Now that Wolverhampton is out of the way, there is nothing in front of us but Barcelona. Though, in actual fact, this games has captured our imagination since the draw was first made in December last year. This will be a repeat of the match-up from last season’s edition of Champions League.
Unless something spectacular happens, this will be the strongest side that Arsene Wenger has managed to field against Barcelona in 3 games. Our severely weakened team were handed a footballing lesson over two legs but with so many out, we rarely had a prayer of a chance from the onset. Let’s make something clear. They are the best footballing side on the planet at the moment. Their brand of football are breathtaking. For Arsenal to be able to beat them would be a great achievement.
This time though, we’ll be able to field a fit Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Alex Song and Andrey Arshavin. It is a shame that Samir Nasri is looking likely to miss out but we should still be glad that we have most of our first choice players available as compared to last season. Whether that gives us any advantage, remains to be seen. There are also other factors to be considered if we harbour any hope of winning.
According to Cesc Fabregas, for that to happen, we have to play without fear. We cannot be inhibited by their presence and the titles that they have won. Our players can gawked in awe of Lionel Messi outside of the pitch or on television but once they step over the white line all suited up, Barcelona players must be seen as just another team.
Respect can be a dangerous thing. Too much, and we can be over-run. Too little, and we can be complacent. The easiest way is to treat every team the same. The training and motivation to approach any game should be the same. I know it is not possible but if we can treat every game like how we did when we play Chelsea, I would not be surprised to see Arsenal win every game.
We are they are statistically the best passing side in the world. If we allow them time on the ball, we will never see the ball again. Possession is key and the only way to prevent them from bossing the game would be to keep the pressure on them. Don’t allow them time to settle on the ball or time for them to look up to spot a team mate. Those teams that have managed to take points off them this season in La Liga, Hercules and Sporting Gijon have forced Barca narrow and cut out space on the wings.
If we are unable to do that, maybe it’s time we resort to tactics. By that I mean tactical fouls. Not sure if the term Jack Wilshere use is correct. Bullying them and being nasty to them are words that may provoke arguments. I’m very sure that Wilshere does not mean that we are going to in hard on them or try to break their legs.
However, it should be more about fouls that are committed to ensure that they do not get the advantage. Either from a breakaway counter or a shot at goal. We have to be professional about these things. If a tug of the shirt of a slight nudge at the back during a fight for a header will give us the advantage, we have to do it.
Before I end today’s post. There’s something else I want to touch on. The retirement of the original Ronaldo. The Brazilian striker that has graced our television screen and back pages of our newpapers for over 15 years now. He is by far the most complete striker I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. He has speed, power, skill and panache in front of goal that makes him the most feared player on the planet in his prime. Here’s my salute to you and thank you for the memories.
More tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of the day.