So, finally our Champions League campaign for this season has come to an end and in a fashion I certainly wouldn’t have wanted. To begin with, I would like to congratulate Barcelona for qualifying and showing why they are the best team in the world. They truly were remarkable and made us look like spectators and they truly desreved to go through. However, I also believe that they would have had to work much harder had it remained 11 vs 11. The referee’s decision completely ended the competition. They were dominating the game with 11 all but our defense was putting up a great show. With a man down the job was gigantic. Not blaming the ref for the loss but that decision did change the game and we can only wonder what would have happened had Van Persie remained on.
Nonetheless, credit also to us for putting up an overall good effort and a good defensive performance. We held them for like 48 minutes and only a mistake by Fabregas led to their goal. In the second half again we held them till the time the numbers were equal. I won’t fault the defenders for the goals because they were down to some brilliant movement of Barcelona players and as well as individual mistakes by our players that allowed them to continuously attack us.
The players who shone yesterday were Almunia, Wilshere, Nasri, Koscielny and Djourou. They played with their hearts and looked like they really wanted to go ahead. Koscielny for me was massive as he played really well under pressure and even with a yellow card. Wilshere showed why he is in the starting eleven for Arsenal after yet another inspiring display of football. Nasri again showed that he is quality. If only Rosicky, Diaby and Fabregas had played with the same effort, as they were all poor, this game would have been different.
Tactically, I think we should have played to our strengths and going all defensive invited in too much pressure. However, I know one thing now that if we want to we can defend very well, which is one of the biggest positive from yesterdays defeat. Also our passing was poor as under pressure we gave away the ball as soon as we got it. But here credit to Barcelona as they pressed our players in threes and fours. I am though dissapointed with having no shots on goal.
Coming to player ratings:
Szczesny (no rating): Was on for like 18 minutes during which didn’t have to do much. Made one save from a free kick which also led to his injury. I hope he comes back quickly.
Sagna (6): Did his job very well even though he wasn’t supported enough by Rosicky. Should have done better with the ball when he got it because gave it away very easily every time.
Djourou (7): Made some remarkable blocks and interceptions. Partnered well with Koscielny as both of them gave their best to keep us in the game.
Koscielny (7.5): He too was excellent with his tackling, interceptions and blocks. Did well the whole match as Barcelona created chance after chance. Gave away a penalty but otherwise his defensive performance was excellent.
Clichy (6): His side was exploited as he was at times caught out of position. At times drifted back from the off side line that allowed Alves to make a few diagonal runs. His decision making was also bad. However, credit still to him for restricting the Barcelona players most of the times.
Wilshere (7.5): Top performance defensively as well as the few times we went ahead. Played with his heart out as he demonstrated with a tackle made early in the game. Tried his best to take us forward every time he got the ball. His pass to Bendtern in the dying minutes should have been a goal.
Fabregas (4): He had one of the worst games yesterday. Even he acknowledged it himself. His passing was off, didn’t provide anything in defense and made a colossal mistake that I didn’t expect from him, which opened the scores for Barcelona. Maybe he wasn’t fit but then he shouldn’t have started.
Diaby (4): Poor, as he was one of the weak links for me. Even looked lost at times as he would remain rooted to the spot. Didn’t give enough support in defense and whenever he got the ball he would lose possession. I was expecting much more from him.
Nasri (7): Another one who gave his heart out. Defensively was massive as he saved Clichy’s arse time after time. Looked lively whenever he got the ball and made a few good runs but was always triple teamed with no one in support. Earned us and delivered an excellent corner that led to the own goal after yet another strong run.
Van Persie (4): I don’t know what he was doing when he went for Alves rather than the ball. That first yellow was deserved but the second was just an incomprehensible decision. However, during the time he was on, should have done more to help the team. I am still of the view had he stayed on the game would have been different.
Rosicky (4): Poor again from him. Gave away possession every time he got the ball which led to continuous attacks from Barcelona. If he had played like Nasri did on the left, we could have created a few chances down the right side.
Almunia (8): I must admit, wasn’t happy to see him come on. However, he demonstrated again that he is a good shot stopper as he made save after save to keep us in the game till the final minute. Massively excellent performance and I hope he gives the same in the match against Man United at the weekend.
Bendtner (no vote): Got the chance of his life and had he scored in the 87th minute, right now we will have been praising him. Didn’t do anything else as Barcelona played keep-ball later in the game and we didn’t get to create much.
Arshavin (no vote): Tried hard but couldn’t do much as we had very little possession.
The best thing now is to move ahead and concentrate on the two domestic tournaments. There is still plenty left to play for and now I am more than certain we will win the League and hopefully end our trophy drought. However, we will need all to perform and please Arsenal, no dropping of points. This season has promised too much and we cannot stop now to end the season with nothing.
The final run in starts this weekend with the FA Cup quarter and if we beat United, we are in for the double.
Keep the faith!!