An epic Arsenal v Barcelona preview: If this can’t get you excited, nothing will!

Arsenal versus Barcelona is almost upon us and the word ‘excitement’ just doesn’t do justice to how I am feeling.

Like Arsene Wenger I feel this tie has the ability to produce something special. So special, in fact, that we might indeed still be talking about it in 10 years time.

Barcelona will go in as deservedly clear favourites on account of their terrific success last season and the fact that they possess the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, in their ranks. But that’s not to say we don’t have a very good shot at upsetting the Spanish team.

An epic tie like this deserves and epic preview and that’s just what I’ve got for you today.

In it I outline the teams that I expect to step out at The Emirates on Wednesday night as well as the approach I expect us to take in a bid to knock out Barcelona and progress to our second consecutive Champions League semi-final.

The Teams

Barcelona are not the Champions of Europe and the World for no reason and they will field an exceptionally strong team against us on Wednesday.

Both Messi and Arsenal old-boy Thierry Henry were rested for Barca’s weekend win over Mallorca and I expect both to start against us.

Eric Abidal and Gerard Pique have both recovered from injury to take their place in the squad, although I expect Pep Guardiola to plump for constancy and play Gabriel Milito alongside Carlos Puyol in the centre and Maxwell on the left of defence instead. Dani Alves will of course start at right-back.

The injury to Andres Iniesta means that Xavi should slot back into the side along the more physical Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita. Sergio Busquets is an option but Guardiola has a history of playing both Toure and Keita away from home in the Champions League to give the defence more support.

Up front Messi will start on the right side of a three-pronged attack that will also include Zlatan Imbrahimovic and that man Henry. Messi will of course float into the central areas, leaving Alves space to get down the right and much of our ability to stop Barcelona will come down to our ability to prevent Messi from having too much influence on the game.

The man who has the most important roll in preventing Messi’s influence will be Alex Song, who will surely return to his favoured position at defensive midfield. He will sit in front of a goalkeeper and four-man defence that will feature Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Thomas Vermaelen, Sol Campbell and either Bacary Sagna or Emmanuel Eboue on the right.

Eboue has been in excellent form of late and the manager’s decision to leave him out of Saturday’s team completely suggests to me that he will start on Wednesday. Whether it is at right-back to counter Henry or on the wing to allow us a counter-attacking outlet and the ability to punish Barcelona’s weak spots (more on that later) I’m not sure, but I do feel he will start.

The official line from the manager is that Cesc is still a risk to miss out of this game but I can’t help feel this is nothing but mind games from Wenger. It would take something monumental to force Cesc to miss this game and I don’t think a bruised knee will be it. I expect him to play alongside Song and Abou Diaby in the middle.

Up front Nicklas Bendtner’s physical presence makes him a certainty while Andrey Arshavin will provide him support on one of the wings. Arshavin has a delightful habit of stepping up in the big games and he and Bendtner will need to have both excellent games and their shooting boots on if we are to come away with a win.

The final place should be taken by one of Eboue, as I mentioned earlier, or Samir Nasri who has scored excellent goals in the last three matches.

The Approach

Wenger’s line will undoubtedly be for us to go out and play our natural game. But with an outstanding opponent it is absolutely vital that we play to our strengths and attempt to exploit the few weaknesses that Barcelona has.

Barcelona’s strongest weapon is obviously Messi drifting in from the right and with that in mind I feel Song needs to focus more on protecting Clichy and Vermaelen a little more than Campbell and whoever plays at right-back. The argument against this is that Messi could simply move the ball on quickly and allow Barcelona to attack down the left but if you ask me, I’d feel much more comfortable shutting down the right channel and letting Henry and Maxwell to run at us than Messi and Alves.

Tactically I also feel Eboue could be used in a specialist role to minimise the effectiveness of Alves on the right. Arshavin is hardly the fittest nor the most defensive player in our team and I wouldn’t mind seeing him given a go at Maxwell on the right, shifting Eboue on the left. Not only would Eboue’s athleticism nullify that of Alves but his pace would also give us a tremendous counter-attacking outlet that would force the Brazilian to sit a little deeper than perhaps he would like.

Question marks have been raised about Campbell’s lack of pace but the reality of the situation is that most of Sol’s work will come via the physical battles with Imbrahimovic, leaving Vermaelen to do a lot of the cleaning up on the ground. As long as Song gives Vermaelen the support required which, when you look at his season so far, seems highly likely I feel we have the ability to keep Barcelona from scoring or at the very least, preventing them from scoring more than we can cope with.

Both teams will get a lot of the ball at times and it’s important that we maintain our discipline when we don’t have it and ensure that we take our chances when we do. I mentioned earlier that Bendtner and Arshavin have struggled for consistency in front of goal recently but they have to take their chances on Wednesday or we face the risk of wondering what might have been.

For all of the tactical analysis the first leg will come down to how well we apply ourselves, our ability to avoid making the sort of silly defensive errors that have plagued our season and our forward players taking their chances.

Oh and watch out for Diaby. He was absolutely tremendous against Birmingham on the weekend and could be devastating if Barcelona on give him too much room to manouevre in midfield. With everybody focusing on Cesc I feel he could be the key man with regards to taking a vital lead into the return leg.

The Result

In my opinion we simply must win on Wednesday to stand any chance of progressing in this tie. While I don’t think it is impossible for us to get a result at the Camp Nou anything less than a first-leg lead would have us as massive outsiders to progress.

Obviously in these sorts of games avoiding concession of an away goal is of vital importance. But I honestly can’t see that happening and with that in mind I would be extremely satisfied with a 2-1 or even a 3-2 win at The Emirates.

It might pay to be a little cautious in the hope of getting a 1-0 result but with Wenger predicting this to be one of the best contests in recent history because of the quality of football on display, I just can’t see that happening.

Conclusion

When the draw was made I said this was the ultimate tie for Arsenal because it gave us the unique psychological advantage of being able to go in as underdogs. If we lose against Barcelona it will be disappointing but in many ways expected, but a memorable victory could give us the belief to push on and win the silverware that everybody at the club has been craving for five years.

To expect this Arsenal side to beat Barcelona over two legs is too much, in my opinion. But at this stage of the competition anybody can beat anybody and if our boys put in a performance full of heart and can play near their technical best then we could well be celebrating a semi-final spot in just over a week’s time.

A win at The Emirates on Wednesday would bring that opportunity just a little closer.

I’ll have some last-minute news in tomorrow’s blog but in the meantime, let me know your thoughts on Arsenal v Barcelona by leaving a comment.

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79 Responses to “An epic Arsenal v Barcelona preview: If this can’t get you excited, nothing will!”

  1. amiaq_ferguson
    March 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    i’m hoping arsenal to win.. yess!!
    imo, arsenal need to score at least margin of 2 goals without conceding a goal, which is very much achievable.

    *************Bendtner***************
    arshavin************************nasri
    *********diaby***fabregas**song****
    clinchy***vermaelen**sol*****ebou
    *************whoelse****************

    good luck guys!! u really need fabregas, or else…

  2. Damian
    March 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    I think the line up will be:

    ——————–Bentner—————–
    Arshavin—————————Eboue
    ————Diaby——–Fabregas——-

    ——————–Song——————–

    Clichy-Vermaelen-Campbell-Sagna

    ——————Almunia——————

    And we will win 3-2, just hope we can pinch an away goal and it be enough to send us through!

  3. RonanKnows
    March 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    I’m not going to lie, this post freaked me out… I think in a good way. C’mon Arsenal! If this isn’t a chance to prove ourselves, I don’t know what is!

  4. D
    March 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    What a game it will be, all am hoping for is to watch and enjoy myself, while praying that Arsenal will win.

    As you said. this is one of the epic battles between two teams that play good football, i am believing that not only will we play but also score and progress to the semis.

    HUA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…………….

  5. morgan
    March 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Heeh Andy

    This is a mouth watering game. My adrenaline level is getting high. The underdog will pull a wonder, watch the space.

    It feels good to be a Gooner

  6. wishfulthinking
    March 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    its a gross mismatch. dont get your hopes too high. Against the invincibles this would have been Game ON. Not against these butterflies. You guys hate Andrey for speaking the truth ?

  7. RipRoaringRed
    March 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    After the Birmingham match Wenger blamed ‘the pitch’. As a seasoned Wenger-watcher, I believe that ‘the pitch’ is code for ‘that uselss Spanish flapper in goal’. I could be wrong but if we don’t win anything this season, I think the many reasons why can be reduced to the fact that we have not got a Premiership class keeper, certainly not an Interantional class keeper. This is obvious to everyone and therefore, I assume, to the Prof. But, that said, I beleive we CAN beat Barcelona over 2 legs, but it will require more than total effort and concentration from everyone (including our walking-dead keeper) for the entire length of the game, not 90 minutes, Manuel.

  8. Sam
    March 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    spot on. great article.

    thanks for your write-up

  9. ethio
    March 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    3:1 Arsenal win.

  10. simon
    March 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Arshavin’s overall contribution is not adequate, he neglects his defensive duties and his finishing is appalling. he is half the player of Rooney with twice the ego.

  11. mandirorg
    March 30, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    I’d just like to echo something said on the Arsenal website, about the atmosphere at the game tomorrow night.

    If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, please get there as early as possible to show your support (gates open at 6.30!) Wear red and white, even if it’s just a scarf or a hat. Make as much noise as you can to make the atmosphere one to remember. The players can hear the noise of the crowd, even when they’re in the dressing rooms, so lets all sing those Arsenal songs before they even step onto the pitch. There shouldn’t be an empty seat in the ground for the duration of the 90 minutes.

    The atmosphere in the Nou Camp will be brilliant, but also intimidating. There’ll be nearly 40,000 more people in there but I know we can match them.

    The crowd at Anfield has so often got a mediocre Liverpool side into the next round, a good crowd at the Emirates can do the same with a brilliant Arsenal side.

    So lets get behind the team and be the twelfth man tomorrow night!

    COME ON ARSENAL!!

  12. Anonymous
    March 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    Hope keeper will let as down again,hope we will for a new keeper next time

  13. billy
    March 30, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    all this is enough to push up my high blood levels. i cant take it anymore. i think im gonna have a nervous breakdown. would probebly be the best if i go to bed and sleep until the game is over and just get the results next morning. lol!!!!

  14. Frichie
    March 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    Excuse my optimism people but I really see us beating them 3 or 5 nil and putting the tie to bed in front of the home crowd. I have watched the last two barca games, and their defence is shocking…now this could have one of two implications, 1 Arsenal will tear them apart but because we used to possession and trying to get through 10 man defence, our players mught not be used to going free on goal and fluff their chances. Pray not. The other possibility is putting too many forward and allowing Barca to break at pace.

    Puyol and Maxell are the weak links, so I would like to See Nasri and Arshavin tormenting them from the off.

    Andrew, I like you am too excited for this one..its gonna be a big one!

  15. shambogunner
    March 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    for the record i like bendtner,for his work rate and his pride……..but it was put to me recently by a fellow gunner who hates him, ‘how good would he be in a wolves or hull team,a team that didnt create as many chances,usually gift wrapped, as we do?’
    the answer im afraid is that he wud be prob be below average and struggle to make their team,certainly as far as chance coversion goes,and if your to compare his ‘good aspects’ aerial ability and strength youl find their a dime a dozen in the EPL…..basically i dont think mick mcarthy wud swap kevin doyle for bendtner and theres somethin wrong with that…..i wud rather eduardo starts for barca if our free flowing passin game is to be effective,i accept the point that nics useful for the hull and stokes of this world but in the high paced,high quality games with alot at stake against quality opposition who can hurt you on the counter attack, ball retention 1 out of three times isnt good enough and chance conversion 1 out of 6 definitely isnt.an eduardo who will score 4 out of the same 6 chances nic wud get is worth disgarding the aerial forward threat for……i mean how often is nasri,rosicky,clichy,sagna,eboue or walcot gonna beat alves or abidal and THEN provide a telling cross????? statistics say not very often dudes….if we are to win itl be by playing our natural on the ground football,wot we are known for and if nic is to play i feel he wud prob end up being more effective for barca than yaya toure for disrupting our attacks…………id love to be proved wrong but again……probability reflecting past performances wud suggest i wont be proved wrong
    now on to aluminium…………em……cant be bothered actually, even stevey wonder cud see he wasnt even related to a goal keeper after the champs league display…..,hes the demeanor of a guy whos been smoking pot four days straight!!!!! ‘dude,wheres the ball????????’ the guy takes sedatives as a stimulant!!!!!!!dozey dozey individual
    now that pent up rage has been exorsised i can get behind the rest of our talented bunch of players……cesc hasnt trained today so its not mind games anyway….lets pray hes fit

  16. Rian Joubert
    March 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I cant wait!!!! I can barely do my job at work. Its gonna be awesome!!!

  17. Ian
    March 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Good write up Andy. We only have plan A – attacking football and I agree a home win is vital. Both teams will score but my question is “How many goals will Alumina gift them?” He’s already cost us any chance of the league this year and was heavily to blame for the hammering by the mancs in last years semi-final. However Arsene can’t see past him? I agree about Bendnter and I feel he has to prove himself to be the and I quote “the world class striker” that he and his manager states he is! We need a big game from Arshavin too as he hasn’t exactly been setting the forest on firw lately.

  18. SOBIN THE GOONER
    March 30, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    Iam very much excited ,i can’t wait for this glamorous tie.
    COME ON GUNNERS………THRASH THEM.

  19. Prince Charles
    March 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    I am hopeful but wish to reserve my say!!!!!!!!

  20. senior citizen
    March 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    I will go in for a 2-o Arsenal win, but with all the goals coming from midfielders, for I don’t expect Bendtner to make even one attempt at goal.

  21. evan
    March 30, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Andrew, i would have to agree with you about putting Eboue on the left to help pin alves back, thus cutting down messi’s support out on the right. This also seems to be the perfect opportunity for Clichy to show that he is world class when his head is screwed on tight. 2-1 to Arsenal, w/ Nik and Cesc on the score sheet.

  22. wandega
    March 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    Barca are in for a beating though i am not inspired by Cesc missing. He is the man who has orchestrated arsenals big games when it comes to top European teams.He was there in Bernabue in 2006 and i feel even if arsenal dont settle the tie at Emirates ,there is no reason they can fail to settle it at Nuo camp considering the tactical discipline shown at Bernabue a few yeras back.

  23. jason
    March 31, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    It’s down to Almunia!!!

  24. SCOPE KNIGHT
    March 31, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    My boss just got in complaining and hoping almunia dies or something

  25. ALGunner
    March 31, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Arsenal Lacks an killer striker which Chelsea or Manu right now at the moment. I happy with the season so far what arsenal have done with there limited resource. You can’t ask more than what has been achieved by arsenal this season. Arsenal Where the only team in EPL Probably not with out an ST for half of the season. Playing Arsha as an ST for the half of the season. I am Happy with the season. To be frank my prediction is that Barca and Arsenal will not lose in Emirates. But it would be game over in Nou Camp. I mean if arsenal win anything with this current squad this would be an miracle. You can’t win anything without investing in you’re current squad. So many problem. Which i hope they will understand next season. Hope we will something next season.

  26. Avik
    March 31, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Good points from both Andrew & Shambo. I am having orgasms just thinking of flashes of action. I think I am high on testosterone right now. All I can see is Fabregas & Vermaelen preparing to take a free kick, Arshavin harrying past defenders, Song dispossessing Messi, Gallas making a crunch tackle on Henry, Nasri confunding the full backs, Diaby with a tommy gun, Rosicky showing balley moves, Eboue bitchslapping Ibrahimovic. Somebody please hire a sniper just incase we go 1-nil down and take out Almunia on your discretion. Put on your red&white armours and helms. Wear chainmail under your armours and polish those greaves. Cast away your shields and wield a two-handed broadsword. Load the artillery. Keep the cavalry on standby mode. Keep the pikemen in formation. Sound the Horn of Cenarius. This is WARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. theicehammer
    March 31, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Hi @andy, shambo, nothing much changed as i can see. It looks like the mighty ammers are going down once more and the Arsene dream is dead.
    Lets all concentrate on who our manager will purchase for next season during the summer months. In my case i should say sell. Do you think Wenger will buy another CH, CDM and another striker. He should be able to afford it with the money he receives from the sale of Fabs and Bendty. Or will the money go on the ground. Role on next season.

  28. Medeski
    March 31, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    Rooney was helped off the field after the final whistle. He looked like he may miss a game or two.

  29. GetGunMN
    March 31, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    @Andy, great write up buddy. You are actually cautiously optimistic, but for a very good reason. I’m really excited one way or another. I’m hoping for a win.

    @theicehammer, you still saying the same thing since the beginning of the season. You sound like a broken record repeating the same negative comment again and again. Who will be sold and who will be bought? Check your calendar again man, the transfer period is not here yet. Why don’t you just enjoy the game for a change? Arsene’s dream is dead? I think you got that wrong! Zola’s dream is dead. I suggest you should focus on that instead. Look at the table, you have so much more to worry than any Arsenal fan. We are madly excited to be where we are right now. So, deal with it! And please leave us alone.

  30. shambogunner
    March 31, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    hello ice,
    how you keepin mate?portsmouth,hull and burnley are going down mate so chill….you can rebuild in the summer
    @avik,
    lovin your work……to arms,to arms!!!

  31. Sergey Serg
    March 31, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    How do you do?

  32. RGj
    March 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Two best footballing teams on the planet – has 0-0 written all over it!

    I reckon Cesc won’t play – don’t believe the mind games. If that’s the case my line-up is:

    Almunia
    Eboe, Campbell, Vermeulen, Clichy
    Song, Nasri, Diaby
    Rosicky, Bendtner, Arshavin

    Can’t wait!

  33. Cesc04
    March 31, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Cesc looks like he wont feature according to Wenger but Gallas is back in the team and may well start, big boost to the defence

    I wonder if Cesc doesnt play, will Wenger make the bold move and pass the captaincy to someone else, say Vermaelen or Arsh? No way u can give the captaincy to Almunia

  34. C-Bass
    March 31, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    What a game between Manchester United and Bayern. Thrilling… I hope our lads can put on a similar performance.

  35. Barcaman
    March 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Hi Arsenal fans, you guys are really scaring me. As bad as you claim Almunia is, you have only conceded 1 goal in the champions league this season at the emirates to AZ Alkmar. And you have won every match at home in the champions league. We on the other hand have drawn most of our big matches away this season in the champions league and even lost to lowly Rubin Kazan at nou camp and drew them in their house. I know we have the best player/team on the planet right now, but emirates is a fortress and without Iniesta to hold the ball for us in the midfield, it is going to be hard to keep possession of the ball. We usually dwell on ball possession which means we are constantly knocking on opponents doors, but this will be very difficult for us as Xavi is just returning from injury, besides he is a passer rather than a holder of the ball like Iniesta. It is going to be a tight game for both teams…I hope we win so we can relax and look forward to “el clasicos” coming up on the 11th, a game which is even more important to us…a game which we must win. Viva el Blaugrana!

  36. dave m
    March 31, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    If Cesc does not play then I think it will be tough.

    Prayer mats at the ready.

    The early goal either way will be the key. If we can get in front, we can catch them on the break. Can’t see Barca not scoring. Poss 2-1. Please God!

  37. Ianinja
    March 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    A draw would be a very good result for us but of course going back to Nou Camp is going to be a dicey issue. I have a feeling Arshavin is pumped up for this match, can envision the little Russian in boxing gear with a picture of Valdes on the punching bag.

  38. Hendry Rupini
    March 31, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Well we lost the Champions League in 2006 for two reason.
    1) The sending off of Jens Lehmann
    2) The coming in of Manuel Almunia

    Almunia is always the weakest link in our team. He makes those silly mistakes more often than any other goal keeper in the PL. He cost us the game against Bir. but hope that he won’t cost us the championship in the PL.
    Had we have a better goal keeper between the post we would have been miles away on the top by now.
    He does have a moment of brilliance (only a moment.. mind it) but that is not enough to win us the cup. He needs to be consistent.
    So if we are to win the game against Barca today. Everyone has to play very well..specially Almunia.
    I won’t be surprised if he makes some silly mistakes and cost us the game… let’s hope he doesn’t.

  39. el bizarron
    March 31, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    I don’t know about you guys, but for me this is the REAL Champions League Final. No other teams in Europe can produce the level of football Arsenal and Barcelona are capable of. Their skill and creativity are unmatched. This match is the best European football has to offer. Here’s hoping we’ll see something legendary.

  40. adrian
    March 31, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    My preferred line-up, in a 4-3-3 formation:

    Almunia; Clichy, Vermaelen, Campbell, Sagna; Diaby, Song, Fabregas; Arshavin, Bendtner, Nasri

    Diaby keeps his place instead of Denilson following a fantastic solo performance against Birmingham. Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky drop to the bench to make way for the greater attacking threats of Andrey Arshavin and Sami Nasri.

    All eyes will be on Gael Clichy, who has the unenviable task of facing the super in-form Lionel Messi.

    To help him out, Nasri will play on the left instead of Arshavin because of the Frenchman’s greater work-rate and enthusiasm for defensive work.

  41. Yemi
    March 31, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    I am so scared, but i pray for a win

  42. Angie
    March 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Let’s all be behind our team! this is our fight! and even if this an amazing team we have enough history and heart to show our strength!
    I’ll be proudly wearing my jersey tomorrow in school and anywhere I go! GO ARSENAL! I got chills!

  43. nauman
    March 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    I would agree with Damians formation except maybe slip in nasri 4 arsh just to ensure that messi does not play us out of the game early and tell nasri that he will get 60 mins so he must play his heart out. On the other hand all our rumoured summer buys are strikers no goalies.Odd.

  44. billi
    March 31, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    Bayern Munich reached a 1:2 at home against MANU, ❗ it was a really really great match, and as a German I naturally were a favourite of Munich, it was very difficult, they were one goal down just from the start of the match, because of a slip of a defender and afterwards it was really difficult, I know the secret of Manu now, it’s van der Saar, he saved unbelievable, but Munich didn’t gave up, kept calm and focused and were rewarded, a deflected free-kick made it, and in the dying seconds Olic in the box, absolutely deserved ❗ , I hope Arsenal have just a little bit more luck………. 😎 the advice of van Bommel: stay calm and focused, but Barca is a totally different team I fear, but it can’t be wrong, stay calm, patient, confident and focused and you will be rewarded ……….. I hope so …………… (cause they will do the same……….. ) 😎

  45. billi
    March 31, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    sorry it’s 2:1 at home, Munich won ❗ ❓

  46. Hey Nonny Mouse
    March 31, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    @ Billi – I watched a replay of the manu/Bayern game. I was well impressed with Bayern. I’m not much of a one for European football so I know hardly anything about the current Bayern team but they played good stuff and, as you say, would have creamed manure if it hadna been for VanDer Sar (shows what a great keeper can do!! for a team Arsene – hint hint)
    Fat c*nt Rooney committed a shocking foul on a Bayern player that had the guy being helped hobbling off the pitch to be subbed. he got a yellow – shoulda been a red. I hope Rooney himself is badly injured cos he deserves it. I say that and I’m English! Too many English players are either clumsy or plain dirty bastards. Rooney, Scholes, John Terry etc. They’ll never win the World Cup til they get some more class in the team (like Walcott).

    @fatboy – nice to read you again. I also agree with what you wrote a couple of blogs back except you said Arsene sold our ‘best striker’ (Ade). I believe Van Persie is the better striker and had he been fit we may well have been sitting on top of the Prem right now. When I say we’re third best team in the league I mean on players currently playing. I’m still hoping we can nip in ahead of manure and grab second place.
    @Andrew thanks for the, as ever, v. informative blog. Glad we’re not the favourites. The pressures on Barca methinks to perform. Hope we see some nice football from the glorious Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarsenal!

  47. Humanoid
    March 31, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    How do you do?

  48. Pal
    March 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    Listen, I really do believe we will win this over the 2 legs, lets just try and get a win with no goals against….GUNNERS 4 LIFE……C’MOOOOOOON, I hve been thinking about this tie for days…..it’s too much!

  49. peter stoery
    March 31, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    i love being the underdog, which is has been hard to come by as a gooner in my years. what have we got to lose? get beat by barcelona? as soon as the draw was out it was nailed on yanited/barca final anyway so who cares if messi gets a hattrick? we’ve got very little hope of seeing progress in this years competition but what hope did we have against parma? we were favourites (where we not?) against galatasaray in 2000 and look what happened. underdogs against madrid, juventus and villarreal and look what happened, as soon as we got some hope after beating them we went up against barcelona and thought ‘yeah maybe this is our year, ronaldinho is an ugly overrated twat, we’ve got the best player on the planet…’

    hope is dangerous but dreams are just that: dreams. it would be a dream come true to upset the odds and sneak an away goal win over the 2 legs, no one has any real expectation of this club winning the european cup, we’ve got no hope… thats a good thing!

  50. Kehinde, Abeokuta
    March 31, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    No doubt, Arsenal stand a great chance to create upset. But, the starting of Bendtner is my worry against a team like Barca. Eboue, left to me, has the technical depth to be drafted to the central attack (see match against Porto), Bendtner lacked the pace and with your credit to Eboue for his pace, he will definitely makes good attacking pair with Arshavin, with Nasri from the right. Sol Campbellm as u rightly analyzed will need to do more to check Alves. Am only relying on the Arsenal/AC Milan (2008) experience to see us through against Barca tonight. Gunners for Life.

  51. Robert
    March 31, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    If thers a way i could make time fly, i would. Cesc to bench, Nasri to take his place, Eboue to step in for nasri, Shava… well hoping for beter finishing, and for flips sake Almunia THE BALL IS SUPPOSE TO GO OVER THE POST NOT UNDER IT!! Diaby just do what you do, expecting 2 goals from you.

  52. voley_gun
    March 31, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    If we want to show Barca something special then we should shoot perfect from long range and keep their defence completely confused of where to hold the gate.This easily gives us the chance to have space and push them back.Also Arshavin and Bendtner should be on their toes when whoever playing in Midfield or Defence shoots hard.

    why i am saying this is because when VanPersie plays he usually stays up in midfield and threatens them with a shot ,pushing their defence to come forward and allowing our players to find the gap or shooting himself when he finds the space.

  53. voley_gun
    March 31, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    ——————–Bendtner—————–
    Arshavin—————————Diaby
    ————Nasri——–Fabregas——-

    ——————–Song——————–

    Clichy-Vermaelen-Campbell-Eboue

    ——————Almunia——————

    I am opting for this one.As both Nasri and Fabregas can potentially be dangerous.Also Diaby and Eboue forge very good partnership especially from the right side.So this will allow us to attack and defend easily from the right side. Allows Fabregas to get in the attack easily .
    Also Nasri has played on the left wing which makes him easy to link up with Clichy and Arshavin .Also it allows Nasri to hold the ball when Arshavin moves or switch attack immediately from left to right ,or from right to left.
    When Eboue cuts in from the right to centre.This allows him to find either Fabregas or Nasri who are pretty good in controlling the play.When crossing we will have aerial threat with Diaby and Bendtner .Also when Diaby moves up with Bendtner it allows us to hold the ball or force a attack easily.Because it is Fabregas and Nasri at the back .

  54. peter stoery
    March 31, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    “With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.” Johnny Weissmuller

  55. iloveverminator
    March 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

    ufff…. am losing a beat whenever I come to think of this match…It is going to be a footballing specatcle of the decade.
    I hope we play our best to pull off an upset…Yes, our win will be an upset of a kind given the firepower of the Catalans.
    I think for sure we cannot sit deep and defend and hoe for counterattacks…Barca will kill us if that happens. i believe that ball possession in the middle third will decide the result of this match…Also hope that our strikers are at their sparkling best…like Bendtner against Porto and Arshavin against Liverpool last year,
    barcelona shouldn’t be allowed too much ball possession in the our defensive third..their creativity in front of the box will kill us…
    COME ON BOYS…this is your chance to show the world that we have grown up from boys to men…Let 11 men play against 11 men on field and hope Emirates errupts after the colossal win.
    All the best to Wenger and his team !!

  56. shambogunner
    March 31, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  57. peter stoery
    March 31, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    A teaser for you boys:

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/free-video-watch-arsenal-and-barca-train

  58. Anyang Abraham
    April 1, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    The whole world and Arsenal fans having been praying for what is going to happen tonight between English giants and Spanish giants as far as champions league is concerned due to the incident of 2006 champions league finals whereby Arsenal were beaten by 2-1 therefore, its the right time for the Gunners to revenge against that defeat in order to show the world that Barca were favoured by considering offside to be a goal in favour of them.

  59. cmoney_guns
    April 1, 2010 at 5:29 am #

    WHAT A SOFT YELLOW!

  60. peter w.
    April 1, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    ogm cesc will miss the away game.i hope arsene will appeal the decision, it was indeed a soft yellow

  61. cmoney_guns
    April 1, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    i think we did well considering the injuries we sustained, i believe they forced us to change our approach a little bit. we did well in the end creating chances but we need to commit more player forward if we want the end product. good luck in second half

  62. GunnerBoss
    April 1, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    crazy stuff so far
    its half time and scoreless
    breathtaking
    if only we had a striker….

  63. cmoney_guns
    April 1, 2010 at 5:49 am #

    commentator summed it up well, “isnt that typical from manuel almunia”

  64. Lil Weezy
    April 1, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    No one to blame.. let’s admit a good side when we see one.. couldnt ask more from Alumunia I think..
    However, we need just 1 goal.. a 1 goal deficit is rechable.. come on Gunners.. fight and be patient!!

  65. cmoney_guns
    April 1, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    wow what a finish

  66. darragh
    April 1, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    Alumnia kept it from being about 5-0. Sure, made a bad mistake, but I think made up for it prior to. Thank god we didn’t lose.

  67. Angie
    April 1, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

  68. Angie
    April 1, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH mY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! WOOOW

  69. eros
    April 1, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    Nearly had a heart attack the last 15 minutes! Arsenal today showed some real committment especially in the second half and eventually stole a draw from a better side. One has to ask, why did Wenger wait so long to call in Walcott? 15 minutes more and we could have surprised them with a win. Well done boys – now let’s concentrate on the EPL and hope ManU and Chelsea draw and we win

  70. Rooiseun
    April 1, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    now i believe there is an injury curse at the emirates, i hav never seen anything like this b4. i didnt expect anything from this game, i was just hoping for a win. Now progress looks like a possibility if we fight hard enuff. i hate being in this position. Almunia gave us a clear (HD) picture of what its like to have a brilliant GK and a useless one……first half he was top class (the type of GK to win us CL & EPL) and second half he showed us why we are not winning cups.

  71. Avik
    April 1, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    This is how football should be played. No crappy defending & ball spending more than half its time in the air but just pure passing football and full-court press and full commitment from the players. Its an epic victory for footie. This felt like a true champions league final. Hopefully a very interesting player analysis & match report coming up.

  72. dave m
    April 1, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Almunia was Man Of The Match. It should have been 0-4 on 20 mins. He was not at fault for the goals, they were world class. I say we have a BIG chance. 0-2 would have been crushing but we need to colect ourselves and look at Wolves. A must 3 points!

  73. el bizarron
    April 1, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Exhilarating stuff, eh? But with Barcelona playing the way they did and both Diaby and Fabregas unavailable for the next leg, I’m not feeling too optimistic.

  74. shambogunner
    April 1, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    we wer very fortunate,outplayed and completely outclassed for 70 mins…..the difference between us and barca was there for all to see…when both teams hav the ball very very similar but their workrate and pressure game without the ball is something to behold and puts diaby,nasri,arsha and co to shame…..we hav no intensity without the ball its pedestrian half-hearted attempts to close down the man on the ball,thats the difference.
    bentdner was awful first half,i dont think he retained possession once,fulfilling my pre match prediction most of his touches went back ways to the feet of an opponent,yet he set up the walcot goal and showed great composure and unselfishness to head down to cesc so his contribution was terrific…..he just really needs to sharpen up…so many times the ball is caught under his feet
    almunia was very good although some shots were central he was alert and quick off his line,too quick for their goal yet its not the biggest howler iv seen from him and but for him wed be out of the tie right now so wel done almunia
    clichy was man of the match for me,often outnumbered by the lazyness of nasri he defended superbly and still found the energy to bomb by nasri….nasri was completely inneffective and when they had the ball he wasnt to be seen,as was diaby who failed to defend and for the entire second half couldnt keep the ball once!
    song and sagna were off the pace while denilson was instrumental in making us tick and moving us forward i thought,which makes a change…fair play to him
    wel done theo walcot,you cud see the game was made for him cos we had no outlet and he got them turned and scared
    the thing is wev played very poorly and are still in the tie.if nasri,diaby,song and nic can up their games and play clever next week we can do it,if they go around half hearted expecting others to make something happen we will get a hiding

  75. el bizarron
    April 1, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Oh, crud. A Gallas calf injury and a suspected Fabregas broken leg could take both out for the rest of the season…

  76. Andrew Weber
    April 1, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    That was just an incredible game of football. It’s going to be fun writing a match review, I assure you!

  77. Ianinja
    April 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Magnificient result which highlights the believe I always had that Arsenal dosen’t play like Barca at all. We were very lucky with the draw but the return leg will be a daunting proposition. Have to disagree with Shambo about the commitment of our players to press the Barca midfield, the problem is not commitment but xavi and gang displayed exceptional close control that our players couldn’t cope with Barca’s mobility and they sure showed the world how triangular passes are actually meant to be executed. Its this combination of mobility and aggresiveness in their play that steamrolled over us.

    I won’t feel down if we don’t go through as this game will be a good eye opener for Wenger to prepare for next season. Barca exposed all our weaknesses and with us already failing to win against other big teams(manU, chels) I am sure leboss has a very strong idea how he wants the team to play in the future.

    Overall excellent game of football where Barca showed how total football is meant to be played whilst Arsenal showed grit and determination to survive, a trait that EPL champions should show more often…:P

  78. Lil Weezy
    April 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    I dont know too many teams that come back being down 2-0 to Barca..So MY TEAM has definitely gotten something special in them..
    Walcott changed the game completely. Now we know Barca is not well equipped to deal with pace. This could be big, as they go home and watch the tape, their full backs could be reluctant to push up. making way for our midfield to operate properly. Cesc will be surely missed but not as much. I feel though he has been very average even though he tries very hard. The kid is running out of steam and may crumble upon the Nou Camp crowd. so lets rest him.
    Im pretty sure Arshavin is not hurt, it was tactical (even though he says the opposite), Wenger didn’t want a 2nd yellow.
    So what a great feeling it is to be an Arsenal fan at these latters stages. Who would have thought we would be here. THIS SEASON IS EPIC NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS! I LOVE IT!!

  79. iloveverminator
    April 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    My God, what a match. I personally believe it was the footballing feast of the decade. We were outplayed for most of the match but we stuck to our task…fought hard with grit and determination and came back strong. Lucky to get a draw at the end of the day… but two away goals might hit us bad. But still I see light at the end of the tunnel. I believe there is a chance. Barca will be without their two regular central defenders which might prompt them to defend deep with two blockers (Yaya and Keita) covering the two central defenders (Milito and Marquez). But we really need to push up the field to make a match of them. Can’t defend deep and expect to hit on counter.
    I agree with laninja when he says it was an eye-opener for us…made us realize that Fabregas is not even half as good as Xavi and Iniesta (available for the return leg )…forget comparing with world beaters like Messi, Kaka and Ronaldo.
    The way Barca played for 70 odd mins it was a lesson for our boys. They were not only moving fast with the ball, but their movements off the ball were breathtaking. They were not only creative to the core but were doing the dirty work of closing the opponent down equally well.
    We will fight hard in the return leg, even without Fabregas and Gallas. One Overmars, one Bergkamp and one Tony Adams would have been handy. Alumunia’s inconsistency continues…Sparks of brilliance followed by a howler. He wouldn’t have conceded the first goal if he had not moved off his line. For the second goal he was not even given a chance.
    Kudos to our players for showing 100% commitment on the field. They fully understood that this was one of those matches that could either build or ruin their career. People will talk about them in years to come if they do well in such kind of games. Players who stood out for me were Clichy, Song, Denilson and Vermaelen.
    Want to wish our team ALL THE BEST for the return leg…Just remember…give it your best…whatever be the result, we are always with you.

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