Arsenal debating adding Thierry Henry on 2-month loan http://t.co/n2UDeH5s
— ESPNFC (@ESPNFC_Soccer) December 24, 2011
Mario Balotelli helped Manchester City to defend a 5 point advantage in the Barclay’s English Premier League. Newcastle wasn’t the opponent it takes to scare City. While Newcastle had opportunities to score and give the game some fire, at the end City was a number to big for United.
Mario Balotelli, Micah Richards and Sergio Aguero were the scorers today. Both, Balotelli and Aguero scored from the spot.
In the early game Arsenal had to travel to Norwich. The gunners were the dominant team but managed to put pressure on themselves as they left multiple scoring opportunities on the table. At the end the gunners won the game 2-1 with two van Persie goals. Robin van Persie has an incredible run these days and makes sure Arsenal’s climb up the table continues.
What Robin van Persie is for Arsenal, is Javier Hernandez for Manchester United. The Mexican was the man and secured United’s win with a goal in the 11th minute. United had to sweat for the win, but at the end they had three points. In three weeks nobody wants to know how the game was won.
The battle between the Manchester teams for the championship in the Premier League goes on. At this point there is no other contender in sight. All the London clubs and Liverpool have other things on their plate, besides the Premier League all day business. In the Sunday game, Chelsea and Liverpool face off and the winner will increase the chance for 3rd place behind the Manchester teams.
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:
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.
As expected, Arsenal didn’t survive the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. As in the year before, Lionel Messi and his friends mark the end of the road for the gunners.
Depsite all reports, the gunners had van Persie and Fabregas at their disposal. However, neither one could make an impact on Arsenal’s game, at least not on the positive side. In the 56th minute, van Persie collected his second yellow of the the game and was consequently sent off. Ten Gunners had no chance to turn the game around.
Wenger’s tactic was standing deep and trying to stop Barca before the box. While this paid off until the 47th minute (5 minutes were added in the first half), it didn’t give Arsenal a chance to set up some own opportunities to score. Barcelona’s goalie Valdez had a very quite first half. With a 1-0 at half time, the Gunners had to do more in the second half. They tried, without being a force they scored with great help of Busquets, who beat Valdez with a header in the 52nd. After van Persie was sent off, Arsenal had no chance and Xavi and Messi scored for the final 3-1.
Arsene Wenger has to ask himself about his strategy for this game. Defending with everything you have didn’t help many against Barca. There was no effort at all visible to start any promissing attacks against the Spanish. The idea was to disrupt Barca’s efforts and then keep the ball. While the first part worked for the most part in the first half, the second part didn’t work at all and put the gunners in lots of trouble. Rather than play the ball quick into Barca’s half, they tried to hold the ball with short passes. Clearly not the right way, against the best squad in the world.
For Arsenal, the second opportunity for silverware went south. Arsenal is still in the FA Cup and has a shot for the Premier League championshsip. There is, however, a great chance that the gunners end the season empty handed again.