Posts Tagged ‘ Barcelona ’

Barcelona finally outclassed

Yesterday was historic. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for a long, long time. The day when Arsenal finally beats Barcelona. To all those who support Arsenal, it was a special moment. We forgot about everything else going on in our lives atleast even for a few seconds, to spare some thought on this glorifying victory.

Those who saw the match should however know that it wasn’t really an easy ride. Barcelona really dominated the game in the first half. They played breathtaking possession football, passing it around almost training session like. It was not a pretty sight for the thousands of fans in the Emirates Stadium who were eagerly waiting for a result. If the first half was so poor, then what could’ve possibly turned it around and placed the match in our favour?

It was possibly the first time in a major victory that Cesc Fabregas is not at the heart of attention. In fact, it was the young Jack Wilshere who inspired everyone. He was arguably the best player in the whole match and he got stuck in at the Barca field when they had possession and made some fantastic passes when he had the ball at his own feet. His perception was brilliant and tracked back extremely well to always anticipate and tackle that growing Barca move. What a display from this young Gunner. If anyone had any doubts about him, this performance should remove them completely. Actually the rumour is out already that after yesterday, Barcelona have lost their interest in Cesc Fabregas and have shifted towards Jack Wilshere. Hopefully this will never happen!

 

 

Wilshere was the Man of the Match, but it was one moment of brilliance that catalyzed this win. Robin van Persie’s form just continues to get better, and he continues to impress. I don’t remember the last time RVP was so prolific. I still remember just a couple of months back all we were talking about was Chamakh and his goal scoring form. Woah, but where is Chamakh now? He is pretty much out of the scene because van Persie comes back in the team in a bang! What RVP provides to the team is that cutting edge finishing ability. Just the way he moves when he has the ball in his feet is mesmerizing. I mean no offence to Chamakh, but van Persie is provides just a totally different class of striking ability up front. It was his awareness that made the crucial goal. It was a flash of inspirational play, from a true Gunner.

You know who is our super sub now? Before it was Walcott, now its Arshavin. Andrei won’t be too happy about because he wants to start for Arsenal every game. The important thing is he is making an impact in every game he features in now. We get glimpses of the old Arshavin back in his true colours. It’s his ability to be at the right place at the right time which makes him such a great player. His finish yesterday might have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all. A composed and accurately placed strike from our little Russian. Not even a sign of doubt in his eyes when he struck that. This is the Arshavin we want to see everyday.

However, the department that most impressed against Barca was the defence. Yes, the defence. I can’t believe I’m saying this as well. Wenger didn’t sign anyone in January and many started to speculate that we would stand no chance against a resilient Barcelona side. The first half was horrid though. There was a lack in concentration and Song’s flurry of tackles was frustrating to witness. But the defence regrouped, and put up a match winning defensive display. It’s not easy to contain the likes of Messi and David Villa upfront for even a few mins, let alone the full match. Djourou and Koscielny were right on the money as they kept intercepting passes and clearances with great precision. Then again, we have the Szczesny factor, who also seems to be improving on a daily basis. From being in the utmost outskirts of the first team, he is now out best goalkeeper and is putting up match winning displays against the best teams in the world. It seems as though the future of our goalkeeping lies in good hands. It must be said, Vermaelen’s absence was not felt yesterday. Just to put it in the most simplest of terms, our defence is awesome!

It’s not over yet, since it’s just the first leg. Nou Camp will be a hell of a game, and Barcelona will be at the top of their game. Whichever way it goes, this victory means a lot.

Leading up to the next game, Andrei Arshavin puts it perfectly when asked about Arsenal’s chances.

“Without belief you can do nothing, so we must believe”

Couldn’t have said it any better, it is belief that will take us forward.

 

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It’s time for revenge Barca, ‘cause revenge is sweet

Oh let’s cut the crap. We all knew who we were going to face next. Admitted that we ‘wished’ for something else but deep inside our fragile hearts we knew that it was time- time for revenge.

Some Arsenal fans are already moaning about how unlucky we are and that we can never win against a side like Barcelona. Really? If Arsenal fans feel like that then we seriously do not deserve to be in the Champion’s league. What’s the point of playing in the Champion’s League if we do not have the guts to face Europe’s top teams? It defeats the purpose, really. If not now, then when? We would eventually have to play them anyway. After playing in this elite competition for 13 seasons consecutively, we should be able to cope with this type of pressure. If Arsenal can ‘beat any other team’, why won’t it be able to beat Barcelona?

Arsenal are the underdogs in this match up. I know some fans prefer that we stay underdogs but frankly speaking, I don’t want us to be underdogs anymore. Why you say? Because I think Arsenal deserve more than just being a good club playing good football. I want Arsenal to be a club that puts fear into even the most elite clubs. I don’t want opponents claiming that they ‘rather face Arsenal than Chelsea or Manutd’. You know why people keep saying things like that? Because Arsenal never won the Champion’s League before. Yes, we went to the final once but ask any neutral footy fan if he or she remembers that game. I bet the answer would be ‘no’.

Arsenal are really unlucky. We again face Barca at the Emirates first. Personally, I would have preferred an away game to start with. That way we actually know where we stand when Barca come to play in our turf. It gives us the mental edge. But no, that won’t happen because lady luck’s a friggin’ Barca fan!

The one man who will be a key player for this tie is obviously our skipper Cesc Fabregas. He has to step up soon. I do not know what’s wrong with the chap. Before his injury he seemed very rusty. He made his comeback against Manutd the other day and he seemed even rustier. I mean, at a game like that adrenaline alone should make him be on his toes. But no, Cesc Fabregas’ 65% pass completion rate off the bench made him the most wasteful Arsenal player on the pitch. But the game is at the end of February and he has time to recover. But he has to step it up for this game, not just to the next level but to his maximum level.

At the end of the day, though, this is the biggest and the toughest game for Arsenal so far this season. I know revenge itself is not a good enough reason to play this game. But our pride is at stake this time. I am fed of us being the weaker of the two clubs playing the same way. I want us to be the best at what we do. I believe so, but the world does not. It’s time to put an end to this once and for all. Arsenal shall not only beat Barcelona, but go to win it all the way as well. Let’s keep believing, because it will make us stronger.

Who Should Arsenal Face: Barcelona or Real Madrid?

So the much anticipated Champions League draw is tomorrow afternoon (in my time zone anyways). The four teams that we can draw are Schalke, Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid. Does anyone have a feeling like me that it’s most likely going to be one of the Spanish giants?

Our Champions League campaign started on a high when Arsenal comprehensively won the first three group games, but had to wait to the last game in order to secure qualification. We only have ourselves to blame for making things so difficult. But as many people predicate our team, that it wouldn’t be Arsenal if they didn’t do things the hard way.

Copyright Getty Images

Some fans seem to think that it’s best not to focus on the Champions League and actually get eliminated early to focus on the Premier League. This could be maybe because of the disappointing performances against Shakhtar and Braga, so the ‘hope’ of winning the competition has dissipated. Unfortunately, Arsenal have found themselves in a similar sort of position in the Premier League for a countless number of times in the past few seasons and yet haven’t been able to capitalise on them.

One of the fans I talked to recently said that he wants Arsenal to face Real Madrid to give them the same 5-0 thrashing that Barcelona did (woah, that’s the spirit!). Many may also want to face Barcelona early on in order to take revenge of last season. That is a possibility, especially since our team does look a lot stronger than when we faced Barcelona the last campaign. This time, Samir Nasri is firing at all ends and we have the likes of Chamakh and a fit RVP, so Bendtner is less likely to be our primary front-man. Others of course, are still wary of facing Spain’s dominating footballing forces and would much rather fancy their chances against Schalke or Bayern to progress further into the tournament.

Questions about our weaknesses remain. Football pundits ask whether Fabianski is ‘good enough’ to protect the Arsenal goal for them to win the Champions League? Does the Arsenal backline possess enough quality and depth to prevent the likes of Messi and Ronaldo scoring goals aplenty? Is Chamakh prolific and lethal enough for the Gunners attack to lead us to glory?

The problems are there. But do we sulk about them and lose confidence, or accept them and move on? The latter seems to be the right way to go. Does it really matter whether we face Barcelona or Real Madrid early in the competition? We’ll have to face them eventually if we are to win. So why fear them at all?

I cannot accept any element of fear in this Arsenal side. We are a team that has played in this prestigious competition for 13 seasons so far. The team needs to exuberate confidence and the winning mentality must flow through the veins at all times. Whether we play at Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu or at the Emirates, we must be in it to win it.

No Magic Against Partizan

I know we shouldn’t be panicking for our match on Wednesday. It should be a straight forward game at the Emirates against a Partizan side that has lost all their Group Stage games so far. The pressure is still on!

We should expect a win. We should also expect Arsenal to come 2nd in the Group. This may seem horrible in every context of progressing further in the competition. It opens up the possibility of facing a team like Barcelona or Real Madrid, Manchester United or Chelsea, Inter or Bayern Munich right in the first knockout round. Most people would blow out Arsenal’s chances against these heavy weights straight away, but history suggests otherwise.

UCL Season Group Position Knocked out
06/07 1st Round of 16 (vs PSV Eindhoven)
07/08 2nd Quarter Final (vs Liverpool)
08/09 2nd Semi Final (vs Manchester United)

Although coming 1st in the Group Stages in the 06/07 season, Arsenal were knocked out to a much inferior opponent straight after in the Round of 16. On the contrary, when Arsenal finished 2nd in Group stages in the following 2 seasons, they progressed much further in the tournament and were knocked out by tougher oppositions.

In my opinion, it actually doesn’t matter where you finish in the Group Stages, as long as you qualify for the Knockout phase. After that, you have to consider all the teams as equally strong. The Champions League isn’t just one of the best competitions in the world without a reason. Teams who win make things happen and perform to their level best to tilt the result towards their favour, rather than waiting for the opponent to make a mistake.

What can we expect from Partizan tomorrow? Not too much. Since they don’t even have a chance for third spot, Partizan really have no pressure on them.  They do have a talented forward in Cleo, but I’m sure he won’t be too much of a handful for our defense.

I’m not expecting any magic from Arsenal this time around. All I expect is some great possession football and the conversion of most of the chances we create. We need to take matters in our own hands and win in a decisive manner, rather than depending on the Shakhtar vs Braga game.

The morale in the Arsenal camp is high. It is also with us fans. We’ve finally established ourselves as serious title contenders by sitting at pole position in the Premier League almost half way through the season. Our Carling Cup team has shown fantastic composure and consistency to reach the semi finals. It’s about time we can think of putting all those trophy-less seasons behind and win some silverware.

However, the Champions League isn’t silverware. It’s gold. So let’s put this game behind us quickly, and join the gold rush ASAP!

Truly ‘Hazard’ous

Eden Hazard, heard the name? Pretty much most people who follow football closely will know that he is one of Europe’s most talented footballers. He’s got electrifying pace, a great shifter (almost Messi-like) and has been a match-winner for Lille with some influential displays.

Can we get him? Nope, almost impossible now. Unless he is a devoted Arsenal fan, he won’t come to Arsenal. Although he is strongly linked to Liverpool as well, he won’t go there either. What will happen is that as soon as there is the slightest hint that Eden Hazard is available (if not this transfer window then another one), the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea will come in and try to swoop him up at unmatchable prices.

Eden Hazard

So that means another world class talent out of our grasp? I wouldn’t really look at it that way. It is true Arsenal have had some bad luck in the transfer market at times. Wenger did state that even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres could’ve joined Arsenal at the time they were available.

If you actually look at our young attacking options, they’re quite amazing on paper. Samir Nasri is only just 23 and is becoming a better player by the day. He keeps playing like this and in a few years time we’re going to start to consider him an Arsenal legend. Also, the fact that he will be a considered a regular in the France team will help him mould into that star we need in our team. Theo Walcott is the potential ultimate Gunner for me. Arsene Wenger didn’t just give him the No. 14 shirt without a reason. He won’t fill up Thierry Henry’s boots, but he will be right up there. I’m hoping injuries are out of his way and with a few more first team opportunities, he will build more confidence and develop a better footballing brain to reach his peak.

The big name that fans don’t consider ‘youth’ is Cesc Fabregas. We often tend to forget that he’s still young (only 23) because he’s such an integral part of our first team. The truth is he will also only improve. The problem is that there is so much transfer speculation surrounding his link to Barcelona, that it’s not helping him. What’s even worse is that he’s been rumoured to go back to Barcelona since he started featuring in the Arsenal first team, and yet he’s still at the Emirates. Now what we need is for that speculation to disappear forever. Barcelona just signed Ibrahim Afellay, and Fabregas should be smart enough to realize that he’ll probably have to spend a majority of the time in the Barcelona bench as well. Once Fabregas is only seen as the indispensable Arsenal captain and not as a Barcelona transfer target, we’ll see a new Fabregas.

I’m not even going to talk about Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Carlos Vela this time. Also not even mention the likes of Samuel Galindo, Wellington Silva, Henri Lansbury and JET who are outstanding prospects in the making.

Now you ask yourself, should we really be thinking about Eden Hazard? It’s not the end of the world. The beauty about football is that talented players just keep on coming in the ranks. We also have the manager who has the best eye for youth.  So let’s be realistic and leave the ‘Hazard’ous one for others to handle.