Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Arsenal and Barcelona play the beautiful game…… and then get knocked out

By 1970’s Gooner

It was strange watching the Manchester United Champions League Semi Finals against Barcelona. It was like any of Arsenal’s games against the big three in England this season.

Barcelona played beautiful football, passing the ball around using technique and ability and had 61% of possession at the Nou camp and 62% of possession at Old Trafford!

In a similar way Arsenal enjoyed the majority of possession during periods of the Quarter Final games against Liverpool and I would go as far as to say that overall they outplayed them. They also did the same in their recent encounters with Manchester United and Chelsea.

Yet both Barcelona and Arsenal end up with nothing.

The major reason for this is that they both lacked power and strength which would have complimented so well their pretty and technical football.

Barcelona had Messi, Deco, Eto and Iniesta in their line up against Manchester United. Arsenal had Fabregas, Hleb, Van Persie, Adebayor and Walcott. All beautiful players but not really powerful enough.

Compare this to Chelsea’s Drogba, Ballack, Lampard, Essien and Terry. And to Manchester United’s Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Tevez, Anderson and Rooney.

There’s no comparison.

You need both ingredients to succeed in today’s football. If one of the two is more prominent then the imbalance hampers the team’s performance and inevitably results in failure.

Just as Barcelona and Arsenal did not have enough steel in their sides and were in the end overtaken by the more balanced sides they faced.

For they played the beautiful football, weaved their pretty patterns but in the end succumbed to the forcefulness of their opponents.

Chelsea and Manchester United have more or less managed to find this balance (Man U a little bit more than Chelsea) and as such have made the transition from the old typical British sides who had a lot of steel and pathos in their play but not enough skill.

Arsenal (and Barcelona in their own way) need to find theirs still; but in the opposite way.


Anonymous said...

Vidic, Rooney, and Anderson did not feature against Barcelona.

I do agree that Arsenal are a bit lightweight though. If we had Essien (instead of Flamini who looks to be leaving) and Vidic type player alongside either Gallas or Toure, I think we would be much more formidable.

I wonder how much Essien would cost? He's simply to classy to be at Chelsea.

Anonymous said...

I agree..we need some physical players who also have skill..from the current team only Toure comes to mind.I wouldn't mind seeing Yaya Toure along with Fabregas in the center of midfield. Speaking of Barca...I think they should have won their matches against Man U...and the stats said so too. I guess in modern football,it's the results more than the way the game is played that's important

Anonymous said...

Well,for Chelsea,they have 15 men on the pitch when they played against Liverpool-three referees and the most important guy-Riise.Riise nodded in the most important goal in the first leg.In the second leg, he opened up for Drogba to shoot freely.

Anonymous said...

being curious i watched both the CL semis and would agree with the analysis however wouldn't say that barca played beautfil football esp in the 2nd leg... and i hope arsenal doesn't appear as such to a more objective neutral spectacle

it's quite obvious barca looked one dimensional and it's a fine line between great and stupid, and i'd go as far and say that messi was stupid (probably in some way some arsenal players would appear the same) with his constant moves around the right and moving towards the middle which was completely blocked off by red shirts... surely intelligent players would know that's a dead end and changed tact!

back to arsenal, i hope there is going to be additions providing some much needed strengths in key positions; wilshire may be fantastic but it's clear he's another lightweight at his age (say compared rooney at the opposite end of the scale)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you to a certain extent. It all depends on the way each team decides to construct and instigate it's attacks. I personally think there are merits to both respective styles. It is impossible, however, to delegate one as superior to the other, especially on the basis of these two games.
I personally believe that Barcelona lost due to their imbalance positionally as opposed to their lack of physicality. Yaya Toure, Puyol and Abidal seemed far more physical than any Manchester Utd player with the notable exception of Rio Ferdinand(though he looked shaky throughout).

I agree, Chelsea are definitely more powerful than Manchester Utd in terms of the raw strength of the individual players and I expect that to show in the finals.

There is however a downside to this idea of physically orientated football. As matches and seasons run on the physical edge of all players is blunted and without the necessary technical quality then problems and inadequacies are exposed.

I personally believe Arsenal have the best balance, in terms of physicality and technical prowess. Fabregas, Flamini, Adebayor, Sagna, Toure are all strong and technically sound.

The problem lies in the efficiency of the team. The same goes for Barcelona. Adebayor is nowhere near the level of Drogba, Van Nistelrooy, Crespo, Villa, Anelka, Benzema and Eto'o in terms of conversion rate and this coupled with the disgusting lack experience is why we have not won anything for what seems like an eternity.
Adeayor is 'not bad', but that is the problem. He's 'not bad' but not incredible either. He is a good footballer and a supreme athlete and that is where he differs to the other strikers in my list. They are supreme footballers and good athletes. This links nicely with your article. Is it better to better to be stronger or is it possible that physicality can be compromised when it comes down to pure quality.

We need to sign Sebastien Frey, Thuram and hope Eduardo gets back to full fitness sooner rather than later....if not Villa should be added to the roster.
These are all realistic signings.

Anonymous said...

I dont think its as simple as just saying they have power we dont, so they will win. there is more to a football team than just power.
barca lacked a cutting edge and only Henry gave them a bit of one when he came on. Arsenal have a cutting egde usually but sometimes we dont make the most of our chances. also defensively man u were very good and usually so are chelsea. arsenal are not great at the back and had we come under the pressure that man u did from barca then we would have conceded a goal or two without a doubt.
you need a strong defence first and foremost. throughout history relatively poor teams have won trophies based on their rock solid defence.
after that you need a strong and creative midfield who can pass and move, then you need clever, strong and fast strikers to tuck away their chances. you need it all if you want to win the PL.

Anonymous said...

article is spot on. the problem with these 2 sides are that the teams they play just sit back and wait for an opening. liverpool are pros at. arsenal used to be just a quick technical side with good footballers. they now play total football so its not fast as before so teams can all get behind the ball. compare overmas to hleb complete opposites 1 fully technical and 1 with alot of pace; the latter got more joy. im not doubting the style of play today just that it needs to get tweeked abit. we need that natural left footed mexican and couple other fast players then the balance will be right. at the moment we are having to break down lesser teams when we used to blow them away. last season we were not near title today we are much closer with 2 games left its still in reach. next season the team will be stronger physically and quicker. this season our style was wrong; we had to work too hard to get a win. its been a much better team then last season and can only get better.

Anonymous said...

Fat bastard

The way Arsenal played when Eduardo was playing did give us more options. There where as usually goals where they played the ball all the way in and then also long balls and bang gooooal. After we lost Eduardo we where back to one dimention football.

How can any Arsenal fan say that Adibayor is not good enough for god shake he scores in every other game. We all know that he loose some good changes but if we had someone in midfield that could shoot from 20+ yards then things would even open up more for him. And he is only 23 it is hard to believe isn´t.
Since Edu got injured Ade has been alone and the right wings has not worked since we lost Sagna.
And of course the left wing could be better, there we have the best left fullback in the wourld doing all the job.
I think that we do not need to buy so many players we need a good tall Centre back and midfielder (if The flamster goes). Carlos Vela will arrive and he is fast like Walcott but more technical. Eduardo will come back and there is not possible to be as unlucky with injuries two years in a row as Arsenal has been.
I think that when everyone is fit we have the best eleven on the planet and we play the best football there is.
The future is more than bright we prob. have to use sunglasses the next 3-4 years.

Anonymous said...

You set your own standards. This is the case for both the club and the fans. After attaining notoriety with strikers of the caliber of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp then that should be the benchmark for the following players who will lead the line. I personally think that Henry and Anelka are the only world class strikers Wenger has ever bought and even then he had a lot of work in front of him to help them reach that level.

Football is an unforgiving sport. A glaring example of the facile nature of the game is yesterday's match between Fiorentina and Rangers. Quality midfielders like Montolivo, Liverani and the sensational Mutu would all look on dejectedly as chance after chance would ricochet of the safety nets of the stands due to the wasteful nature of both their forwards, Pazzini and towards the end the cumbersome Vieri. One could only imagine the scoreline if there was a confident, clinical striker in their place.

Efficiency is the key and anyone who tells me Adebayor is efficient is only fooling themselves. I don't look at statistics because I believe I can judge many facets of the game better by watching players and matches.

Many people turn to statistics as a reflex to justify but I ask every fan this....Have you ever watched an Arsenal match and not been frustrated by Adebayor at least 4 times throughout the course of the contest???

Oh...and some bad news for the previous poster. Carlos Vela just isn't that good. Trust me when I tell you he will not amount to very much at all. Carling Cup appearances, reserve games and occasional first team sub appearances when we are again plagued by injuries in mid-season and asking why we hadn't signed anyone of merit this summer.

Dumb Arsenal fans think Adebayor is good enough for Arsenal and even dumber ones think that Vela is the answer to the wrong problem.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Barcelona have finally inquired about Van der Vaart and if an offer comes in he will have no second thoughts of joining them. But apparently Arsenal haven't pulled their offer off the table just yet.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I don't agree. The two examples were decided by the officials. This article would not be written should Barca had gotten the penalty in OT and Arsenal the penalty at the Emirates against Liverpool.
You could also argue the eague was decided by a wrong penalty decision against Arsenal at Birmingham. It all went wrong after that.

Anonymous said...


This is the thing we have to sort out. We do not have a goalie who can save as 10 to 15 points like Cech or Van Der Saar does. I though our defense had improved since last season, however our inability deal with crosses(both Toure and Gallas are culpable and of course Senderos) cost us our season. I hope Wenger will get an stop gap experienced defender to buy time for Senderos and Djourou to improve.

I find the slating of Adebayor quite unfair. He always played as a lone striker during the season and for the latter part of the season, he was obviously tired. I would give him another season.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. As I've long said 'where's the power in midfield'?? Hleb, Rosicky, Cesc, Walcott weigh all of 3 stones(put together)? The ghost of Vieira still haunts the gunners. Yaya on the right, Aquilani on the left(or vice versa), Cesc in the middle equals problem solved. Slight midfield players are a problem when you look at what we're up against. Now fix the defense please.

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