IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT??? Barca Get Rope-A-Doped As Never Say Die Gunners Fight Back..

April 1, 2010

As mentioned before the match, it doesn’t get much better than this. I’ve found that too much emphasis has been placed on the fact that it is imperative we finish in the CL places every year for financial reasons. It seems that many of us have become that fixated with the debt that engulfs the PL these days and the  jackpot available in qualifying for this competition, that we have forgotten why we really want to play CL football..Yes, I accept that the rewards are beneficial to the club, but for me the reason why I want us to play in this competition every season is for football reasons..There’s no better buzz than watching the team you love play in the big occasions against the big teams..The prospect of Real Madrid’s, The Milan’s and the Barca’s coming to the Emirates every season is of greater reward for me than the prospect of a bulging bank balance that we don’t use anyway..

Last night was one of those occasions and I don’t think there was a single Arsenal fan out there who wasn’t up for this and we were all hoping the players would feel the same..

The line up worried me a little..Wenger’s introduction of injury doubts Gallas and Cesc were a big risk, especially against a team like Barca and straight from the first whistle it seems the risk had backfired..

To the neutral this had to be the game of the season, but to the Gooner faithful it was heartstopping and for the majority of the match down right embarrassing..Song was almost left alone in the middle as Cesc and Diaby seemed stagnant. For the entire first half Barca swarmed the midfield  playing exhibition football and practically used us for shooting practice. The heroic Almunia being the only thorn in their side…

The difference in the teams was quite obvious..Both teams play some lovely football but Barca seem to love to defend as much as they do attack..As a back four Barca have the same weaknesses as us and in Valdes they don’t have a great keeper either, but their midfield hunts for the ball endlessly.. We gave them far too much space and we could hardly get the ball off them.When we did we weren’t allowed to play our own game. We were closed down quickly and we gave away cheap possession ..

Denilsons introduction was a key factor in ensuring a bit more stability in the midfield. Denilson has come under fire from a large section of the support, but it would be silly to suggest the addition of the little brazilian to our midfield didnt sturdy the ship..We were losing possession far too cheaply and if there was ever a time for some 5 yard safe passes it was now..Although Barca’s goals came after Denilson’s arrival, neither can be attributed to him as both were un-Barca like in their build up..Hit and hopes over the top with Ibrahimovic left in acres of space. The first lobbed over a stranded Almunia and the second smashed inside his near post…

Although Barca weren’t as dominant as they were in the first half, they had found themselves 2-0 up and it looked curtains for us, but it was the introduction of Walcott that seemed to turn the tide..Barca had given their all for 70 mins. Credit to them as they played like demons with and without the ball, but fatigue was setting in and Theos pace was too much for their FB. He applied it well. Offering us an outlet and got the game changing goal. Flying down the wing cutting inside and shooting on sight..Maybe Valdes should have saved it but it was a crucial goal…

Confidence in the team started to grow and we began to believe in ourselves again..We had Barca rocked and we began to press using the pace of Theo and hitting the balls into the box. It wasnt long before we pulled level..Nikki got himself on the end of a high ball as he so often does and cushioned a perfect header to Cesc. The captain was about to pull the trigger from 8 yards out before he was hacked down by Puyol’s clumsy attempt to win the ball..

With Nikki leading the protest vigorously, the ref (who seemed to have left his guide dog, white stick and dark glasses at home) awarded the penalty..Up stepped Captain Cool who smashed it into the net…

Fantastic fightback..We were outplayed but we never surrendered and we should all be proud of the team today..

RATINGS

ALMUNIA..9..You’ve got to admire this performance. He worked overtime in the first half, bailing us out of trouble time and time again with save after save. He has his moments and the goals we conceded were cheap, maybe he could have done better, but it would be foolish to say that we don’t owe him a great deal of gratitude for his goalkeeping in this match..We conceeded 2 when it could have been 10..

Clichy..8..I was nervous for him before kickoff. I had no idea how he was going to stop Messi and I knew that Barca were going to bombard his flank..Although he spent much of the match pegged back, when he did get forward he looked menacing and let’s be honest..Did we see much of Messi??? Solid display by the hurricane..

Sagna..6..His flank wasn’t as attacked as Clichy’s but he still had a lot of defending to do..He did get forward when he could but we looked better when Eboue was pushed back to RB..Nonetheless it wasn’t a poor performance..

Gallas..5..I really don’t know why he was risked..He wasnt fit, Barca rained attack after attack at our goal and he eventually went off injured..

Tommy V..5..He wasn’t at his best, he looked solid in parts but made some bad decisions, especially for Barca’s goals..Even Wenger was giving him a mouthful..

Cesc..9..Now the rating is not for his footballing display. It’s for his heart and fight..Football wise he was pretty much a non entity, but he was 40% fit..His mental strength though was phenominal..2-0 down, 20 minutes to go, getting played off the park and he wouldn’t let it go..The penalty was just smashed and he lasted the full 90 minutes, even with a suspected broken leg.. The performance of a true captain….

DIABY..3..Maybe i’m being harsh and maybe he was carrying a knock but the jury’s still out on this lad for me. If he can’t get himself up for this game then I don’t know whats wrong with him. We all know Diaby can be unstoppable on his day but I wish he’d do it more often..His talent is undeniable but we’ve waited 4 years for him to put a decent run of games together but 5 good games in 4 years isn’t convincing me just yet…especially when I know he’s capable of having stinkers like this..Great players have bad games but still make an impact…Diaby might as well have turned up..Let’s hope he turns it on in the return leg…

SONG..9..He was awesome once again..With the injury hampering Cesc’s display and Diaby thinking about what he was having for supper, Song was left to take on the Barca midfield by himself…There were times in the first half when you thought it was Song and Almunia V Barcelona…

Nasri..6..He got himself about a bit and made a nuisance of himself..i’ve seen better displays from him creativity wise but he worked hard.

Arshavin…2..Forgive me for thinking this but was I the only one who thought he bottled it and faked his injury..I’ve defended him long enough..He either shapes up or he fucks off because he’s turning into Adebayor..OK, he’s not half as bad as Ade, but that half is enough..

NIKKI..7..I thought he worked really hard and did well considering..His header to Cesc was clever and assured and I think it was him who fed Theo in for the 1st..

SUBS..

EBOUE..7..I’m starting to like him , finally..I dont cringe anymore when I see his name on the team sheet and I actually want him in the first team nowadays…

DENILSON..7…Never been so happy to see The Crab. He calmed it down a bit and put in a good shift too…

THEO..8..Smash and grab raid with this kid leading the way. The right sub at the right time and it paid off..He didnt let us down…

THE REF..2..I dont want to ever see this bloke again..In any game at any level..I’ve seen better from Stuart Atwell…

THE FANS..10…SHIT HOT

BARCA..10…Wow..totally out of this world.

The game itself came at a huge cost with the possibility of Cesc and Gallas being ruled out for the rest of the season..Its frustrating as Wenger knew the risk of playing them both when neither were fit..The PL is still far from over and without those two, especially our captain, it looks a little harder than it did 24 hours ago..Which is disappointing

That being said, I can’t wait for the second leg..Confidence will be high now in the squad. A performance like that, although a draw will feel like a win..Barca threw everything they had at us and I mean everything..They were something special but that could be their downfall come round two..Our fighting spirit was something out of a Rocky film..We got hit and we got hit hard, but they couldn’t put us down..I’m praying that plays on their mind a little and without Pique and Puyol we will score so it’s game on…

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