Last night Arsenal did something that nearly nobody thought they could, Beat Barcelona. It wasn’t just the win, it was the performance. Arsenal started the game brightly, unlike last year where they started very sluggish, but Barcelona started brightly also and soon took first blood. Villa struck on the 26th minute. Barcelona were trying all game to beat Arsenal’s high line of defense and on occasion did. This time Villa did break through and calmly slotted home under Szczesny’s legs. Messi was instrumental and played a much more free role than he usually would many times dropping into the centre of the pitch and making his way back up front. Song had the task of marking Messi, but after 6 minutes and after the first tackle he was on a yellow card, marking it an even harder job for the rest of the game. Arsenal had their chances to score the best falling to van Persie but he just couldn’t get his shots on target. Barcelona looked to have a valid goal ruled offside, and with closer inspection it may have been valid. Everytime Arsenal got possession of the ball Barcelona were quick to close them down, and they seemed to have agreed that Fabregas was the most dangerous in possession as whenever he got the ball there were 3 Barcelona players around him. That did give more space to other Arsenal players, but the ball never seemed to reach them. Arsenal were not as restrictive and did not close down as much. Wilshire was like a little terrier dog chasing the ball down at every turn, but to no avail. When the first half ended it didn’t seem as if Arsenal were going to win the game, but always looked like they could get a goal, but so did Barcelona.
With the second half it seemed Barcelona felt as if they had done enough and did not press as much as they had done in the first half, giving Arsenal much more time on the ball. Barcelona were still dangerous but did not look like they wanted to score as badly as they did in the first half. Jack Wilshire was a stand out performer for Arsenal never putting a foot wrong. Arsenal’s defence of Koscielny and Djourou did well, they may have got caught out, but over all did well to deal with the threat of Messi, Villa and Pedro. Koscileny stuck close to Messi not allowing him to do much with the ball. They both defended the arsenal way, not just booting the ball out but keeping calm and playing it out from the back. It’s hard to believe that Koscielny only two seasons ago was playing the in second division in france, and now is up against the likes of Messi and Villa, and doing a good job of it. That is also true of Szczęsny who last season was on loan at Brentford. Szczesny had a good gave, he collected the balls in the air, and dived to grab balls bravely from the feet of Messi and co.
Barcelona manager Guardiola obviously saw that his side may have had the more possession, but were not as dominant as in the first half and brough on Seydou Keita on for David Villa, and Wenger decided to take over the booked Song on for Arshavin. That changed the game, as Barcelona lost some of its attacking force were Arsenal had added to theirs, and as the game went on the likes of Wilshire, Fabregas and Nasri seemed to revel in the more space. Arsenal finally got their goal when Clichy put in a beautifully weighted ball for van Persie to run on to and Valdes thought the same as everyone else, that van Persie was going tp fire the ball across goal, but van Persie shot from an acute angle leaving Valdes flat footed. That goal made the already boisterous Emirates erupt and from that moment on the crowd never quietened. Arsenal’s second came from a Barcelona attack. Messi lost the ball and Koscielny gathered the ball and even though in his won area with Barcelona players still around him, he kept calm, and found the near by Bentdner who after a few touches passed it to Wilshire who played it quickly and directly to Fabregas who then fed it down the line for Nasri who ran onto it. He was the only one forward but kept his composure and weighted for the right opportunity and passed it to Arshavin who shot first time, with a delicate side footed shot, which was more like he passed it into the net. With Valdes falling to the ground backward with his arms out pleading with his defence as the ball went it, it was quick a picture. It was a total of 18 second going from defence to goal, a goal that Arsenal may not have scored in recent years but one that is very much in the Arsenal DNA. Arsenal defended valiantly at the end to make sure the game ended 2-1 and has given them a chance in the second leg, but it will be a different game at the Now Camp, but hopefully it will be just as exciting as this match.
Here are some picture and videos of the game.