Barcelona Preview: Time To Give The Team Your Backing
Barcelona visit The Emirates this evening, European football’s current most successful club come to the home of the club which they aspire to be. Many commentators believe that the quality of the Premier League has fallen; the same can be said of the Champions League. A quick glance at the remaining sixteen teams suggest it is not too fanciful to believe that the winners of this tie will probably go on to win the tournament itself.
Much has been written in awe of tonight’s opponents and there is no getting away from the fact that Barcelona are the exceptional team of their time. Like Milan, Madrid and Liverpool before them, they must be aware of the cyclical nature of that time though. It will not last forever nor may not last as long as they thought.
Much is made of the ‘homegrown’ nature of their side and the numbers who have emerged from their youth system is a testimony to the hard work that they have put in. Frequently held up as the way football should go, Barcelona encompass that which is good and bad in football. The excesses of their leaders is highlighted in the fact that Alves and Villa combined were more expensive to buy than the expected Arsenal starting line-up, almost double that if Nasri is on the bench.
And Barcelona are not invincible either. Respect for their efforts on the pitch is due and to win, Arsenal will have to be at their best. It is no more or less than should be expected in this competition. We know already that a disinterested Arsenal is capable of losing in Donetsk and Braga. The same squad is equally capable of destroying teams at home.
There has been much talk of revenge for last season but this more fuelled by the sense of injustice over Paris, a match Arsenal were the better side in despite being reduced to ten men. Yet revenge in the context of this tie is irrelevant. Tonight is all about being more aggressive in keeping the ball and retrieving it when possession is lost; more clinical in front of goal; more solid in defence; more than Barcelona in every department.
And a full strength Arsenal side is more than capable of being that. Martin Keown gives a quick tactical guide here but there are more ways than this to skin the Catalan cat. All of Arsenal’s game is built on speed but not just physical, mental as well. Anticipating the moves of their opponent to stifle danger and turn defence into attack.
The media like to portray the back four of Arsenal as the weakness, particularly in the centre. This is to ignore the solidity of Szczesny and Djourou / Koscielny together. Recent Premier League form identifies the fallacy of the supposed weakness; just three goals conceded since Old Trafford with the trio in situ.
The defence is weakened over the two ties though. Bacary Sagna’s suspension means Emmanuel Eboué will play at right back. No disrespect to Eboué but Sagna is the better defender; the Ivorian will need to play to his highest level to compensate for the Frenchman’s absence. In 2006 his buccaneering style was a highlight and judicious use of the same attacking flair will push Barcelona onto the back foot without leaving gaps at the back to be exploited.
Whilst the headline grabbers in midfield and attack are those in Barcelona colours, their weaknesses are more than capable of being exploited by Arsenal’s sextet. Man-mark Fàbregas all that you want, Wilshere, Song, Nasri and Walcott are more than capable of creating chances for van Persie whilst chipping in with their share of goals.
The pace of Walcott has pre-occupied tonight’s opposition which is to Arsenal’s advantage on the pitch. Either the Catalans have to utilise more resources to stop him or their full backs cannot push on as much as they would like to. Both scenarios are favourable for the hosts.
The line-up I expect Arsène to go with this evening is:
Szczesny; Eboué, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy; Fàbregas, Song, Wilshere; Walcott, van Persie, Nasri
The only change to that would be Arshavin starting instead of Nasri which might be a more sensible approach given the recent hamstring problems of the latter.
There is one more element for tonight; us. Big European nights have seen Arsenal two down before anyone has known what was happening. Tonight is for us to get behind the team from before the kick-off, to create a vibrant atmosphere for the players to respond to.
One aspect is letting the Catalans know exactly what their poverty is denying them, supporting the campaign from the gentlemen of Le Grove and their ‘Hands Off Cesc’ idea. Each one of us there tonight needs to get The Emirates rocking and rolling; encourage, persuade, cajole and bully those who won’t because they might spill their prawn sandwiches.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on February 16, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Barcelona, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 633 Comments.