_tajh
        February 17, 2011

        lolz what a unique pitch pattern.. I LOVE IT!!!

  10. BarcaGirl_Indo
    February 17, 2011

    so I slept for 7 hours and wake up this morning, feeling *slightly* better than yesterday… 😀
    I got a brain fart yesterday, and so messed up…

    now I’m calmer… still having a heartache, but oh well…

    if this team can’t even get a 1-0 or 2-0 or 3-1 win in Camp Nou against a non-super defensive team like Arsenal,
    with 90.000+++ fans screaming and shouting to support them,
    just forget about UCL, then focus on the league and CdR final…

    hope for the best, prepare for the worst… wake up, Barça!! wake up!! 😀

    • mega_tajh
      February 17, 2011

      I certainly believe Pep is going back to that training method for the team to play 3 games a week.It seem to me that maybe the training routine changed without us knowing as to why the team looks so tired only playing 5 games so far this month while they played 9 games last month and got positive result in them all.

  11. no me jodes
    February 17, 2011

    I just hope that Pep realizes by now that not only is it not wise to ride Messi 90min. every match but it also isn’t necessary. How many matches this season were already decided and Messi was still out on the pitch. We were literally doing a ‘Conan the Destroyer’ on our opponents and there he was still out there. Why, for God’s sake?

    Players in general are not going to raise their arm and ask to be subbed for but if Pep is truly the man in charge he has to pull him for the long term sake of our season. As it stands I don’t see any way Leo’s going to last through the season at this pace. And as I said in a previous post if we are solely relying on one man to carry us to the title then we really must not be that good.

  12. PM
    February 17, 2011

    Ok, Pep made mistakes. Players seemed tired and not interested in winning. Valdes had his stupid moment. We can go on whole day… but, for me, everything is still fine.

    I understand that fans will be sad, they’ll try to disect every goddamn thing that happened yesterday. But how can they be so depressed and pessimistic? It’s not even close to last year’s Inter situation, we are still favorite to win for Christ’s sake. Any doubt about Barca’s chances is a disrespect to these wonderful players.

    If you’re a betting man, check it-

    http://sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-gb/betting/e/1151774/UEFA-Champions-League—Outright.html

  13. outerspacedout
    February 17, 2011

    As always in the time I’ve been on this blog, agree with Blitzen. Also agree with Lev. Don’t buy this doom and gloom of our CL and dynasty hopes seeming out of reach, I’d say us not winning at home is unlikely. This blaming and transfer speculation is ridiculous btw, only two games ago we had the best squad in the world and now we need change and a true CF and this and that? And this level of knee-jerk from ‘fans’ is more embarrassing for me than the match was, do you have no faith in the team and our ability to win even just 1-0 at home? If we’re blaming everyone and going ridiculous over this in a first leg with us still tied, its gonna be real hard for you guys to stand by the team when we eventually tail off and have another 06/07/08 kind of season. The atmosphere here seems practically funereal

    • outerspacedout
      February 17, 2011

      sorry, i typed in this comment about 8 hours ago but my connection had a problem. The mood already seems more upbeat than wen i wrote this, where i was agreeing with blitz and lev that the panicking about going out or not winning any titles or needing more players was ridiculous.

  14. psqd
    February 17, 2011

    been thinking some of the numbers are a little coincidental…players looking tired when barca has nominally 10-15% less possession than normal. that is 9-14 minutes more craziness trying to recover the ball, and about the amount of timing of the lapse. surely only coincidence and surely not the reason why pep said he prefers to play against a team who doesn’t want possession.
    just a thought.

    • Tom_Johnson
      February 17, 2011

      “when barca has nominally 10-15% less possession than normal. that is 9-14 minutes more craziness trying to recover the ball”

      I wish it’s that simple.

      The ball is not in play the same amount of time every game, the opponent is different so is the time ball spends in each third of the field.

      It wouldn’t take a lot of brains to spot this and make a proper adjustment (subs) based on the players’ fitness level if indeed makes that much difference.

      “surely not the reason why pep said he prefers to play against a team who doesn’t want possession. just a thought.”

      Espn.com has Arsenal’s possession at 34% while Uefa.com is generous with 39%. About the same as Kobenhaven and Bilbao had in CL Group stage and Copa del Rey return game at their respective home fields.

      Maybe you should do the research next time. Just a thought.

      • psqd
        February 18, 2011

        sorry last line was sarcastic…but weren’t those both draws…

  15. Nick
    February 20, 2011

    Kxevin, change Pep’s rating. Villa was indeed injured. I admit to have assumed the same during the match.

Comments are closed.