Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hailed Barcelona’s front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar as capable of turning soccer into art as all three struck to eliminate his side from the Champions League.
The Gunners bowed out at the last 16 stage for a sixth consecutive season 5-1 on aggregate after a 3-1 defeat at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, but gave the European champions a scare with a spirited display.
However, the difference in quality in front of goal was the deciding factor in the tie as Barca’s South American trio all netted to take their combined tally for the season to 106.
“We have to admire art and they have two or three players that transform normal life into art,” said Wenger.
“I have to say we played against a team with the best strikers I’ve seen. The three are exceptional and from nothing they can create a chance.”
By contrast, Arsenal’s whole squad have managed just 72 goals this season and their downfall was once again a lack of cutting edge up front.
Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck missed great chances to level after Neymar’s early opener.
Mohamed Elneny’s first goal for the club early in the second-half gave the visitors hope, but a sensational volley from Suarez put Barca back in control before Messi’s cool dinked finish rounded off the scoring.
“We didn’t take the chances we created and the quality of Barca’s creativity in the final third, especially Messi is exceptional. He didn’t miss one first touch in 90 minutes
“For me it is suffering, but it is exceptional what he does.”
However, Wenger defended his record in Europe as four of the past six years they have bowed out to dominant Barca and Bayern Munich sides.
“In the last six years we have gone out against top sides who have won the Champions League.
“On one occasion there were incredible circumstances against Monaco for us to lose, the rest were against Barca and Bayern.”
Barca boss Luis Enrique agreed with Wenger’s assessment of his front line, but also hailed the more gritty side to their game as well as the glory.
“It is clear we have unique players that are capable of resolving any situation in the game,” he said.
“The important thing is that they are at the behest of the team offensively and defensively. That is the key to the success of these players.
“They also have a team behind them that allows them to get the ball in the best conditions.
“They love each other and we are delighted they are our strikers.”
In stark contrast to Arsenal’s Champions League record, Barca are now in Friday’s quarter-final draw for the ninth consecutive season.
The European champions are favorites to become the first side in the Champions League era to retain their crown.
“The only team I wouldn’t want to draw is Barca,” Enrique added confidently.
And he insisted he was happy for former teammate and friend Pep Guardiola as his Bayern Munich side came from 4-2 down on aggregate to go through 6-4 against Juventus rather than see the German champions bow out.
“I am very happy for Pep, you never count his teams out.
“Last year we had to play the champions of every country, so we will see what surprise awaits us.”
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