Saturday, December 18, 2010

Barca Again...

Strangely looking forward to another tonking at the gifted feet of the newly anointed Greatest Team of All Time (TM).


Barca are superior in every area to Arsenal.
It seems strange to think that, more than halfway through last season's weird quarter-final tie, Arsenal had worked themselves into a winning position. Especally when you remember the grinding humiliation of the first twenty minutes of the first leg, when Barca took Arsenal's aristocratic pretensions and stuck them where the sun don't shine (and somehow failed to score).

While the lead that Bendtner gave Arsenal lasted only a couple of minutes, it still said something. It spoke of Arsenal's spirit and Barca's potential profligacy. They should have had the tie done and dusted within a half hour of the first leg, instead they needed Messi's genius to dig them out of a little trouble.

Of course, few would expect David Villa to be as wasteful as Zlatan was at the Emirates (despite his eventual two-goal-haul), and Barcelona have probably improved since that tie.

To push them close, Arsenal would have to try to impose a tempo that is no longer in their own comfort zone. They are Barca-lite. They would enjoy themselves in Spain and come 3rd. They no longer have the power and the pace to trouble a technically superior side. You know that Chelsea or United would give Barcelona a lot more to worry about.

In fairness, it should also be noted that even when Arsenal were a "power team", they often found themselves outplayed by technically adept teams- most memorably, Deportivo la Coruna in the second group stage in 2002. As I've said before, I think that game and similar chastening experiences in Europe inspired Wenger to change tack and prioritise possession and technique over power and pace.

It has backfired spectacularly. Chelsea and Manchester United routinely overpower the New Gunners, and an admittedly special Barcelona side shows up their passing game as comparatively poor, inefficient and unexciting.

TO EVEN BOTHER Barcelona, Arsenal need a Vieira, or even just a Flamini. Alex Song is going backwards with every step further up the pitch but even if he is redeployed as a dedicated holding player he is not good enough or mobile enough to stem the flow alone and Xavi, Iniesta and company will relish the chance to tear into Arsenal's woefully ragtag rearguard.

Expect to be watching fireworks through your fingers.

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