Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Delayed Thoughts on Messi 4-1 Arsenal

We all knew it could get messi.

He is the Best Player in The WorldTM and ours was a weakened defence, "protected" by a depleted midfield. The outcome did not surprise me.

The range of Messi's four goals was impressive- a one-two with Silvestre followed by a top-corner thunderbolt; a right-footed lift over Almunia from close range; an even better dink with the left; and a drilled finish on the rebound after a jinking run.

I now feel old enough to say something like, he may the best player I've seen... Or certainly the best of his type, as dribbling seems to have died out a bit. But let's leave all that aside for the moment and talk about Arsenal.

Not many were expectant, with our four best players out, plus the unpredictable Arshavin. It was, paradoxically enough, a better performance than the one that ended in parity in the first leg. But a better performance was never likely to be enough. A team cannot learn to defend in a week. While Messi was undeniably superb, all of the goals looked soft in some way. The way Arsenal were caught out high up the pitch for the third sums this team up. They just cannot "hang in" in a game. At 1-2, there was still hope, but they could not even temporarily shore things up. Barca press in a systemic, collective manner, Arsenal do it haphazardly, and thus is the most dangerous player released on goal by a simple header around the halfway line, nowhere near even offside. Dreadful stuff. Still, this has been happening against every good team we've played, so it was no surprise.

I thought Barca looked a little sloppy in the second half, but Arsenal were too disheartened and jaded to respond to it, and the game faded until Messi added his late fourth. All of the post-match hyperbole has surely ensured that he will have a stinker against Inter. It certainly won't be as easy for him, and I do fancy Mourinho's team to go on and win the tournament.

For Arsenal and Arsene, it's time for humility. Things are wrong at the club, and a slight change of approach is needed. It might only be a tweak. I know we've only been spanked by The Best Team in The World, but don't forget the games against United and Chelsea. A worrying pattern continues.

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