Talk before the game was how many goals Barcelona were going to score – would it be 5, 6 or 7?
And while the scoreline was a little more respectable than that, the same scenario has resulted – Arsenal are out of the Champions League.
An in-form Arsenal would have given Barcelona more problems, and would have scored tonight. But as it was Arsenal had too many players off form, and hit the self destruct button in the process.
Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (and Theo Walcott when he came on) were awful and well below their usual standards. Petr Cech, the back five (with Coquelin) and Alexis Sanchez were excellent. Mesut Özil was on the periphery and struggled to make an impact.
But the bottom line is you can’t have 3/4 players under performing, especially against the World’s best team.
Ramsey missed a great chance from Welbeck’s headed knock down, Olivier Giroud’s hold up play and lay offs were very poor and Oxlade-Chamberlain defended well but was woeful in attack – missing a golden opportunity to open the scoring and making poor decisions in passing.
It was a fantastic effort on the whole but we had to carry too many players tonight. Our form has been poor domestically and it doesn’t seem to be improving.
The first Barcelona goal came on 71 minutes, when Arsenal had a 10 minute period of decent attacking play. Giroud had a header well saved and we were causing Barcelona problems. But like a deadly snake Barcelona caught us on the break, delivering that poisonous venom in the blink of an eye. A cross by Bellerin was headed out and Iniesta moved the ball forwards – Neymar was through, squared the ball to Messi and just like Messi can, he waited and waited before scoring from close range.
At 1-0 it wasn’t a total disaster, although it was an away goal for Barcelona which meant we’d have it all to do at the Camp Nou. But then a moment of utter madness killed off the game and the tie as a contest.
A Barcelona cross dropped to Per Mertesacker – who inexplicably tried to lay it off to Mathieu Flamini in the penalty area. As Flamini tried to clear the ball, Lionel Messi nicked the ball and ended up getting clattered. Giving away the penalty was Flamini’s first contribution after coming on for Coquelin and Messi coolly finished the penalty and ultimately, finished off Arsenal.
The contest is over and once again Arsenal are out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage. On the bright side however, maybe now Arsenal can concentrate their efforts on the Premier League and FA Cup?