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How Arsenal Can Beat Barcelona

Normally a European match is noticeable because of the clash of styles involved. Think Inter Milan’s immovable object against Barcelona’s irresistible force. Similarly, Tottenham have stunned Europe by using traditional English wingers and an old-fashioned target man. In the Europa League, Napoli played a three man backline against teams used to a more traditional back four. Arsenal against Barcelona is different because they could almost be the same team. It’s almost as if Wenger looks upon Guardiola’s team as the ultimate realization of his Arsenal, for every year they seem to incorporate a little bit more of Barcelona’s philosophy.

The sides have nominally different formations, a loose 4-3-3 for Barcelona while Wenger has shifted to 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks, but both managers have incorporated fluidity into their shapes. Messi is a false nine who links well with Dani Alves, a right back that plays very high up the pitch, and Sergio Busquets drops down to cover for him. For Arsenal, Nasri is nominally stationed out wide, but often moves into the middle to link with Fabregas, and Van Persie also often drops deep to pick up the ball. Song and Wilshere have taken turns to shield the back four while simultaneously spreading the ball from deep. This season Wenger has also influenced a more cohesive, Barcelona-esque, pressing philosophy on his club, they do it more, and they do it better than before. The back line stays high up the field like their Catalan counterparts and their fullbacks provide width (however, compared to the myriad offensive weapons in Arsenal’s front six opponents have taken to playing very narrow and letting Sagna and Clichy bombard the box with crosses, it’s the lesser of two evils).

So, the two clubs play a similar style, and Barcelona have the better starting 11 (surely even Arsenal fans would agree with this). How then, do Arsenal win? After all, in recent memory Inter Milan and newly promoted Hércules haven’t matched Barcelona pass for pass, they’ve played a deep line, kept their shape and looked to hit on the break. Liverpool (less than four years ago, blimey) memorably went to Camp Nou and stood toe to toe with Barcelona, winning 2-1 but that was a different team, coming towards the end of the Rijkaard years. If Arsenal play defensively they’ll be crushed, they’re not used to it, and their back line isn’t good enough. Two years ago Koscielny was playing in Ligue 2, to expect him to be able to cope with David Villa and Lionel Messi is madness.

First of all Arsenal need to hope that Thomas Vermaelen is fit by February, because without a good ball-playing defender Arsenal will be eaten alive. Barcelona press relentlessly, and Arsenal’s style doesn’t lend itself to long punts down the pitch. Vermaelen is good enough to play the ball out of defense and start moves. Similarly, Wenger has to get Van Persie firing on all cylinders by the time this match comes around. He showed signs against Manchester City of being Arsenal’s version of David Villa, someone who can link well with the attacking players around him while being a focal point the offense can run through. But he still looks rusty and inconsistent after his return from injury.

Theo Walcott also needs to play, last year when these two sides met he made the difference at the Emirates. If he plays on the right where Wenger has kept him recently his tracking back qualities will be helpful against David Villa. His lack of defensive aptitude is also the reason Arshavin should stay on the bench. Wenger could take a gamble and play him as an inverted winger on the left, because most of Barcelona’s threat this season has been from Dani Alves marauding forward, sometimes stationed so high up the pitch he’s like an additional midfielder. Putting Walcott on his side would pin him back and force Pedro to come and help out. Either way Walcott’s pace should be the key against Barcelona’s high line.

What it comes down to is that both teams like to play the same way, keep possession and pass through the opponents defense. Arsenal have more depth in attacking options on the bench, but Barcelona have the better first team. Arsenal might have to go with a more direct approach in playing balls over the top for Walcott and Van Persie to run onto, something they’re not entirely used to. But given their relatively weak back line, Arsenal need to give themselves chances to score to stay in the contest.

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  1. Messi.V.Nasri

    February 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I think that the main contest will be Nasri for Barcelona and Messi for Arsenal. They are both qulity players and nearly 99% of they both pull of a great performance. Challenge on!

  2. Gunner4Life

    February 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I think.. and MANY Arsenal supporters will agree.. If u line up EVERY Barcelona player against every Arsenal player, it’s obvious Messi is arguably the best player on the pitch. Barcelona will NEVER sell him, but if they DID he’d be the most expensive player the the world right about now (including more than Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80m move to Real Madrid). So, my point? With Messi on the pitch, the handicap is in Barcelona’s favour to win the tie. Take Messi out, or if he’s injured.. Arsenal will WIN!. ALMOST GUARANTEED. It’s perfectly matched ‘like for like’. Nasri v Iniesta, Fabregas v Xavi, Sagna v Dani Alves, Clichy v Maxwell, Song v Basquests, Van Persie v Villa. Ok we’ll take Theo Walcott OUT of Arsenal. Not because Messi in most cases is a better player than Walcott, but because it’s only fair we take BOTH wingers out from either team. In criteria… Barcelona vs Arsenal, WITHOUT Mess and Walcott… and ARSENAL WILL WIN. I don’t see any other player who can cause Arsenal that much trouble. e.g. Last year at the Nou Camp, Arsenal coped really well in most periods but a bit of magic by Messi ended the tie. Anyway, good luck ARSENAL!!

  3. nyasha

    February 4, 2011 at 1:52 am

    talk all you want but it all comes down to the drawing board.i feel this is a two man contest,Pep and Wenger.Mourinho once outsmarted Pep in a fixture that Barca were favourites on paper back at Inter.with all due respect i honestly feel there is sumthing to exploit from Busquests,Alves and Puyol.

  4. Steve

    January 26, 2011 at 3:32 am

    if Samir Nasri keeps playing the way he has this season it wont be long before people start crowing about him the way they do with Messi and the overrated Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s true that Barca have been better than Arsenal over the last few years & they did comprehensively beat the Gunners last season – but Arsenal are clearly improving at a frightening rate, playing some dazzling attacking football & possess the ability to bewilder even quality opposition with the speed of their one-touch passing… Van Persie is fit and in form, ditto Fabregas, Wilshire, Nasri, Walcott – even if Arsenal are rightly the underdogs in this encounter i think it is highly doubtful that Barca are capable of keeping even 1 clean sheet against this pacey skillful Arsenal team… and in a cup tie anything thing can happen if the momentum shifts – but Arsenal cannot afford to draw their home leg this season, they are extremely unlikely to beat Barca at the Nou Camp so they need a strong home result to have any chance of going through…. and even though i do agree that Barcas 1st 11 are a level above anyone else in world football right now, Arsenal have better attacking options on the bench in Chamakh, Arshavin, Rosicky, and Bendtner (anyone laughing at the inclusion of his name watch the goal he scored last night against ipswich – opposition not withstanding it was pure class)… saying all that i still think we’ll need a big slice of luck to go through, but Barca got exactly that in the final against us when Lehmann got red-carded – we could easily have won that game if it had stayed 11-11 so dont totally write Arsenal off…

  5. Christopher

    January 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    RIGHT!!! First off I would never doubt the quality of Barcelona….they have some magical players and it is always a pleasure to watch them play…..However… if I had taken charge of the barcelona team like Guardiola did back in 2008/09 I would have won every trophey on the planet as well! lets face it that team wasn’t built by Guardiola! he simply stepped into the managers role of an already fantastic football team. Wenger on the other hand has built this fabulous team at Arsenal he is a master tactician and a fine manager that on his day can produce a team that can beat the best in the world…….and yes Barcelona at this time are probably the best in the world!!…..This time however it will be a different game, as Arsenal are starting to really come into their own and at times play even more stunning football than Barcelona…. AND I firmly believe that Arsenal will triumph in this highly anticipated game.

  6. Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    January 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    This is a beautiful conundrum to face…two of the best ball control, one touch,short passing teams in the world will face each other again! Who has the better overall team at the moment..Barca by a mile BUT who has the most potentially unpredictable team…Arsenal for sure.
    Player for player Barca outshine Arsenal BUT team for team, they aren’t that far apart. In nets they are virtually equal,especially if Sczensy plays. In defense, Barca have the lead with Bousquets and Puyol’s pairing outshining Djourou and Vermaelen most of the time. The midfield is where Barca really dominate with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi and a host of other stars. However Arsenal’s lineup of Cesc,Nasri,Wilshere, while not comparable to the latter are powerful in their own right and on any given night can cause even Barca some headaches.
    Ultimately the outcome will be decided on who has the most possession (both teams are equal in this respect), who gets the best goalkeeping (again on an equal footing) and who plays THEIR game the best over both legs. Barca come out front in this respect but if Arsenal can get all their best 11 working at the top of their game, it could be a very close thing. I see Barca taking it over two legs by a goal or two but these teams are so evenly matched for experience,pace and tactical skill that it will, for sure, be a classic to watch, regardless of who wins.

  7. robert

    January 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Seems like everyone forgot the main reason Arsenal lost to them last year. Both teams passed like they normally do. Barcelona just closed them down. Funny to say this about two teams that play such gorgeous football, but it was defense that was the factor last year. Barca played- almost to a man- extremely tight defense all over the pitch and disrupted the Gunners’ flow. If the marking isn’t tight by Arsenal, the same thing’ll happen again. Granted, they’ve matured and they have their starting 11 now, so they should do better, but it was defense that proved the deciding factor last year.

  8. RVPFan

    January 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

    There can be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that without question, hands down, Barcelona are a better footballing side their Arsenal. Even though I have been an Arsenal supporter for so many years, I just love Barcelona’s way, I think it’s the way that football should be play. I don’t quite think Arsenal and Barcelona are similar. Maybe a little bit, but Wenger’s philosophy is quick one-touch passing and with pace and agility and he’s got quality players to execute that. With Robin, Cesc and Nasri, they have three players who understand each other extremely well, Robin dropping deep and Cesc in the middle with Nasri playing a free role makes them functional with fluidity as we have seen in the last few games.

    If these three are fit and firing, I think Arsenal should not shy away from playing their own brand of football against Barcelona. Look, I mean, it’s in the DNA for Arsenal to play that style. You cannot take something out of the DNA and make them play negative style with defending. Now, if these three are not playing, its a different story altogether. They will not have players to execute such fluid movement and so they will have to sit back and defend, they would have no choice anyways.

    Both these teams, if not giving them enough space in the middle and clogging out through all men behind the ball, will have super hard time penetrating, no matter if they play their own style. We saw that with Barelona and we saw that Monday with Arsenal as well. But if teams start to attack, that’s when these two teams make them pay. If Barcelona will have space to exploit Arsenal, Arsenal will have space to exploit Barcelona just as much. So that’s why I am saying, play your style. Negative play is a losing way as when a team attacks you constantly for 90 minutes and you don’t have great defenders to back you up, you already have submitted to a loss, in my opinion.

    Arsenal should and must attack. I would even play Chamakh and Van Persie together just to give that extra spice up for crosses into the box and make doubts in puyol or pique’s mind that now you have someone who can shoot outside from the box as well as you have someone who can attack like a proper no.9. This way Barcelona will have to have someone covering Van Persie, someone covering Chamakh and maybe space opens up for Theo, Cesc, Nasri. Look, this game is all about tactics and creating doubts that if you go forward, you might just as well pay with quality players who can break you up and attack in a matter of seconds.

    Barcelona will have a hard time playing a high back-line with these kind of attack minded players. Trust me, Arsenal have quality too and possession players. The only issue is whether Arsenal players can stay fully fit when these two sides meet.

  9. Daniel

    January 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

    HM – I never said Xavi has lost it but only that because his game is based on being everywhere running on the pitch and that he is the wrong side of 30 his game will depreciate from here on in. You compare Xavi to Cesc – of course the former wins for now but Cesc is so much younger an better than Xavi was at his age that he has the potential to surpass him. Great players never lose it but their legs go and Xavi is no different. Cesc came from barca but has spent far more years in his development at arsenal – he has more of wengers mould than anyone else.. Nobody suggested barcas keep-ball style has to do with maturity! Dont know where you got that from! All I said was the majority of barcas players have reached or breached their prime whereas arsenal are overall younger so have more scope to improve. Definitely you over-estimate Pedro and Busquets! Dont think you’ll find anyone to agree with what you said about those 2.. They’re not completely rubbish but Pedro < Nasri or Arshavin and Busquets is not better than Song. He doesn't have the power that the Cameroonian has for a DM. I too am impressed with barca but personally I prefer to watch arsenal when they're not
    inconsistent (a consequence of their young age). There are too many lateral and backward passes for my liking with barca.

  10. Daniel

    January 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Regading Xavi I know what HM meant but it’s ridiculous! Of course the player is literally over 30 but HMs argument was that because Xavi doesn’t run so much his age won’t matter. This couldn’t be further from the truth because as I said, Xavi runs more than anyone in his team as the stats nearly always show! The only thing the Dutch invented that Arsenal and Barca both use is the 4-3-3 formation. The idea of “total football” is that any player can play any position and rotate ie. even defenders have exceptional ball control and passing. I suppose both teams have this. Piqué is very good going forward for example and Vermaelen has an incredible shot. But as I mentioned, Arsenals style is unique and who better placed to assess this than Cesc Fabregas who’s been in both camps. It was just the other day that he said exactly that, even using the word “unique” to describe Arsenals uber-attacking philosophy! Don’t get me wrong, Barcelonas complete and consistent dominance of teams is something Arsenal have yet to master fully but unlike a lot of Barcelonas squad, time is on the gunners side to get that right. However what Arsenal have that Barca lack is raw speed, pace of play, physicality (since this season certainly, and premier league experience definitely helps on that regard). It is on these superior traits that Arsenal must base their game if they are to win. If it becomes ultra slow keep-ball (with all it’s lateral and backward passes that the catalans indulge in) then surely the Spanish will cruise through. That’s why arsenals new-found aggression and pressing is key. They cannot let barca settle. It’ll be tough but if arsenal get it right ten you never know..

  11. Michael

    January 7, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Roberto is correct that it’s Cruyff that is credited with introducing the way Barcelona and now Arsenal play. The closest thing to pasing football played in England was first played by Liverpool, but nowhere near the way Cruyff’s teams played. Most other English teams, including Arsenal, played long-ball football.

  12. Roberto

    January 7, 2011 at 9:19 am


    Really funny that you think Arsenal invested this brand of Football. Johan Cruyff introduced this brand of football in the late 80’s which mimicked the dutch way of playing in the 70’s. I think you will find that at the same time George Graham was in charge of Arsenal and He is certainly someone that could not be described as playing total football. More a case of long ball with a tight back 4. Sorry to burst your bubble but its Wenger who has adopted the Barcelona way of football !!!

    • sunny

      January 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      if the dutch were so great how come they lost two world cup finals?

  13. chris

    January 7, 2011 at 8:46 am

    arsenal were the first team to play this brand of football, everyone else has copied wenger and his ways. barca at the moment play the system better than what arsenal do, but the still copied the arsenal way

  14. Daniel

    January 7, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Talk about stating the obvious! Many comments here go on
    about how barca are currently the best team, that they have some
    players nominated for the ballon dor etc. Nobody denies that!
    Although some deny that Xavi is the wrong side of 30! Check his
    stats.. He is! Not only that but it was suggested this doesn’t
    matter because Xavi doesn’t run anywhere – he just controls the
    play! And I was criticized for apparently not knowing this! Well
    clearly some ppl don’t watch football because if they did they’d
    know that xavis game is based on him being everywhere on the pitch
    – he often runs more distance than any player he plays with it
    against. The stats always show that about him. I’m merely
    suggesting that as he’s in his thirties he wont be as effective
    anymore.. That’s clearly obvious! Another point was made that apart
    from Messi barca have young players too and Pedro and Busquets were
    mentioned! These are the 2 worst players for the catalans who don’t
    make the Spanish team – clearly they are not comparable to arsenals
    young players like cesc and nasri. I had made the point about age
    to suggest that while most of the barca players have reached or are
    beyond their prime, arsenals players are nowhere near that stage in
    their development. In comparing the 2 styles of the respective
    teams I said barca kept possession for the sake of it with too many
    lateral and backward passes. I wasn’t criticizing it’s
    effectiveness but rather it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as
    Arsenals attack attack attack philosophy (especially when on song).
    Again, to reiterate: barca are currently playing better than
    arsenal and their players are more mature.. But arsenal are not a
    barca wannabe team (in fact it’s barca who keeps trying to become
    more arsenal by signing their players). In fact arsenal are unique
    in their ways and it all depends on the night and the performances.
    If arsenal turn up and play their game this could easily be a north
    London victory

    • Dave C

      January 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

      To be fair, I don’t think anyone denied that Xavi is “the wrong side of 30” in the common sense of the term (i.e. he undoubtedly is more than 30 years old). I think what HM said above was that because of the way Xavi plays, there is no “wrong side” of 30 for him – he can play the same (if not better) at 31, 32 as he did at 27, 28.

      • HM

        January 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

        Im not suggesting Xavi will be here till he’s 50, Dave understands, Xavi will not all of a sudden become terrible, his type of game will just slow down, his game is all about natural positioning and creativity, he isn’t going to wake up one day and lose all of that! Your born with it. Its not something you can teach, Cesc has it, but still PROVEN at the World Cup, he is just no where near the level of Xavi & Iniesta (which is scary). Secondly, clearly you underestimate Pedro + Busquets, specially Pedro, he kept Torres out the team in the world cup, Busquets (even though his play acting is woeful) is phenomenal for his age, by far one of the best defensive midfielders who can pass and control the ball (denilson, song, these guys are not at busquets level). Without a shadow of a doubt Pedro’s finishing and sheer clinical ability is what makes him a WAY better player than Walcott, Walcott is a sprinter who plays football. Pedro is the opposite, he doesn’t have to use his pace, the fact he can use both his left + right foot equally strong automatically gives him an advantage over Walcott and maybe even VIlla when shooting.

        Maturity has nothing to do with Barcelona’s style. Again your completely wrong. Barcelona from the Under 14’s level have ONE style that is thumped into their heads. One philosophy, this is why Pedro, Busquets, Pique are in the team. (Maturity has no place in football believe it or not) Barcelona play as a family, the way Xavi & Iniesta play together is sensational, the pace of 1 touch passing between them is scary, I have NEVER seen Arsenal players do the same, and i am not criticising arsenal for this, its just happens that Barcelona are possibly playing the best football ever. Comparing Cesc & Nasri to Pedro & Busquets makes no sense. You would compare Cesc to Xavi (Xavi wins) and Nasri to Iniesta/Messi (Inietsa/Messi wins again) YOU CAN NOT compare Busquets to Nasri. There DIFFERENT players..

        Also. Cesc IS Arsenal, where did Cesc come from Daniel? I’m curious.

        • Lee

          January 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm

          I disagree whole-heartedly, HM.
          1. Cesc proved that if given a chance, he can make things happen. He may not be Iniesta or Xavi level, but he’s damned close. The Confederation Cup showed him starting and conducting play all over the pitch.
          2. Torres was kept out of the world cup by injury. I watched him re-pull his hamstring during a match. (And yes, they risked him despite injury because he is that good, meaning no player could kept him out)
          3. Walcott is not simply a sprinter, but does have much to learn. This season alone, however, his finishing improved drastically.
          4. Maturity has everything to do with their style. The reason none of the players go and flaunt or talk shit is precisely because of this. The reason Xavi is so humble is because of this. How do you keep a family together despite immense talent throughout the squad? Maturity, it breeds respect for each other, so there will never be ego battles.
          5. You need to watch more Arsenal. Nasri’s 2nd goal against Fulham (widely regarded as one of the most beautiful goals in 2010 (to Barcelona’s 0 goals in the top 10)), is built upon 1 or 2 touch passing to feed Nasri through. Watch it, be dazzled.
          6. If Cesc is Arsenal, how did we cope without him? He was injured and out for much of this season. Arsenal did not falter. Arsenal did not change from Arsenal. Arsenal is more than Cesc.

  15. Femi Jacobs

    January 7, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Good articule and well commended. Arsenal is my first club and Barcelona is my second club. It would have been the other way round but, Barcelona marches are showned virtually midnights in Nigeria.

    In this coming match, i want Arsenal to win – Period. For Barca fans to think its going to be easy, that would be a joke; except if Arsenal have injuries. As phenominal Messi is, he was able to score four because of the absence of Arsenal key players particularly Song, Fabrigas, Vanpersie, Gallas and Arshavin. These are five key first shirt players.

    Walcott? I always like him coming in the second half. Reason? Then most defenders would have fagged up and tired; that was why he performed last year. If he is to come in, he should learn how to alternate with Nasri from time to time. He should learn from Messi, when he sees a difficult opposition somewhere, messi runs to another side and operate from there.

    If Walcott can do that, calm down and use his head well, then he can be great.
    Finally, Wenger need to buy Samba or Metersacher to strenghten our defence.


  16. C Dub

    January 7, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Im sorry but there is no better team in the world right now than Barcelona and no better player in the world than Leo Messi. Period, end of story. Anyone who says different are kidding themselves. Barcelona is pure class who play beautiful football. They will frustrate anyone who plays them. And not only because they will pass it around so you cant get it, but they will attack you and pound the ball on goal relentlessly. Not to mention even if you do happen to touch the ball, 3 players collapse and immediately re-posses the ball. Its beautiful to watch. Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta……give me a better 4 on one team than that. And then throw in Pedro who is scoring goals like he’s Messi….Its not possible. Arsenal are a very good team, but they will have virtually no chance when Barcelona play Barcelona football. Good article, but any Arsenal fans hoping your team will be able to advance past the mighty Catalonians is just wishful thinking. There will be no shame in losing to this nearly perfect team. Mark this post. I will gladly eat crow if I am wrong.

  17. domaw

    January 7, 2011 at 2:33 am

    They are similar in a way because teams are usually very different. There has to be a degree of similarity considered and I say its rather a far away similarity. Barcelona have not change their style in years and have become better at it now than before, Arsenal have been trying to imitate them. Also, Barcelona are more patient and rely on sudden bursts or slow direct grind. Arsenal need more time gel and make their style a natural one. As of now they could crumble under pressure and lose their ways. When one is under pressure the true self comes out, Let’s see what Arsenal are made of.
    I think the best players in this match are Messi and Song. Can Messi beat Song, the answer is Yes.

  18. Sam

    January 7, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Barcelona have a better squad than arsenal, on paper that’s a fact, but don’t ever mistake and say a better starting 11 or a better bench. Last year arsenal lost and terribly i must add, but to compare last season and this season is simply stupid.
    so Zlatan scored two goals in the emirates, will Villa do the same? so Messi scored four will it be the same.
    It’s a game played and decided in 180 minutes, and to right of Arsenal is simply stupid. with both teams giving the best 11 players they have expect a great game not an out right winner before the 180 minutes. Arsenal is a much more improved side than what Barcelona faced last season.
    Finally don’t shift Walcott to the left, let Nasri be there that will make Alves not bulge forward, keep walcott on the right his pace and right footed crosses are a greater asset than just keeping him on the right to hold Alves.
    Play in Chamakh at Emirates he is good in the air, Barca’s defence aint that good in the air. At Nou Camp depending on the results play Robin Van Persie and just concentrate on keeping the ball from them and using walcott’s pace to break them on the right hand side.
    Barcelona are favorites but Arsenal can sure win this game

  19. Marc

    January 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    @Ja’far Tabbal

    Take a look at yourself in the middle. You’re the arrogant one, not Barcelona. Wilshare take care of Messi. LOL!

    • Ja'far Tabbal

      January 7, 2011 at 1:46 am

      Wilshere can surprise Barca, I’m sure about it…

      Messi scored for when the following players were not playing:

      Van Persie
      Gallas (starting line-up last year)

      Do you still think Messi will score 4 with Arsenal playing their starting eleven this year? with Chamakh playing? with probably a new signing in defense (the experienced Meretescaker)? with Wilshere being unpredictable for them?

      Keep laughing Marc, but beleive me …Barcelona are 50% short when Messi in addition to any other startring 11 player you may think of become abscent…

    • Sam

      January 7, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Last season the major talking point from barcelona’s camp
      was Theo Walcott not even Fabregas, don’t be surprised, this
      Wilshare kid proved more than capable to handle Chelsea, ran
      against Man City and in all fairness the fact that he has never
      been on such a stage before may be Barcelona’s greatest undoing.
      Tottenham are doing great not because that Breben or Inter are bad
      teams but because they have a very unpredictable way of playing,
      say unique. And to stress this most, Barcelona can easily beat Real
      Madrid but against a team that has just been promoted to La Liga
      they struggle a lot.

  20. Marc

    January 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Haha, what a cute article about the wannabee Barcelona team in north London.

  21. JC

    January 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Great article. I think Arsenal – if you consider them to be the team they put up against Man City yesterday – have closed the gap with Barca. Probably not enough to win outright, but I do think they’ll give them a match.

  22. Steven

    January 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Barca has a better 11v.11? exactly how do you make this comparison. Both teams are equal. You people have no idea about Football you just don’t get it. Firstly don’t even start comparing last years match up between the two sides. Correct Barca played extremly well in the first 30mins at the emirates but this was the case when Arsenal outplayed barca in the first 30mins of the 2006 final before lehman got sent off, if you dont believe that go watch the 2006 final again. Secondly Last year the last 20mins at the emirates, arsenal pounded Barca to gain a 2-2 draw (this is after arsenal had to go all out). And the second leg we had 9 players out not to mention we took the lead as well there. Barca play in a league where every team attmepts football Arsenal play aginst teams like stoke etc. then in the champions league all teams play football. Mourinho’s inter used the same philosphy to barca as did Mourinho’s Chelsea to Arsenal for 2-3 season. Everytime Mourinho won! Wenger doesn’t believe in using this negative approach and was undone by shocking defending at the nou camp COUGH COUGH silvestre! this time around arsenal’s backline wont be so soft.

    • daniel

      January 7, 2011 at 6:04 am

      hahahaha thats pretty funny…to compare lionel messi, xavi, iniesta, david villa, dani alves to the likes of alex song? sagna? rosicky? sure these players from arsenal are good…but they no barcelona players

      barcelona have 3 players going for the balloon d’or…they have got the team of the last 10 years without a doubt…in my opinion best team thats ever played football but ive only been around for 20 years so i can’t speak for teams before my time

      • cl

        January 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

        if this is true then why are barca intrested in signing most of our squad???

      • Lee

        January 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

        They aren’t, rumors are a load of shite. Don’t expect to see any Arsenal players move to Barcelona unless they can play the ball extremely well. Only Nasri and Cesc are of consideration, and Nasri isn’t really. He’s great, I love him, but he won’t be there in the next 5 years.

        • Jay

          January 10, 2011 at 8:44 am

          Lee you’re just too informative – your not Pep in disguise??? I think we can assure you wont see any Arsenal players this season, but please don’t redicule Arsenal by suggesting that they don’t have the “level” of Barca passing game or generally? Barcas three main men are top level (Xavi, Iniesta, Messi) the rest are very good apart from Busquets, who is ok, but in a good team so he’s over looked.

  23. francisa

    January 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm


  24. Charlie

    January 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    All you people who think arsenal have a chance of winning while playing offensively are beyond stupid. Look at El Classico, Real Madrid have been unbelievable all season but they didn’t stand a chance against Barca because they tried to play offensively. What Arsenal need to do is play a 5-4-1 formation with the midfielders tracking back. No team has beat Barca playing offensively. Inter, Rubin, Hercules all beat them with counter attacking football. If Wenger had any sense he would do the same. Im a Barca fan and i want us to win but not for it to be embarrising for Arsenal.

    • Lee

      January 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

      Arsenal can’t play a 5-4-1, I think that’s ridiculous. The current 4-2-3-1 would be perfect for it, because what we need is added depth from Wilshere and Song, who also play the ball phenomenally. We have the right set-up as is, we just need to perform.
      The key to me is pressure and fast pace. Barcelona dominated possession in both legs of the match-up, last year, and that was the key to their good play. We need to keep the possession as even as we can, because Barcelona can hold the ball for literally dozens of passes at a time.
      It will be extremely hard-fought, but it’s possible.. We need everyone’s skill and vision to be top, but I believe.

    • Jay

      January 10, 2011 at 8:39 am

      Charlie, saying that Real are playing amazingly is a little off the mark. They play like a bunch of individuals who aren’t sure where their team players are. When Barca thrashed them, that was the difference between an organised team and a financially organised team (review Arsenal Vs Man Vity for further clarity) and if Arsenal was playing against Real, we would be the favorites. Unfortunately, being a Barca fan (a little jelousy on my part) your rose tinted glasses are getting in your way. What you fail to notice is Arsenal play only one way – attack, play how you Barca play, but the fact reamins there’s goals in this game and it wont just be Barca’s.. Lastly, as most Barcas fans forgot we had massive injuries last season and “no goal keeper” to speak off, so this game is going to be special!

  25. Ian

    January 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Arsenal need to just get in on barca from the first pass. show them we aint a fraid 2 get a lil bit dirty but also be able to outplayu them when we do hav the ball. Walcott is a must(even though i don’t rate him that high), i like your idea of switching him and Nasri to keep in Alves. Alves must be contained. Xavi si also a must to cut off, he is the reason Messi scores so many goals. If we have Vermintor back and also don;t lose RVP we shud have a good chance. I still feel we need a keeper, would ayone object to Pepe Reina?? I don’t think he would be cup-tied.
    Fab to lead us to VICTORY! in Cesc we believe!!

  26. Dan

    January 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Clearly there are similarities between arsenal and barca but let’s be honest, at this moment in time barca are better.. well certainly more consistent. That’s probably to do with the fact the barca players are older and in their prime (bar messi). In fact Xavi is really the wrong side of 30 and will only depreciate from here on in. In contrast arsenals players have years to go before they even reach their peak – who’s to say they won’t surpass the catalans?! When it comes to style, yes the formations are similar and yes both teams play attractive passing and keep possession well. However, arsenal always look to go forward and attack whereas barca often keep possession for the sake of possession alone – too many lateral and backward passes to compare to arsenal. The gunners style is unique in this sense. Arsenal certainly can win this game. They need to impose their own game on barca and as pointed out in this article, apply the pressing when they dont have the ball – this is extremely important! Last year barca were worthy winners but the gunners were missing the spine of the team: gallas rvp arshavin (and cesc for the 2nd leg). Not only that but Pep hailed his teams performance as the best he’d ever seen whereas arsenal were unrecognizable! If wenger can get his team playing to it’s potential then this game can be won. Clearly barca are the favourites but you’d be a fool to write-off arsenal especially given their form and the emergence of world class talent like Samir nasri!

    • HM

      January 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      To say Xavi is on the wrong-side of 30 means you have no idea how he plays. Zidane in the 2006 world cup proved so. Xavi doesn’t need to run at 100mph or shoot with power. His game is all about control and dictating tempo – which means, EXPERIENCE is the key factor. He will only get better or at least be at the same level in the next couple years, also Barcelona DO NOT just pass for the sake of it, they pass all the time because they want the opposition to get frustrated and make sure they don’t have the ball. It is proven passing consistently is MUCH harder than parking the bus. Its called ‘Total Football’ something Arsenal have tried and failed to emulate time and time again.
      Barcelona are clearly better, not because they are more consistent, because there doing something thats done once in a blue moon. Completely controlling a game without resorting to 10 men behind the ball. The 5-0 against Real Madrid was by NO MEAN because Real Madrid didn’t turn up, Barca simply were phenomenal, Xabi Alonso said it was the worst game of his life, Real couldn’t get the ball, and once they did Barcelona were all over them. Pedro, Busquets, Messi, Pique are all under 25 btw – 4 first team starters (one being the best player in the world). The excuse that Arsenal are too young is bullshit, if he was playing with 18 year olds, then maybe.

  27. Ja'far Tabbal

    January 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Good Analysis, but I would like to add:

    1) Wilshere can surprise Barcelona, they are so arrogant to notice him now, similar to the Balotelli attitude, and all what they are thinking about is coping with Fabregas and Nasri. Wilshere can mark Messi. that means one Defensive MF needed (Song).

    2) Walcott should stay on the right he can be destructive there as BARCA’s weak point is STILL their left-back position, on the left-hand-side of Arsenal I suggest using Diaby, if he returns from Injury, he has shown tactical ability there and can trouble Alves with some tricky moves and long range shooting towards Valdes or lobs to Walcott. Diaby and Wilshere can trap Messi and isolate him from Alves, but they have to be well rested before that.

    3) It’s critical to sign Meretsacker , height is key against Barcelona, they are TOO short, and with Vermaelen back & Chamakh concentrating more with those 6-8 yard headers I hope that Arsenal can really make Barcelona taste ,especially in the wide Nou Camp, what Blackburn and Bolton have done to them in recent years, loads of bombardments that have really tall players who can nail them in…Pique will not be able to cope all by himself and Puyol is still shorter than waht they’ll need..that would also cause Bosquets to draw back too much and leave a gap for Van Persie and Nasri to shoot from 18-yards!

  28. jseabold

    January 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Not a bad piece. Unfortunately, I’ve been let down too much to think the Verminator is going to be back and anywhere near the level he needs to be for the Barcelona game. Just today they said they don’t expect him back until after January now (though I’ve seen conflicting reports). If he were just coming back into the team now (not just training) it’d be realistic. Maybe. I think it’ll be Koscielny and Djourou if he can stay fit (I agree with you and think he has been immense for us lately). Kos will step up. If I keep saying it it’s got to be true right? Also we might dip into the transfer market here soon. Chris Samba anyone? While I’m not sold on him, but it looks to be a possibility at this point. With Arsenal _finally_ adding high pressure, movement off the ball, and (total team) defensive desire to their … err … arsenal, I can’t wait to see this match.

  29. DC Gunner

    January 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Good analysis. I think Wenger really wants Nasri to be able to fill that Messi role and based on his form this season he may yet be able to do it. But for that to happen Wilshere has to be the one to move forward and play alongside Fabregras. With the defense as unsettled as it has been at times this year that just hasn’t been a real possibility, but with Vermaelen and Dijourou anchoring the line who knows what could happen.

  30. Murph

    January 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I think Arsenal need to hire a set-play coach, if you cut those conceded goals – Arsenal have 3-4 more wins this season.

    I agree that Theo featuring and keeping the Barca back line honest will be key to Arsenal success. I hadn’t thought about placing him on the left, there bye keeping Alves anchored…with the trend of reversing wingers and playing via cutting back to cross…it could work well. And you are right that Nasri needs to play on the right side. Anyone else think Chamak should get a look see this time around against the Catalonians?

    BTW, I think I’ve coined a new phrase: “Arselona” – may I take credit of has someone already turned this one?

    • Alex

      January 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Sorry but I’ve already used that. I have a friend that likes Barcelona and I’m a Gooner so we made “Arsenlona” on Fifa 11. Sorry to burst your bubble 🙂

      • Murph

        January 7, 2011 at 2:16 am

        oh well… great minds, great teams, etc…just my luck.

      • domaw

        January 7, 2011 at 2:24 am

        How about Barcenal.

        • ben

          January 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

          I said “Asenlona” accidently once when I was talking to someone about the two clubs….stick in my mind and vocab ever since…

  31. ggoon

    January 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Well written analysis, I think the battle will be in the midfield, who ever comes on top should win. Vermalaen and Doujorou will be key in defense as I don’t rate Kolcieny and Squillaci, I noticed whenever Djorou plays Arsenal play well.

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