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Arsenal Were Simply Not Good Enough Against Barcelona

Photo by Shht!

Champions League matches often create fascinating moments in games, especially in the second leg when two teams are going down to the wire to determine who will be victors. In Tuesday night’s match between Barcelona and Arsenal, with Barcelona in the ascendency with a 3-1 lead late in the game, it looked more likely that the scoreline would become 4-1 or 5-1 such was the way Barcelona were creating chances. Luckily for Arsenal, the score was kept respectable thanks to the multitude of saves by Manuel Almunia and some wastefulness by Barcelona as they took one touch too many in front of goal.

But then, all of a sudden out of nowhere, Arsenal made a rare counter-attacking run forward down the right wing with Jack Wilshere, who delivered a beautiful cross into the path of Nicklas Bendtner. Despite how Barcelona mastered this game, all of the possession they had, the goals they scored and the chances they created, Bendtner had the chance to score for the Gunners and steal victory on the away goals rule. Of course, as we know, his first touch was awful and Barcelona fans breathed a huge sigh of relief as Victor Valdes (who didn’t have much to do all night) collected the ball and returned Barcelona to safety.

In some ways, it doesn’t seem fair that Arsenal could have stolen victory away from Barcelona on aggregate. Barcelona dominated the second leg, scored three goals, scored one away one but would have lost in the second leg because of an away goal and a late goal by Bendtner. But such are the rules of Champions League football, which makes it even more exciting and bizarre at the same time.

On the flip side, it wasn’t fair at all what Swiss referee Massimo Busacca did in the first half when he didn’t award Barcelona’s Eric Abidal a yellow card for putting his hand around Robin van Persie’s neck. I’m assuming that the referee and assistant referees didn’t see the incident. Incensed by the situation, Van Persie was then punished less than a minute later for an incident with Dani Alves. In the second half, Busacca showed his inconsistency and incompetence by deciding to award Van Persie a second yellow because he played on after the referee had blown his whistle for an offside decision.

Poor decisions aside, Barcelona deserved to go through to the next round given their performances over the two legs. Arsenal, who will feel cheated by referee Busacca, were simply not good enough in the second leg and were fortunate to lose by the scoreline that they did.

When I was watching the game last night, I was impressed by Arsenal’s bravery at times by the likes of Almunia, Jack Wilshere and Johan Djourou, who made several key tackles and blocks. But overall, while I was watching the game, the impression I got was that Arsenal did not create a display worthy of a possible Premier League title holder. The gulf in class exhibited by both sides Tuesday night was massive. Yes, Arsenal had Fabregas who was not 100% fit and were without Walcott and Song, but even without those two players and with a half-fit Fabregas, Arsenal played like they were in a different class. They too often panicked under pressure and booted the ball away instead of trying to keep possession. They made too many mistakes in the back and poured more pressure on themselves than they had to.

Even despite that, Arsenal came within a whisker of upsetting Barcelona and qualifying for the round of 8. But overall, even with a valiant effort at times in front of a packed Camp Nou, Arsenal were simply not good enough. And most importantly for me, didn’t look like a side who could or would go on to win the Premier League. I hope they prove me wrong, but Tuesday night may have been their swan song of the 2010-2011 season.

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  1. Chris

    March 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

    As a Barcelona fan, I was happy to see the way Arsenal set up. I thought that they might come out a little and since they have good attacking players, that’s always a worry. Mallorca, Atletico Madrid (in the second-half) and Valencia all did this well against us recently (although they all lost – none of those teams are as good as Arsenal at their best). I was surprised, because you need to have the ball to win have a chance against Barcelona – I thought they knew this from the first leg.

    As far as the decisions from the referee go…well…I just look back at the Champions league and every other competition over the last few years (and in fact all years) and realise that all those games…are history. There are as they are. I accepted graciusly the defeat to Internazionale last year in spite of lots of team factors that we could say hindered us, and accepted we were fortuitous against Chelsea – but in the end it didn’t matter. It is up to a team to prove themselves capable of being the best (11 men, 10 men, 9 men, a fully-fit team…who cares? What does the word “team” imply?). The only way to do that is to win the final.

  2. Bluegrass Gooner

    March 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    As an Arsenal supporter, I have some very strong feelings about what took place at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, not just with regards to the Busacca’s inexplicable decision to give van Persie a second Yellow. Nevertheless, I have taken a couple days to settle down and assess my feelings about the match, all the while reading numerous articles, post, and comments about the match from seemingly everyone with an opinion. This is what I have determined.

    The consensus seems to be that Arsenal were thoroughly outplayed and even flattered by the 3-1 scoreline. With this, I cannot disagree. Arsenal were clearly outplayed – embarrassingly so – by their own standards. In all honesty, I couldn’t believe what I was watching during the first half. Moreover, I couldn’t decide if the relentless pressure from Barcelona was due to that fact that Arsenal weren’t even trying or if it was just a matter of Barca being that good. Regardless, it was an Arsenal performance that flew in the face of everything I had expected from the club – of the Arsenal way – and it was in complete disagreement with all of Wenger’s comments about how the club was going to approach the match. I never believed Arsenal were capable of parking the bus in front of goal at the Camp Nou. Moreover, I never dreamed they would even try. But they did, and this is where my assessment of the match (and the significance of van Persie’s second yellow) diverges from nearly every other assessment I’ve come across.

    Everyone seems to overlook the possibility (and I would argue ‘fact’) that Arsenal had no intention of beating Barca in their own backyard. Additionally, most everyone with an opinion seems inclined to judge this match as if it stood alone as the only match of the tie. They forget that Arsenal did not need to win this game; they needed to win the tie. This must be kept in perspective when judging Arsenal’s overall performance that day no matter how unpalatable it was for the refined footballing palates of the supporters of both clubs and interested neutrals.

    If leg two of the tie is the second half, then Arsenal were winning 2-1 during all of the Barca’s first-half deluge on Tuesday. Barcelona was the team that needed the result, and it showed. Having given up a late equalizer just before the half, Arsenal came out for the last quarter of the tie in losing position (in the game and in the tie) and responded, although not with the same sort of consistency and authority as Barca had in the first-half. Yet for the eight minutes that passed from the restart to Busquet s’ own goal, we saw a different Arsenal, one with some offensive ambition, one that needed to score. Although they were a little fortunate on the goal, Arsenal did get the score they needed. They created some offensive pressure and the chance in the form of the corner that produced the goal. Furthermore, one could argue that goal wasn’t a complete gift as Diaby’s run and presence in the box caused the three man Barca collision that put the ball beyond Valdés. Arsenal were winning again, and they had some momentum. But approximately three minutes later (roughly a minute and a half when considering the time that elapsed for the goal and Almunia’s subsequent injury) Busacca changed all of that.

    Most everyone one with any common sense knows that this decision is a horrible one at anytime, during any match, against any club. It should have enraged supporters and neutrals alike. It was terrible. In my humble opinion, it is unfair to disregard Busacca’s decision as ultimately insignificant because of the play on the field for the entire ninety minutes. For half the match, Arsenal did not need to score. And when they needed to score, outside to the first eight minutes of the second-half leading up to the equalizing goal, they were short-handed, unfairly. Moreover, van Persie’s dismissal came at a moment in the match when Arsenal were actually ‘in the match’. So when Wenger complains that Busacca in effect ‘killed the game’, I suspect he has a point. We will never know if Arsenal’s youth and pace would have been enough down the stretch to turn the tie as it had been at the Emirates three weeks earlier. We can speculate, as many have. But to do so in a manner that disregards the dynamics of two-legged European competitions (i.e., aggregate goals, away goals tie-breakers, etc.) and view the is match as a one-off is not appropriate. Even supposing Barcelona had managed to retake the lead and add another (something I concede seemed likely), it isn’t unthinkable that a full strength Arsenal, an Arsenal with van Persie on the field, could have snatched another goal. Arsenal would have lost the match, deservedly. But they would have won the tie, deservedly. On the other hand, Barca were fantastic on the night and could have just as easily dominated Arsenal the final 36 minutes had Arsenal played with 12 players. Thanks to Busacca, we will never know.

    • jakobscalpel

      March 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks for making a reasonable argument. Yours is much my own opinion, as a very interested neutral.

      I still can’t believe that Rosicky started. I imagine this was done because Arshavin’s work rate is sometimes poor but I would expect Arshavin to show up for a match against Barca.

  3. Rguo

    March 10, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Shall we take a more objective view of the ref performance over 2 legs?

    Favours for Barca
    1st leg – honestly none that I can remember of, feel free to add any

    2nd leg – did not send off abidal for putting his hands on the throat of RVP
    – Sent off RVP in the now famous incident

    Favours for Arsenal

    1st leg – disallowed Messi’s goal, I admit initially I thought it was offside, but after reviews and replays not only by myself as well as official sources, it was a wrong decision and its onside

    – a penalty should be awarded against Arsenal

    2nd leg – messi was fouled in the box, a penalty should be awarded against Arsenal
    – RVP hitting Alves in the face, a 50/50 red open to interpretation of ref
    – possible (against 50/50) penalty against Arsenal in the 2nd half
    – possible 2nd yellow(and hence red card) due to tackle in box and penalty

    In conclusion, Arsenal shouldn’t blame the Ref for destroying their hopes as the refs over the 2 legs have more than favoured them over Barca…

    I might have miss some, feel free to add

  4. The Truth

    March 10, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Sid Lowe:

    “This time is no exception: Had Nicklas Bentdner taken advantage of a golden opportunity in the 87th minute, it would be irrelevant. Arsenal would be through and the moans would surely have come from the other side. Yet somehow that botched scoring chance has not formed an essential part of the narrative. Score, and no amount of perfect passing would have comforted Barcelona in its moment of defeat; miss, as he did, and Arsenal’s search for a scapegoat from Switzerland is undermined. Best not to talk about it then. Better to find someone else to blame.

    At the end, Arsenal was incensed and, in an odd sort of way, rather comforted — confronting the referee meant not confronting its failure; it meant not confronting the truth. And the truth is that it had been comprehensively beaten. Barcelona arguably was assisted, yet it was also rather sad — a brilliant performance was sullied, belittled.”

    “Barcelona completed 724 passes to Arsenal’s 199. Xavi alone completed more passes than Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Bendtner, Andrei Arshavin and Van Persie combined. So did Andres Iniesta. Ineffective, cry those who dismiss the passes. Sideways, pointless, irrelevant, they add. But the passing is the identity that has taken Barcelona to extraordinary success over the last two and a half years. The passes are relevant; they are everything. Through them, Barcelona protected itself; it defended with the ball.”

    “The sending off changed the game,” Wenger said. Only it didn’t. Not entirely. What it might have done is prevent Arsenal from being able to change the game; what it might have done is deny the Gunners the chance to change the game. What it might have done was open Arsenal up a little more, make resisting even harder and scoring a little easier. But Barcelona had already scored once, in the 45th minute. It had already had six shots on target, more than it would have afterward. It was already dominating the match. When the goal was scored, Arsenal was clinging on.”

    “And then it happened. Van Persie took a shot after the whistle. He said he had not heard the whistle. If not, then it was a dreadful shot and one taken with remarkable abandon, with a lack of concentration — a loose, frustrated swing of the boot. The swing of a man who knows the whistle has gone. A reaction. A yellow card offense. His second.

    It was still an awful red card. Not because the decision was wrong but because, strictly, it might even have been right. Although the referee should surely have applied some comprehension and common sense, he could underline the relevant paragraph in the rule book. And that’s the point: that the rules punish something so innocuous, so unimportant as if it were a heinous crime. It is absurd that a player departs a game so big for something so little.”

    “It’s also worth noting that Van Persie had earned his first yellow card by grabbing at Alves’ face. He had also launched into an ugly tackle on Messi, studs going up the Argentine’s Achilles. Barcelona supporters also noted that there was a clear penalty on Messi, ignored by Busacca. There was another penalty in the second half that wasn’t given — mainly because Pedro did not go down despite being fouled. Laurent Koscielny had, they said, been fortunate to stay on. In the first leg, Alex Song had walked a fine line. As for Messi, he had a goal wrongly ruled out at the Emirates. There had been a shout for a penalty there, too.”

    ‘”Barcelona always wins because of the referee,” said Mascherano, turning on the sarcasm to make his points. “It doesn’t matter if we have 19 shots or all the possession, it doesn’t matter if we are brilliant. It doesn’t matter at all … we win because of the referee.”

    And because of Nicklas Bendtner, of course. That was the moment that everything could have changed. But that’s an inconvenient truth — for both teams.’

    • Dave (dlbags)

      March 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      Great article, I even linked it from my Twitter. Problem is I have the game on DVR and people are putting too much emphasis on the Bendtner touch. I’ve watched it a million times and it would have been a shot in a million. Not saying it couldn’t have happened, but he was being pressured, it wasn’t a clear break away and the goalie was sprinting at him.

      it’s pivotal though because A) people love to slag Bendtner since his comments and B) it’s an example of how the game wasn’t put away by Barca as many would have you believe.

      The rest of it is speculation and opinion, I like the article tho. I just resent people blaming Bendtner for not making that goal.

  5. mahesh

    March 10, 2011 at 5:05 am

    the game plan was to defend..!!! so stop talking about worthyless display.. what do u have to say about inter vs barca.. worthyless yet champions…?? arsenal play the beautiful game always- criticized for that, tried to play a defensive game once in which they almost succeeded- criticized yet again..!! crazy analysis by you..!

  6. Omar Khalifa

    March 10, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Inter played against Barca very well last year, but wait a minute, wasn’t it a ref mistake not to allow the 2nd goal by Bojan?

    Do you really think that if Messi had his goal against Arsenal in the first leg allowed ‘it was onside’ , and Messi’s disallowed penalty in the 2nd leg-first half allowed, Arsenal would have had any chance? I doubt.

    Even though we lost in the first leg and I thought that it was unfair, I admitted that Arsenal were really good against Barca, and we all expected an exciting game, and I remember Wenger saying ‘we won’t sit back and defend at the Camp Nou because its against our philosophy’ , what philosophy? To accuse the ref for your loss? He came and sat back defending, and no guys that didn’t work, even with Van Persie your speaking as if he was a God on the pitch, he wasn’t there at all, and Arsenal had 0 shots throughout the 90 minutes, is that fair?

    Im a Barca fan but to be honest, I was very disappointed by the way Arsenal played, i think they’re a lot better than that, and regarding the score 3-1, if Barca was going to be eliminated it would’ve been because of the many chances we wasted, not because of the brilliance of Arsenal

    • Dave (dlbags)

      March 10, 2011 at 4:28 am

      Are you being purposely dense? #5 minutes to go when RVP was sent off AFC needed one goal to advance. ONE. The first game you guys dominated possession and still lost. it happens all the time so looking at slanted stats like 0 shots on goal when for a third of the game we had 10 men. Unreal how obtuse people are being about it. ONE GOAL. That’s all they needed and Bendtner almost could have done it. What then would the FCB people have whined about? Being superior and losing still like you did at Inter?

      And why wouldn’t Wenger employ Jose’s tactic against FCB? Fabregas was clearly not 100%, Song was injured and RVP wasn’t 100% either.

      The arrogance of the Barca fans, players and generally all of the Catalans is amazing.

      There’s no denying the talent of Barca but to assume victory by looking at stats and ignoring the man difference is just plain ridiculous. I mean football is a game of two halves. Look at the first game, look at last years games with Arsenal, look at the CL finals. AFC didn’t need shots on goal, they needed one to go in. And the own goal Barca fans arrogantly refer to was caused by AFC pressure which was mounting.

      Read Georgina Turner’s live blog:

      Well, that’s just what Arsenal needed. Nasri surged up the left of the pitch, shaking off Mascherano and forcing Abidal to concede a corner. Nasri himself swings it in and Busquets nods the ball past his own keeper.

      GT: 54 min: Within seconds of the restart, Villa escapes the Arsenal defence and looks like he’s going to dink the ball up over Almunia and into the net, but he can’t lift it before the keeper smothers his feet. The keeper got caught in the face, but he’s up again now. We have quite a 35 minutes in prospect now, ladies and gents.

      56 min: Oh what foolishness. Van Persie has just been sent off, having been shown a second yellow card, for kicking the ball away. He claims he didn’t hear the whistle, and is absolutely raging. Understandably so – it was an instant shot, he didn’t just hoik the ball up into the stands after play had stopped.

      Yes clearly the game was over regardless of the sending off, it meant nothing, Barca is the superior teams with the stats in its favor and that’s all that matters in football. No way had RVP stayed on AFC could have managed one goal.

      I see the light now. Clearly FCB deserved the win.

      The worst part is no arsenal fans are blaming Barca for any of this, they blame the ref. They admit Barca played brilliantly, and yet no Barca fans can concede that Arsenal could have still advanced. the ignorance and stubbornness between the Arsenal haters and Barca worshipers is astounding. It’s like you all just starting watching football last week.

    • mahesh

      March 10, 2011 at 5:10 am

      messi’s second goal was a clear offside… watch it again..! and it is the ref who spoils the game always.. dont forget the way you won against chelsea .. chelsea deserved atleast 2 penalties.. who should you thank the refree.!

  7. dlink09

    March 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    i used to support Barca over Real.. not any more after pep’s arrogant talk on Arsenal.. Go Jose .. Spanish Armada..

  8. Andy

    March 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Apparently Arsenal having given up winning trophies for Lent.

    Like they do every year.

    • mahesh

      March 10, 2011 at 5:14 am

      can you tell me what did barcelona win from 1999-2004…??? nothing…! arsenal are having a similar type of period… and its gonna end soon..

  9. dozie

    March 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I know it´s very painful to see your club lose a very crucial game like CL. But it will be nice you advice Wenger to go for experience players who will not be afraid to play football rather than the bunch of little boys wearing arsenal shirts and running around the pitch fearfully.
    I was ashamed with arsenal performance last night. Until they bring in experience players it will take them three more years to start winning titles.

  10. Rod

    March 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    UEFA/FIFA really need to stop sendng amateur officials to such important games.

  11. Dave (dlbags)

    March 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Teams that aren’t good enough or what not win all the time. The best team doesn’t always win . As a matter of fact one could look at the first game where Arsenal had 34% of the ball and won- with 11 men of course.

    But don’t worry it’s simply easier to look at stats and say Barca were better and the red card didn’t ruin the game so we can all still believe in the UEFA, FIFA and the Champion’s league and our precious game can continue on.

    Where the press should be holding FIFA’s feet to the fire, numerous articles like this will be written rationalizing a slanted result. It’s easier and sells more print.

    Fact is Arsenal may still have lost with 11 men but we will never know that and the first yellow RVP has nothing to do with the second poor decision by the ref regardless of how easier a stance that is to take by the sad state of the press these days.

    The press used to be feared and have power, now they’re just fevered egos who inject themselves and their opinions into the stories instead of doing their job.

    As a result FIFA only need humor them for a few days or weeks of resistance until they (the press) move to the next story like with the World Cup selection or what not.

    What the game clearly needs is goaline tech, more than one ref on the pitch and a culture where sideline officials can override or are conferred with more. These FIFA refs are like judges and personalities and the one guy running around is clearly above criticism or explaining himself and there’s a culture of supporting them by the governing body and by other refs on the pitch.

    Until the game moves out of the 19th century and into the 21st this will be yet another in a long line of games where we have to speculate outcomes because of poor reffing. I would say look at the NHL even on skates they need more than one ref on the ice. They use replay and have goaline tech. And they make substantially less money than most of the European leagues. But getting it right and being fair is more important than preserving this idea of the game. And yes I know they put refs behind the net and they’ve done nothing and made no impact. They dare not make a call unless the ref is far away so their impact on corners and set pieces is a joke.

    Stop making this about Arsenal and Barca and about the state of the game and perhaps we can get some change. It took them weeks to ban snoods and yet all these things we cry for they ignore.

    • Joe

      March 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      “Where the press should be holding FIFA’s feet to the fire, numerous articles like this will be written rationalizing a slanted result. It’s easier and sells more print.”

      Yes, nothing sells print like rational, well-reasoned, non-inflammatory arguments.

      What journalism school did you go to?

  12. Jordan

    March 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Good article, Gaffer.

    I agree with all things you said, including Arsenal’s disappointing performance. It didn’t disappoint me to see them lose, though.

  13. Joe

    March 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Yes, I do think Barca would pick apart the midfield and leave Man U to counter attack. But that was my point to begin with! Arsenal tried that very same tactic yesterday and it didn’t work. I believe with Man U’s back line and their strength up front they could run that same tactic more effectively than Arsenal.

  14. Terry

    March 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Besides Barcelona having all the possession, Arsenal didn’t help themselves by playing Fabregas who clearly wasn’t fit and did nothing the entire game except gift the ball to Xavi to pass to Messi for the opener. The other problem with Arsenal was that they kept giving the ball away especially by their defenders. I have never seen an Arseanl side lose possession so much with bad touches; the players looked nervous.

    It was an interesting game though as Barcelona could have scored at least a couple more and Arsenal actually had a chance to go through if Bendtner had a better first touch. At least it was interesting till the very end.

    The referee was definitely wrong in issuing the yellow card to Van Persie. It took all of one second from the time he blew for offside and Van Persie’s shot which he took in stride and couldn’t have stopped even if he wanted to. Not the reason why Arsenal lost but definitely a bad decision by the referee and I hope UEFA does not hand him any more games this season.

  15. jinhuangdi

    March 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Arsenal have this fear about Barcelona that they have not been able to overcome since thier narrow 2-1 loss in the 2006? Champions League final. Just because Arsenal had a one goal lead going into the return leg, didn’t mean they had to play defensively. It was the wrong strategy to adopt against the best team in the world. Common sense and the law of averages will tell you that if you allow the other guy to attack, attack and atack he will put the ball into the goal. It is just mathematics. No defence is full-proof. Arsenal have now to just lick their wounds and focus on the prmiership challenge… Read my post ” Where Were Arsenal”. Just click on the icon

  16. The Truth

    March 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    From Sam Wallace of The Independent:

    It would be wrong to say that Arsenal left the Nou Camp with nothing last night. They left with one crucial memento of another defeat at the hands of this ruthlessly brilliant attacking side. This time they left with an excuse.

    It was that to which Wenger and his players were clinging as they were humbled again by Barcelona. Before Van Persie’s red card they had been subjected to waves of attack. Afterwards, it was a torrent that they were powerless to resist but Wenger will go to his grave repeating what he said last night – that his team would have won the tie had Van Persie not been sent off.

    There are plenty of us who would beg to differ. Although Arsenal had come back in the latter stages of the first leg at the Emirates 14 days earlier when Barça had tired, the task of coming back last night was simply too much for them. Arsenal hardly strung a meaningful passing sequence together. This was Barça at their frantic best and they deserved to win this tie, regardless of what Wenger saw as the injustice of Van Persie’s red card.

  17. pete

    March 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Arsenal will never beat Barca over 2 legs, they try to play the same football but not as well. I think out of all the English teams they are the least likely to beat Barca. I’m not saying they are worse than the other English sides but i don’t think you can beat Barca at their own game which is what Arsenal try and do. I think Man Utd and Chelsea would stand a better chance just because their style of play is different.

    • Andrei

      March 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      I think Chelsea is the only English side that matches well against Barcelona. Spurs could beat them too but only on a swagger and if Barcelona get really careless. Last year Mourinho & Inter showed the recipe on how to beat Barcelona. But you need the tools and perfect execution to do that. Arsenal and United simply don’t have the players and they are not built around Mourinho’s recipes. When United played Barca in the CL final and were thoroughly outplayed. And that was much better United side than today.

      • tonyspeed

        March 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

        We need hargreaves back… A holding midfielder that is actually good is what you need to counter Barca.

      • pete

        March 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm

        The last English club to beat barca was Man Utd, the year they won the CL and i’ll let you into a little secret, they wern’t managed by Mourinho.
        You don’t try to beat a team of 11 small talented footballers playing a short passing game with 11 small slightly less talented footballers playing the same type of game. Barca were able to press right up the field last night because they knew Arsenal were going to try and play through them.
        If Barca tried to do that against Chelsea or Man Utd, they would just boot the ball up the field for Drogba or Berbatov. They will by-pass the Barca players and go more route one.
        They aren’t afraid to mix up short passing and long balls if the situation calls for it. Arsenal just played right into Barca’s hands, Pep must love playing against them

        • Andrei

          March 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm

          In 2008 it was not as mature Barcelona side with Rijkaard in charge. And most importantly it was much better United side that had Ronaldo, Pique, healthy Ferdinand and Hargreaves, younger Scholes and for that matter Tevez. It was United squad at their peak. In 2009 it was improved Barcelona side that simply outclassed United in the CL final. 2011 United just don’t have as much quality in the squad and the right players to counter Barcelona. As much as I like Berbatov he is not the answer against Barcelona. Though I’m sure that Chicharito would have scored in that chance missed by Bendtner.

  18. [OPTI]Madschester United

    March 9, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Disclosure: I am a huge United fan of almost 20 years – I hate Chelsea and laugh at Arsenal’s trophy-less youthfullness; NONETHELESS, the manner in which Barca beat Chelsea in 2009 and Arsenal this time around was quite ridiculous.

    The Chelsea game is well documented part of history now, but Arsenal (just like Mourinho’s Inter last year) showed that Barca are not as fantastic as the over-rated La Liga claims. Sure Barca had 70% possession in the first half, but they had only mustered TWO shots on goal and their actual goal came from a Fabregas flick. 70% possession and two shots — not the sign of a GREAT side!! Then, Arsenal scored from a freak own goal and suddenly Barca we being exposed when RvP ran through and was marginally offside — and then was red-carded?!!! That meant that Arsenal had 0 attacking intent (probably a mistake by Wenger) and Barca were free to bring forward their CBs on attacks, creating an impossible task for Arsenal to overcome.
    (Aside: the yellow card for Koscielny was soft too and put a lot of pressure upon him early on.)

    However, even down 3-1 and with 10 men, Arsenal still created a couple threats (Diaby missed a chance to pass to Nasri on a 4-on-4 and Bendtner’s big miss).

    Barca’s playing style is overhyped by the media because 100 side-way passes is somehow exciting. Even the disgusting Madrid play more entertaining football than these diving queens of Barca. Heck, I prefer almost any premier league match to watching Barca in La Liga.

    I this had happened to United, I would have been furious too. I don’t think that at 1-1 with 11vs11 that Barca deserved to go on…

    I have a feeling the United-Arsenal game at OT will feature the world’s worst refereeing performance, based on last couple weeks. 😉

  19. jdoe

    March 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Who cares about how many touches arsenal had. the ref destroyed the game. How many touches did barca have compared to inter last year? Did it matter? NO! If rvp is not taken off who is to say arsenal would not have left Camp Nou with a draw?

  20. Efrain

    March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I love both Arsenal and Barcelona. I follow both each week. I was rooting for Arsenal because they are the underdogs. I can accept Arsenal losing in a fair game. I cannot accept Arsenal losing in a game where the Ref made horrible calls! I really hope that Ref is banned from any other CL games. I wont repeat the bad calls as they have been pointed out here repeatedly. I will say this though….

    Arsenal played a defensive game up until Barca scored. Arsenal played very good defensively (shocking and boring, but they were holding Barca). When Barca scored, the gunners then tried to attack, they were foiled by bad calls and a sending off. This obviously changes the dynamic of the game, the mindset of the players, the levels of stress and frustration. Once these bad calls are made, there is absolutely no chance of Arsenal winning.

    The game was lost because of the referees. Arsenal would probably have lost anyway, but once the bad calls are in the equation, they went from a slim chance of winning to no chance of winning.

    I can accept Arsenal losing in a fair game, but a game like last night, very depressing and disheartening.

  21. adam

    March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Here what is really shat, I invited 8 non-soccer fans over for the game after work. They all left still hating soccer. It was a crap game. Arsenal played like scared little girls instead of a team looking to put a nail in barcelonas coffin.

    I should have shown them the Tottenham-Wolves match I had dvr’d, they might want to come back after seeing that game, but they wont be back after the game they witnessed between Arsenal and Barcelona….what a let down.

  22. RVPFan

    March 9, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Arsenal gave Barcelona a good fight and they lost. It was not a blow out like last year, means Arsenal are getting closer. There is no shame in losing to the best side in the world, yet as someone putting Arsenal’s heart in the sleeves, it becomes “so hard to take this loss”. At 1-1, we had a real shot. And then, bang!! comes the dreadful decision, just as we were beginning to show signs of some good attacks. We have every right to protest against the decision. This is democracy, not autocracy. We Arsenal fans are incensed with that decision because it’s a completely ridiculous decision. You don’t card someone for not being able to hear the whistle with 95000 fans shouting. You don’t deprive people watching all over the world, a good football game, with such a horrible decision.

    Okay, referee feels Van Persie time wasted. However, everyone gets a warning. Comon, it’s a big game, not some bottom league game. It’s the prestigious two-legged Champions League tie and referee very well knows this one dreadful decision changed the entire complexion of the game. He should have been very very careful showing a “red-card”, yet it’s as if Van Persie had time-wasted over and over again and he got tired of it, so he gave it. That’s how quickly he got the card out of his pocket.

    Is this a precedent now that UEFA has set up starting this game? What happens if we Arsenal fans see a game where a player time-wasted and not get carded but just got away with it, or got away with a warning? Can we then show UEFA that evidence and ask them to apologize? If not, then have we been robbed and so should UEFA apologize?

    UEFA would have been better of “apologizing” to us Arsenal fans, instead they decide to rub our wounds with salt and punish Wenger and Nasri. Okay, then look at the whole game and see how many times our players were grabbed by the scruff of the neck, then punish everyone. Why the “one-sided” punishment?

    It’s this kind of biasness that UEFA has operated that does not make us feel like we will never get a chance of lifting the Champions League. Even after giving such a good fight to the best team in the world and having a real shot and winning the tie.

    • Dizzy

      March 10, 2011 at 3:24 am

      Why do you complain about the referees decision? It happened……. Lets talk serious stuff.. 10 men Arsenal could not contain Barcelona when they were winning 1-1 in the 56th minute….. Arsenal are mentally weak….

  23. El Tri 2014

    March 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I’ve said it before, Aresenal is the Jeckell and Hyde of the PL. You can never be sure which team will show up. And yes, many pundits have noted that Aresenal have a fragile mentality (as fragile as VP himself) and it showed itself dramatically against Barca. The only reason Aresenal was close to stealing the round was due to Busquets own goal. Otherwise it was a monumental defeat, not even one shot on goal! Hell, even Blackpool could have played better against Barca!! As for VP’s red card, it was deserved. VP obvioulsy heard the whistle, there’s no doubt about it, and he even knew that he was offsides, but kicked the ball out of frustration and the ref had to red card him due to the previous altercation a minute before. The fact that Voyuer had a hissy fit with the ref in the tunnel along with his munchkin Nasri pretty much proves it.

    • clive

      March 9, 2011 at 10:34 am

      @el tri

      Blackpool would have played better?
      Are you for real???

      When Inter lost against barca but went trough on aggregate they didn’t have a shot on goal neither so your argument about the number of shot on goal is pretty poor.

      10mn in the 2nd half of a champions league game and you are sending off a player for time wasting!!!
      Never seen that before in a match of this importance.
      Every fan in the world was expecting a warning.

      “The fact that Voyuer had a hissy fit with the ref in the tunnel along with his munchkin Nasri pretty much proves it”
      What kind of logic is that?
      So when you complain about a decision to the ref mean that your are ????
      Against could you explain your logic???


      • El Tri 2014

        March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

        When Inter lost against barca but went trough on aggregate they didn’t have a shot on goal neither so your argument about the number of shot on goal is pretty poor.

        No, it would have been a poor example if Arsenal won. Lamentably, the fact is Arsenal lost.

        What kind of logic is that?
        So when you complain about a decision to the ref mean that your are ????
        Against could you explain your logic???

        Because the game is over? How about making adjustments DURING the game? Or are you going to sit back and wait for Abidal to head another own goal and have a Barca player win the game for you???

        It was an aggregate win for Barca, a dominating perfomance in the 2nd Leg. Lick your wounds and prepare for the next game.

        • RVPFan

          March 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

          El Tri, that’s what teams do, lick wouds and prepare. We can’t prepare for the next game. We are not playing. Don’t be dumb. Fans discuss the game, that’s what fans do. Players play, that’s what player’s do. Can you not understand this simple logic?

          • El Tri 2014

            March 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm


            duh? I didn’t mean prepare for the next CL game, I meant any game that Arsenal still are playing for, FA Cup? EPL title? I mean, they will show up to OT this Saturday, won’t they?

  24. Sean

    March 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

    “Look at the almost 3-1 fouls called ratio in favor of Barca.”

    Barcelona had 76% of the possession ( Is it really that shocking that the referee called 19 fouls against Arsenal and only 8 against Barcelona?

    • Sean

      March 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

      Sorry, that comment was meant to be a reply for SFGooner.

    • Earl Reed

      March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      The bottom line, whoever faces Barcelona in the future, they should develop a 10 man tactic, because almost assuredly anyone who goes to Camp Nou will get a player sent off for dribbling piss on the floor.

  25. Erich B.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am

    As an Arsenal fan, watching last night’s match was incredibly frustrating for many of the reasons stated in this comments section. However, if Arsenal had just taken care of their business in the group stage, they could have avoided this matchup in the round of 16 to begin with. They choked away the group and received a deserving punishment for doing so.

    • clive

      March 9, 2011 at 10:07 am


      Anyway, we will have play with barca at one point since they will probably win it.
      You go in the champions league to win and not just to go the furthest.

      I will not call last night defeat deserving punishment…
      5-0 is a punishment, not 4-3 on aggregate.


  26. SFGooner

    March 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    The undeniable fact remains that the referee changed the outcome of the game and gave Barca an clear advantage. And I’m not simply talking about RvP’s sending off.

    Look at the almost 3-1 fouls called ratio in favor of Barca. There was a two-footed scissor tackle on Nasri that should have been a yellow if not a straight red. On at least 2 (was it 3?) occasions, Barca players put their hands around the throats of Arsenal players. Not a card for any of those.
    The penalty? Sure, there was contact, but Messi dove. As did most of the Barca players when barely touched.

    It became very clear, early on in the first half that Arsenal were never going to get a fair shake from this referee.

    Were Barca the better team on the day? Sure. But Arsenal should have at least been giving a fair opportunity to contest the match.

    11 v 10 is even less fair than the way the match began, 12 v 11.

    • Andrei

      March 9, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Were there calls that Arsenal didn’t get? Absolutely. Was RVP sending off soft? Yes. On the other hand you admitted that there was at least one legitimate penalty call that went Arsenal way.

      But this is beside the point. The point is that Arsenal (and the fans) should focus on things they can control. Like not giving away balls cheaply or committing silly mistakes. Like capitalizing on your only scoring opportunity at the end of the game when you managed to produce zero shots on and off goal for entire game. Having referee biased towards Barcelona when playing on their turf is something that any team should be prepared for. What any team should not be doing is to give away ball 17 times in their half under no pressure at all or without any attempt to start an attacking move or clear dangerous situation. This is exactly what Arsenal did in the first half.

  27. Dizzy

    March 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

    @Sean and Joe..
    One other important Fact. If Arsenal wanted to win… Then with 10men they could have done it…. History has been made on many occasions when a 10 men team can dominate a game and win…. Arsenal fans are just crying over nothing… They could not play fact

    • clive

      March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am


      If I follow your logic, if you loss when you play with 10 men against a team that mean that you don’t want to win and that you should not complain about a ref decision.

      What a strange logic!


      • Dizzy

        March 10, 2011 at 3:04 am


        The logic is even with 10 men with only 20mins or so to go…. Arsenal could have won….. Barcelona needed two goals to win….. I know Arsenal are not a team that can play defense but at that moment they had too….
        Clive when you know that you are winning and you are a man down against currently the Best team in Europe what do you do? Do you continue blaming the referee for the loss or do you man up to keep Barcelona from scoring two goals?
        My logic is based on Arsenals lack of concentration even if the worst could happen( with only 20mins)….. The game was still alive when RVP left….. Then they decided to play like a team that doesn’t have a PULSE for the remaining minutes in a game where they could have made History…..
        I am a Barcelona supporter….. And the Arsenal that played at the Emirates, was not at the Nou Camp but the Barcelona that played at the Emirates was still at the Nou Camp…… Consistency Arsenal do not have that rhythm

  28. jm

    March 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Last year, Inter Milan beat Barcelona. They won 3-1 at the San Siro, and then lost 1-0 at the Nou Camp, thereby winning on aggregate. In that match at the Nou Camp, they did not have a single attempt on goal. It was hailed as (and I am quoting the BBC here) a “defensive masterclass.”

    Now surely Arsenal is not as good defensively as Inter were, but in that match, Arsenal were holding quite strongly. At 1-1 (even if fortuitously so), they were going through. At 1-1, Barca needed to score 2 goals to win. We did not need to be better than Barca overall, and we did not need to outpass them yesterday to go through. We simply needed to keep holding – whether with an attempt on goal or not. Would they have held on 10 men? It is impossible to say, but it is fairly obvious that being down a man, against the best team in the world, on their pitch, is a serious blow.

    Of course Barcelona are better than Arsenal. That’s not the point. Barca were better than Inter too, especially that night in the Nou Camp. Yet, Inter went through. It was not begrudged to them, and it should not have been begrudged to Arsenal.

    • Andrei

      March 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

      You fail to mention that Inter had also to play with 10 men for 60 mins with their player getting sent off in equally dubious circumstances. For Arsenal the sending RVP off was “game changing” event. At least that is what many Arsenal supporters claim and it seemed like the team on the field had similar attitude. It wasn’t “game over” for Inter and they got job done. Another difference was that Inter did significantly better against Barca in the home leg and were able to build enough cushion going to Camp Nou.

      • jm

        March 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

        I failed to mention it because it is a non sequitur. My point (obviously since I explicitly said otherwise) is not that Arsenal were as good defensively as Inter or deserved the same level of plaudits, but that we should not assume that because they were outclassed in terms of shots on goal and time of possession they deserved to lose.

        • tonyspeed

          March 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm

          Since all these circumstances are becoming so dubious when playing against Barcelona. Does anyone feel as I do, that refs are getting direct orders from UEFA to pull the yellow cards quickly on teams that play a strong defensive game against Barcelona?

  29. MennoDaddy

    March 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Look, I’m a Spurs fan and even I will say that the time-wasting yellow on RvP was soft. Very, very soft. Criminally, dubiously soft.

    Didn’t stop me laughing, though.

  30. Omar Khalifa

    March 9, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Guys, please, don’t fool yourselves. Lets speak about the ref? Ok, what about the disallowed Messi goal in the first leg? UEFA said it was ONSIDE. What about the tackle against Messi in the first half yesterday? Wasn’t that a penalty? If I were an Arsenal fan , I’d realize that even when van persie was playing, Arsenal had 0 shots on Barca , compared to 19. What are you guys talking about? I’d thank God that the game was just 3-1, it should’ve ended at LEAST 5-1

    • nicc

      March 9, 2011 at 9:22 am

      you do realize Barca should have had 2 red cards in the first half when both Abidal and Busquets put their hands around RvPs throat, right?

      how would that have changed the match?

      • Omar Khalifa

        March 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

        Nicc, then Van Persie and About should have sent off earlier too, Abou for the penalty against messi, and VP for hitting Alves intentionally on his face. Look, I like Arsenal a lot, but i’m a Barca fan, and to be honest with you, I hated the way Arsenal played yesterday, they weren’t in the game, even if VP have stayed, the goal Arsenal scored is an own goal by Bousquets, Arsenal were really bad, and if I were in Wengers position, I’d examine what went wrong instead of blaming it on the ref, because we have ref concerns too and we didn’t speak.

        • nicc

          March 9, 2011 at 9:38 am

          Diabys foul on Messi was blown call and probably a penalty, not a red card.

          RvPs foul on Alves was AFTER Abidal and Busquets tried choking RvP, ie, RvP probably wouldnt have fouled Alves a few minutes later and subsequently may not have gotten the 1st yellow. we’ll never know though…

          listen, I agree that Arsenal were almost shite yesterday and was very surprised they were so defensive, even more surprised they didnt do ANY pressing like in the first game, but it was a tactic that was working as Arsenal had the aggregate advantage a that point. it wasn’t pretty but it was kind of successful.

          • Sean

            March 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

            One can hardly say a tactic is working if its success depends on an own goal.

          • nicc

            March 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

            who said the tactic depended on a getting a own goal?
            it was fortuitous but I seriously doubt Wenger planned on Barca OGing…

          • Sean

            March 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm


            I meant the only reason Arsenal’s tactics seemed remotely successful was due to the fact that Barcelona scored an OG.

        • R2Dad

          March 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

          No, losing 5-0 is really bad….

    • Rob McCluskey

      March 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

      I have to echo what Omar said, it appears as though the British media have forgotten that Messi was denied a clear penalty in the first half and Van Persie had a horrible challenge in the first half too. The decision to send off Van Persie with the second yellow was ultimately poor, but I never see this sort of outrage from the likes of Sky when it is a British ref involved. Remember Howard Webb in the WC final making quite a few poor decisions? That was merely labelled as him “having a tough game to ref” by many in this country.

      Graeme Souness summed it up best when being asked by Sky at the end when he said “Van Persie staying on that pitch wouldn’t have made a difference, Barcelona were just better”.

      Arsenal could grow from this if they just realised they were outplayed, but instead they’ll be stuck in the same old rut because they blame external factors.

      • jm

        March 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

        When you say “they blame external factors” you must have *some* evidence for that. What is it?

        I assume it is not the fans’ reactions, as it is obvious that fan reactions are incidental to the team’s reactions.

        Is it Wenger’s public statements? If so, then I think it is folly to assume that because Wenger deflects attention from his team publicly that he does not apply lessons in private. Like Ferguson and his media blackouts, Wenger is an expert at manipulating the media to avoid talking about his players after a loss – and the players, on numerous occasions, have remarked that it is one of the reasons they like Wenger so much. He’s managing through the media, not telling you an honest answer about how he assesses the state of the team.

        So what, pray tell, is your evidence for that bold assertion?

    • polon

      March 9, 2011 at 9:24 am


  31. Travis

    March 9, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Barca is all about possession and attack. Arsenal has a weak backline, pitting their weakness against Barca’s strength. Take out Song, and it’s magnified. Barca was missing Pique and Puyol, but Arsenal was mssing the firepower to take advantage of it with Walcott out, and Cesc and RVP not fully fit. The match was setup for a Barca rout and was on the way aside from some missed chances. The red card on RVP just removed any chance.

    Let Barca play with unfit Messi and Xavi, Villa out, and Busquets out. Make Arsenal play Song back instead of Djourou, Vermaelen is already out, and give them Cesc, RVP, and Walcott fit. Now make the match at Emirates. I’m pretty sure expectations change then.

  32. jonathan

    March 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

    regardless of the 70-30 possession, before the sending off barcelona only had 2 shots. they were doing what nobody thought they would which was sit back, defend, and hit them on the counter. which is what was happening, and working pretty well until the red card. trickybrkn is right saying that arsenal were going through it was 1-1, and in fact looked like they were keeping their composure…the sending off just f**ked everything up.

    • Sean

      March 9, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Barcelona had nine shots before the sending off.

  33. Robert Hay

    March 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

    I feel as though I need to provide a (rational?) Arsenal fan perspective here. Did Barcelona look like the better team. Yes, definitely. Did they have better tactics and look like the club that deserved to advance? Yes. Did Arsenal look tired, slow, and playing catchup the entire time? Yes. Was this a reasonable result? Yes.
    Arsenal played the second half of the match with 10 men at Nou Camp, and that’s a guaranteed loss. The second yellow was absurd and, as Warren Barton said, it was given by a referee who obviously has never played the game. You just don’t give that yellow. Instead, Arsenal lost any ability to adjust tactics or their style of play. In fact, I’d defend Arsenal’s play in the first half – they were only down 1-0 and by drawing even early in the 2nd half, they had a chance to advance. It wasn’t pretty but playing the best club in the world, it was effective. And if they had 11 for the entire second half, they could have adjusted their tactics….. like we saw them do in London in the first leg.

    To sum up, Barcelona got a deserving win, but Arsenal were denied a fair chance and, maybe more importantly, soccer fans were denied a great and fair finish to the match.

    • Dave C

      March 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

      I totally disagree with this notion that “you just don’t give that yellow”. People always have this opinion whenever anyone gets sent off for a second “soft” booking – eg a trip on the half way line, taking their shirt off after a goal, time-wasting etc.

      If something is a bookable offense, the referee should book the player for it, not show leniency just because the end result is a sending off. Warren Barton, like many ex-pros working in broadcasting, is neither a referee nor a the sharpest tool in the box, so his opinion really doesn’t carry much weight.

      The only question we have to ask is “were RVP’s two yellows both for genuine bookable offenses?” I haven’t seen the first incident, but the second one clearly was – there is no chance that he did not hear that whistle, you can tell by the way he kicked the ball and his immediate reaction.

      • Robert Hay

        March 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

        There is no way you can hear a whistle at the bottom of a bowl with 90,000 loud fans who, I noticed, make noise by….whistling. That is expecting way too much of any player. If you go by the letter of every rule in the rule book, matches would stop every 44 seconds. Officials need to have a sense of what is going on and the situation.

        The first incident was a yellow, no question. The second was a joke.

        • Dave C

          March 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

          I know we can never know for sure, but I believe RvP heard the whistle and kicked the ball away out of frustration. The clues that make me think this are:
          (a) He took the shot with his weaker foot, despite having plenty of time to bring it on to his stronger foot.
          (b) He took the shot from way out, despite having time to bring it closer to goal.
          (c) He shot so wildly, despite not being under any real pressure, and missed the target by miles.
          (d) If he really believed the ball was still in play, I believe his first reaction after the shot would have expressed some kind of disappointment in himself, or amazement at how bad is shot was (like the cliched head-in-hands pose people tend to make when they’ve missed a good chance). Instead, he just kind of sheepishly turned round, which suggests to me that he knew that the ball was already dead.

          • Mark

            March 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

            Even if he did hear a whistle, who says it couldn’t have been from the crowd? You know how many of the supporters do that to mess with players? Should he have stopped mid strid in a game like that? Come on! Anyone who thinks that yellow was time wasting and deserved is a complete and utter idiot, and has no sense or judgment of the game.

            This is coming from a Liverpool supporter, who left work to watch what could have been a very, very good game, but instead i’m left disappointed. All of Arsenal’s tactics for this game went out the window because a ref couldn’t take 1 second to think about what the right desicion would have been in that situation.

          • Mark

            March 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

            I just read youre reasons Dave, and if you watch the replay again you will see:
            a) he had no time to bring it to his other foot
            b) He was at the 12 yard line, I don’t know how much closer you can get 1-on-1 with a world class GK in that particular situation
            c)He was under pressure, or AT LEAST implied pressure. This is UCL against the best team in the world, not League 4. You have to take your chances quickly.
            d)He did react to missing – look at his facial expressions, and then how they change when he realizes the ref is going to his pocket- , unless a reaction in you’re opinion is rolling around on the ground like iniesta has apparently mastered

        • Dave C

          March 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

          Also, I disagree that there is no way you can hear the whistle down on the field. If that was the case, how come players manage to realize when play has been stopped after every other decision?

      • Earl Reed

        March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

        “I totally disagree with this notion that “you just don’t give that yellow”. ”

        You would have nobody playing the freaking game, Dave, if you gave cards every time someone did something that sets the game back 30 seconds…and that’s assuming that van Persie MEANT to delay, which he clearly didn’t.

        I could try to argue that the referee forgot van Persie had the first yellow, but he had the red out immediately. For crying out loud, how often do you ever see a 1ST yellow given before the 60′ mark for stalling? Let alone have it be a 2nd.

        I agree with Barton, it was simply a referee not understanding the situation. You can’t blame it on a fix, because a ref fixing a game wouldn’t throw this BS of a card. He had Koscielny, Sagna, and Wilshere on yellows already, he didn’t need to issue such a ridiculous red card to fix the match. My guess is that Pep started bitching about some players wasting some time, and the ref saw van Persie looking to his right (in the direction of the assistant). The ball came in from the right, and van Persie also had the defenders trailing him to consider. So I think the ref thought that van Persie saw the flag go up, and insolently kicked the ball away. I would imagine shortly after holding the red up, he realized just how stupid of a decision he made.

        • R2Dad

          March 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

          Intelligent referees are constantly asking themselves, “Is this what the game needs?” That referee decided he wanted to be the center of attention for this match and destroyed it. When referees decide they want to “make a point”, they lose their objectivity and the game loses balance.

        • Dave C

          March 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

          “and that’s assuming that van Persie MEANT to delay, which he clearly didn’t”

          I don’t think it’s at all “clear” that RvP didn’t hear the whistle (see my post above where I outline the clues that I think indicate that he did hear it). Even if the case is not clear, I don’t think we should castigate the ref unless we are certain he’s made a mistake.

          Re: the issue of how often do you see yellows before the 60th minute for stalling…well I think it’s moot for two reasons. Firstly, just because you don’t see it happen often doesn’t mean the ref is wrong to give the yellow card. Some teams DO timewaste from very early in the game (even in the first half), and I wish ref’s WOULD give yellow cards for it. Just because most refs DON’T enforce the rules firmly doesn’t mean this guy should be criticized for doing so.

          Secondly, whether RvP was actually “stalling”/time-wasting or not doesn’t matter – kicking the ball away is generally seen as an act of dissent, and that’s why it’s a bookable offence.

  34. altima

    March 9, 2011 at 8:19 am

    right from the blast of the whitsle Bacalona dominated the game and had about 3 chances to seal up the game in the first half.Arsenal had no clear shot on target for most period of the game and valdes was simply on vacation.arsenal sat back at the defence all day waiting for the expiration of time.if bacalona had not scored an own goal, arsenal wouldnt have gotten one that night.bacalona played better when it was 11 vs 11 and when it was 10 vs 11 they played a game that is outside this world.It was clear that arsenal were inferior to bacalona because they were completely outclassed.if you doubt me watch the match clip again and sinceerly analise would have been unfair if arsenal had qualified.arsenal played played for luck.

    • clive

      March 9, 2011 at 9:15 am


      Arsenal played for luck????
      How do you play for luck????
      You are 2-1 up against barca….Do you defend or attack.
      Thanks god you’re not a coach.
      Fair has nothing to do with sport and life in general anyway.


  35. Sean

    March 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Some of you Arsenal supporters kill me. It is as if you were not watching the same match.

    Arsenal, with van Persie, had 41 touches in Barcelona’s half during the first 45 while Barcelona had 310 touches in Arsenal’s half.

    You bring up the dismissal of van Persie completing neglecting the fact that Arsenal did not press nearly as much in the second leg as they did in the first while Barcelona pressed relentlessly. Those two things combined played a big part in the fact that Arsenal had as many shots before van Persie came off as they did after he came off (which is zero for those of you keeping score at home).

    Arsenal had 30% of the possession over the two legs. You would be hard pressed to find any side that could be Barcelona with so little possession, even more so with a side not built to exploit teams on the counter.

    If anything, the bigger miss was Walcott, not van Persie, because Walcott was vital in the first leg in helping Arsenal to perform that late comeback.

    You are letting the van Persie sending off blind you to the tactical shortcomings of Arsenal’s game plan.

    • Sean

      March 9, 2011 at 8:06 am

      *If anything, the bigger miss was Walcott, not van Persie, because Walcott was vital in the first leg in piercing the Barcelona defence, not in helping the comeback since he was already off.

    • Wow

      March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

      you’re right, Arsenal hardly had touches in Barca’s half. BUT THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO. They were leading on aggregate and didn’t need to be attacking. So your point really has no matter because they weren’t out to win a 0-0 game, they were defending a 2-1 lead and then a 3-2 lead. So those tactical inferiorities that you attempt to make a point with have no bearing. Mourinho did it last year. Understand the game.

      • Sean

        March 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

        Uh…my point does matter when people start claiming that the loss of van Persie is what cost Arsenal the game. The stats are concrete results of Arsenal’s tactics that involved doing away with pressing and not being able to advance the ball up the pitch. That is very different from what Mourinho’s Inter did because Mourinho’s Inter allowed pressure and planned to attack on the counter. Arsenal just could not get out of their own half. The first half just demonstrates Arsenal were going to face the same problems with or without van Persie and van Persie’s dismissal had little to do with the final result.

        What happened when Arsenal went down on aggregate? How many shots on goal did they have? How many chances did they create? Has a side never fashioned chances before when down to ten men? Has a side never been able to hold off another side or go on to win when down to ten men?

        What happens to many sides in the bottom half of the Premier League that play for a nil-nil draw away against the big sides since they only want one point and thus have no need to score a goal?

        Before you feel the need to talk about people understanding the game, feel free to understand it yourself and take off your Arsenal rose colored glasses.

        • Wow

          March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

          Arsenal didn’t go down on aggregate til RVP went off, so your point is contradicting itself. It’s very difficult to attack with 10 men, it’s very difficult to attack without your best attacker, it’s very difficult cuz Bendtner is garbage (who should have had a shot on goal), and it’s very difficult to attack with 10 men against the best team in the world in their own stadium.

          So your saying that RVP’s sending off didn’t matter, but then saying that they didn’t attack? Those are contradicting because RVP is an attacker, and it’s hard for anyone to attack with 10 men. Are you kidding me?

          Barca were great no doubt, kept the ball and pressed Arsenal tremendously. But Arsenal didn’t have to be constantly attacking, they just had to protect their aggregate lead(s). So Arsenal were always in it no matter what, so to say the sending off of one of their top players/best attacker didn’t affect the game is ridiculous. Barcelona may have won either way, but the game and possible the outcome was definitely affected.

          • Sean

            March 9, 2011 at 11:48 am

            “Arsenal didn’t go down on aggregate til RVP went off, so your point is contradicting itself.”

            No, I am not contradicting myself. Their inability to create chances or even have one shot on goal goes back to the tactics they employed from the first half that were not able to cope with Barcelona’s pressing.

            “It’s very difficult to attack with 10 men, it’s very difficult to attack without your best attacker, it’s very difficult cuz Bendtner is garbage (who should have had a shot on goal), and it’s very difficult to attack with 10 men against the best team in the world in their own stadium.”

            Granted, the degree of difficulty goes up but, it is next to impossible when you can neither string a few passes together nor get the ball in your own half. What good is your best striker if you cannot get the ball to him? Once again, that goes back to the tactics Arsenal employed.

            “So your saying that RVP’s sending off didn’t matter, but then saying that they didn’t attack? Those are contradicting because RVP is an attacker, and it’s hard for anyone to attack with 10 men.”

            Attacking involves much more than just hoofing the ball up the pitch to your striker. If you’re a side like Arsenal that relies on build-up play and your midfield is getting dominated, in addition to your defence being overwhelmed, you could have had Marco van Basten up there and it would not matter since you cannot get the ball to him.

            Arsenal supporters want to hold on to that one Bendtner chance and think to themselves, “oh, well, if that was van Persie he would have scored.” How many chances did Barcelona have that looked like they would lead to goals but did not?

            Arsenal’s loss was a tactical failure more than a result of the van Persie sending off.

          • Earl Reed

            March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm

            Sean, Sean, Sean. You are constantly on the attack about this game. You bash Arsenal for not having shots after going down on aggregate, knowing full well that by that point they were shorthanded.

            Here, let me spell it out for you: Barcelona owned possession. They executed their gameplan better. And they probably would have scored the go-ahead goal with Arsenal at full strength. But I have no idea why the referee found it appropriate to eject van Persie, and that decision makes the final 35 minutes pointless. I’ll guarantee you that, whatever team you happen to support, if they went down to 10 men in that kind of a match, they’d lose confidence too. And they’d blame the f’ing ref too. You’d be blaming the f’ing ref, just like every United fan did about David Luiz and Jamie Carragher. Just get over it, now watch and ManUtd or Chelsea or Spurs get their asses waxed by them.

          • Sean

            March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

            @Earl Reed

            Haha I am not on the attack as much as I am dumbfounded by wilful ignorance of the bigger picture regarding yesterday’s match.

            Arsenal had zero shots on goal in the 56 minutes van Persie was on the pitch and zero shots in the remaining 34 minutes. The Messi goal came with 19 minutes plus stoppage time left. Why act as if it is impossible to get a shot off with ten men?

            Manchester City was down three-nil against Tottenham in the 2003-2004 FA Cup. Manchester City then went down to ten men when Joey Barton was sent off. Manchester City went on to win 4-3. Yes, the 2003-2004 Tottenham side is not the 2010-2011 Barcelona side but, the fact remains that with ten men a side still has a chance. To chalk up this victory to the van Persie sending off while completely ignoring the tactical mistakes that were made is a mistake in my mind.

          • Earl Reed

            March 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm


            Thanks for rebutting your own fallible argument. Yes, Arsenal could have come back with one simple goal. I do think that Barcelona is a little better than the 15th place team in the 2003-04 Premier League table.

            It’s alright, it’s one of these “agree to disagree” things. I suspect Arsenal would have lost this game 11-on-11, but we’ll never know for sure.

  36. tonyspeed

    March 9, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Despite class and balh blah blah, arsenal was winning. They were beating barcelona at their own game. The referee ruined the match. There were several very one-sided incidents in the match. Some of the yellow cards given to arsenal in the first half did not merit yellows. When wilshire went down and Van Persie’s neck was grabbed why wasn’t there a sending off? Why was van persie sent off when he kicked the ball 1 second after the whistle blew with 40 minutes still left to go? Barcelona was getting beat until then.

    What does this let us know? Any premier league team has a chance of defeating barcelona across 2 matches at this moment in time.

    • Joe

      March 9, 2011 at 7:45 am

      “What does this let us know? Any premier league team has a chance of defeating barcelona across 2 matches at this moment in time.”

      Especially Stoke at the Britannia right?!?! You EPL fanboys are funny sometimes.

      • tonyspeed

        March 9, 2011 at 7:47 am

        if you had any sense, you would realise there are only 3 prem teams in the champions league right now. is stoke one of them? please the mind is a terrible thing to waste. stop the straw man arguments.

        • Sean

          March 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

          In fairness, you did write, “Any premier league team”, not, “any Premier League team still left in the Champions League”.

        • Joe

          March 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

          If you had any sense you’d read over what you’ve written before posting it. ANY premier league team includes teams like Stoke and Birmingham, the mighty Birmingham that Arsenal couldn’t overcome. But I guess for someone who says things like “would not have beating England” and reaches for words above your ability (“chauvanists” instead of chauvinists), a bit of self awareness is too much to ask. I still wonder how it’s possible to misspell words on a site that underlines errors in red.

          • tonyspeed

            March 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm

            hahahahaha. spelling errors. when is the last time spelling was on an iq test joe shmoe? you anal americans make me laugh.

          • tonyspeed

            March 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm

            the real sign someone is a loser is when they have to resort to attacking someone’s spelling instead of their actual argumenntt. <—– oops. did that make you cringe? lol.

          • Joe

            March 9, 2011 at 9:03 pm

            To make numerous spelling errors on a site that marks those errors as you type them shows a lack of attention to detail. It’s that same lack of attention that probably led to your lazy logic about the fact that because Arsenal came sort of close to beating Barcelona, that means that any English team can beat them. This is similar to the thinking that led dumbass Andy Gray to say that Barcelona couldn’t handle “a trip to Brittainia”. Tony, I’d suggest going to ESPN forums if you want to speak with people on your intelligence level.

    • thurns

      March 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

      let me tell u… no 1st u are arsenal fan…2nd u upset… and wat i really wanted to tell u… go home relax on cushion take a very cold water it will really cool u off i promise…. BARCA WON AND THATS THAT… OK so drink very cold water ok …

  37. Joe

    March 9, 2011 at 7:39 am

    The sad fact for Arsenal is that they are a team of excuses, and they will likely ignore the fact that they were thoroughly outclassed and instead focus just on the injustice of the Van Persie sending off. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – champions are honest with themselves about their shortcomings and work to overcome them. Every time Arsenal has a big letdown they’re ready to point fingers everywhere except themselves. Six years and counting should be proof enough of this tactic’s flaws.

    • tonyspeed

      March 9, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Class doesn’t win things. If that were the case, the United States would not have beating England in the American Revolution. The communists would not have beaten the American army in the Vietnam war. Etc Etc.

      Class is an excuse football chauvanists continue to make when it has no bearing on the reality of winning. If class were the only factor then Brasil would win every world cup…

    • clive

      March 9, 2011 at 9:09 am


      Champions are honest?????
      What the hell are you talking about.
      Which team in the world doesn’t blame the ref when they believe a stupid decision has had a big impact on a very important game.
      When you play such an important game in the back yard of the currently best team in the world you do not expect the ref to send off a player after 10 mn in the second half for something like that. Never seen that before at that level.
      We didn’t ignore that barca were better (look for wenger comment after the game).
      Know your fact before coming to forum.

      And saying that we are not looking at our short coming is stupid since it will mean that barcelona beat us even more than last year.


      • Joe

        March 9, 2011 at 10:33 am

        Yes, most teams would have something to say about that decision. But how about the fact that Wenger’s words to Pep after the game were, “congratulate the ref”? Pure classlessness. He had legitimate beef, but he also coached a team that was soundly outplayed for ninety minutes. Be a man, acknowledge the fact that you got your asses beat IN ADDITION TO a poor call by the ref, and move on. Wenger just couldn’t resist the urge for a petty swipe, just like Arsenal can never resist the urge to boast about their lack of debt or how “beautiful” their play is. 30% possession yesterday sure was pretty!

        • clive

          March 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

          Unfortunately class often disappear when emotion rise.
          I don’t think there is a coach in the world who is always class when thing are not going is way.

          Yes 30% was pretty low but probably the average for a visiting team at Barcelone.

          Good luck to the next team against them.

    • R2Dad

      March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      After reviewing the first match, Wenger decided the best strategy was to absorb pressure during the first half and press more during the second half, when Barca starts to tire. Of course, there are two assumptions: 1) 11 men, 2) 90 mins. In retrospect the strategy looks daft, after they played down a man and didn’t have a shot on goal. Possession percentages can be a useful, but not when playing Barca since they will always hold the ball. Arsenal has the burden of being “not quite Barca”, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a good plan for defeating them. 4-3 is pretty close.

    • baba

      March 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      As an arsenal fani couldnt agree more.Truth be told,beyond Wilshere Almunia and Djorou,noone else in that team deserves the reverred Arsenal shirt.The day Wenger realises there are scores of better players than Diaby,Rosicky and Arshavin playing in the Nationwide is the day the trophy drought will end.

  38. Trickybrkn

    March 9, 2011 at 7:26 am

    and the ref had no place sending off Van Persie for time wasting… It was 1-1. We have no idea how it would finish 11 on 11.

    So yes Arsenal wasn’t at it’s best… and maybe not the better team on the day. But, you can never negate the fact that they where going through when that second yellow was produced. and we can only guess how it would end.

    hard done by is an understatement….

    • Dave C

      March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am

      and the ref had no place sending off Van Persie for time wasting… It was 1-1.

      That doesn’t really make sense. The score has no impact on whether a player can be punished for time wasting (although obviously it can provide a motive for time wasting if the player’s team is winning at the time – and this is exactly the situation RVP was in anyway, so I’m not sure what point you’re making).

      • trickybrkn

        March 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

        My it was 1-1 was more in reference to the fact that we have no idea how it would finish with 2 full strength squads…

  39. Gsmith318

    March 9, 2011 at 7:24 am

    “the impression I got was that Arsenal did not create a display worthy of a possible Premier League title holder.”
    Are you saying Manchester United would have had a better display against Barcelona? We are talking Barcelona here. I would agree with that statement if Barca played in EPL. But they do not. There is a gulf in class between Barcelona and any other team in Europe.

    That is like saying if the US National Team loses to Brazil or Spain, clearly they have no chance of placing first in CONCACAF qualifying. Think before you speak.

    • The Gaffer

      March 9, 2011 at 7:25 am

      I believe Manchester United would have employed better tactics against Barcelona and would have made it a much closer game.

      The Gaffer

      • trickybrkn

        March 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

        Arsenal is probably the only English club that could even beat Barca…

        and they did at home.

        Man U???? you are diluted. and certainly not on recent form.

        • MISubbuteo

          March 9, 2011 at 8:26 am

          Not sure who is diluted, it is raining a fair bit here I guess… I think you mean “deluded”, as in “delusions of grandeur”. Don’t let your accent influence your spelling. Friendly tip.

      • trickybrkn

        March 9, 2011 at 7:31 am

        Closer???? Arsenal where going through when Van Persie was red carded…

        I’m no Arsenal fan, but you have to think that, that match up was the final. ohhh nevermind.

        Man U… you must be kidding

        • mfundo

          March 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

          i agree

      • Joe

        March 9, 2011 at 7:44 am

        I agree Gaffer. Anyone who thinks Manchester United with a healthy Ferdinand and Vidic at the back and the speed of Nani, Giggs, and maybe Hernandez up front wouldn’t have a decent shot against Barcelona is kidding themselves. I still think Barcelona would win, but Manchester United is just built better for the kind of football that Arsenal tried to play.

        • clive

          March 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

          I agree.


        • trickybrkn

          March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

          Ohh I don’t know… Up front Man U could stand their own… maybe the fully fit back line as well… But don’t you think Barca could pick apart the midfield, and Man U would be left to a draw in and counter tactic.

          and if Man U is built better for a continental style, why don’t they deploy it… that’s not Fergie, is it?

        • Mahesh

          March 16, 2011 at 6:08 am

          Very much true … Arsenal is sh*t….coudnt even get a shot on target…ROFL

      • Gsmith318

        March 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

        I don’t dispute ManU would have used different tactics. They are different teams.

        How can you say Man U would have been a closer game? Arsenal won the first game and were one goal away from advancing on aggregate (which ultimately is what matters here)? If Bendtner knew what a first touch was, Arsenal would be advancing. There was a one goal difference in the ultimate result. Do you think it would have been a closer game if ManU were without Van Der Sar and down a man (their best striker)? I have full faith that ref would have screwed ManU in a similar manner.

        • Sean

          March 9, 2011 at 9:10 am

          “Do you think it would have been a closer game if ManU were without Van Der Sar and down a man (their best striker)?”

          Oh, and you mean replaced by a guy that played out of his skin?

          Almunia is the reason the result was as close as it was.

          van Persie hardly had a touch of the ball. Arsenal had zero attempts on goal and almost as much service to their strikers. van Persie’s absence is not what did them it. Letting Barcelona do whatever they wanted is what did them in.

      • Dave C

        March 9, 2011 at 9:38 am

        To be fair to both sides of this little debate:
        1. You can’t get a much closer result than the game last night – Arsenal (despite being down to ten men) were only one goal away from winning the tie.

        2. I don’t think it’s right to say that this wasn’t a performance worthy of a possible premier league champion, or that Man Utd would have employed smarter tactics and given them a closer run for their money. When Man Utd played Barca in the final a couple of years ago, they were well and truly outplayed.

        I think the truth of the matter is that Barca are streets ahead of Arsenal AND everyone else – it would take a minor miracle for any of Europe’s top teams to get a result at the Nou Camp.

      • Pakapala

        March 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

        So Man U of 2011 that everyone agrees looks like a shadow of the team of the last 5 years would have made it a much closer game? May I remind you that a much better Man U team that people in England thought were going to show Barca what real football is about, lost to Barcelona 2 seasons ago in the CL? I am sure till this day, Rooney & co are still scratching their heads over that game. I like it when y’all try to dismiss Arsenal’s ability to play, when they took 1 of the best teams ever to the wire.

        • mfundo

          March 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

          i agree with you thats the truth people are runinng away 4rm

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