Arsenal’s loss in Barcelona created a lot of discussion in the soccer world. If you are a gunner or gunner supporter you might feel cheated on. Even as just a soccer fan you might feel the red card for Van Persie was a joke. Well, let’s make that clear: It was a joke! If a player already has a yellow card, then this “offense” should not turn into a second yellow and sent off from such a game. So, as a soccer fan and ex-professional player, this is a joke!
With that said, let’s take a look at a few other reasons why Arsenal has to view the rest of this competition on TV. There were three weeks time to prepare for this game. If you don’t already know, Barca is currently the best team in the soccer world and that not only since yesterday. The way how they play and how it turns out in the most cases is also commonly known. The approaches of their opponents to survive a night at Camp Nou can be viewed on video, can be looked up in newspapers, and if you are a coach in professional soccer, there are many other sources to find out why Barca is winning games. In Arsenal’s case, they made an experience a year ago. So, there is enough information to get ready.
Arsene Wenger made a choice in Arsenal’s approach to defend a one goal lead. The “solution” for him was, defend with everything you have and when you somehow get the ball, play them out. That choice, in my view, is the reason why they went down. Yes, that event in the 56th minute can be used as the perfect excuse. Afterall, 11 minutes were played in the second half, and it went better up until this point. They even scored. Well, not exactly, Barca fabricated an own goal. Maybe it just looked better for Arsenal, because Barca took the foot of the pedal with the lead, who knows? It is all speculation. Wenger claims, “we would have won the game”. Well, in my eyes, that is speculation as well, or an excuse for own shortcomings.
If I would be coach of a Barca opponent, there are two things, besides others, I would remind my players of:
- Save yellow cards for cases when you need them, such as a professional foul, or other ways of interrupting the game. Not for grabbing someone’s neck in a brawl or other nonsense.
- In order to stop Barca’s deadly short pass combination play in our half, get the ball in their half with the first or second touch.
If you look at the first recommendation, that is the reason why Van Persie got his first yellow. Idiotic! The second recommendation would need another forward on the field, Arshavin for example. He can hold a ball in the opponents half, and, much more important, he can, in a one-on-one, beat every defender. And by the way, if Barca has a weakness, it is the defense. Try and play there.
Pep Guardiola made an interesting comment after the game. After everyone tried to get something out of him regarding the referee, he stated: “They lost, because they didn’t have three passes in a row”. With that, he hit the nail on the head, and, it also gives you an insight on Barca’s philosophy about soccer and defense: If you lose the ball in the opponents half, pressure immediately before 3 passes are completed. They are masters in that kind of “defense” and that is the reason why they are able to apply permanent pressure, whenever they want. Arsenal played right into their hands in the first half, with trying to pass the ball in their own half after they won it. Guess why the game was a little better for the gunners in the second half. They had strikers on the field and were seeking a goal. Not that they had a million opportunities, but they had some. What did they have in the first half?
It is very sad to see that a team like Arsenal is trying to defend their life, when they have all tools to beat Barca, but no courage to give it a shot. Wenger’s fault! And that is why he blows up about the referee’s decision. The coach lost the game, before it started.