Photography Credit: http://www.theindependent.co.uk
Photograph Edit: Laura Brewington
Barcelona vs Arsenal
This was the biggest game of the season for Arsenal and I have to say, they gave it their all.
The mission impossible proved to difficult at times but Arsenal had their chances. Although they did not materialise them they certainly made Barcelona aware of their presence on the pitch, unlike many other teams.
Arsenal showed signs of positive play, getting into good areas in Barcelonas box, but they needed to be more clinical in front of goal. Arsenal had just as many shots on goal as Barcelona did, except they put away their chances and we didn’t. It is as simple as that.
I cannot fault the dedication and determination from Arsenals line up. They kept on going and they gave the game everything they had. If they played as well as they did last night, then they could finish the Premiere League in style.
Arsenal now need to take the positives from the Barca match and look onwards and upwards for their away game at Everton. A win on Saturday is crucial in keeping their title hopes alive.
Player ratings & reviews:
Ospina faced with the Barcelona trio that is Neymar, Suarez and Messi was always going to be challenging to say the least. But what a world class save from Ospina to deny Messi on a one on one counter attack. Considering the difficult circumstances Ospina denied the trio on many occasions. And let’s face it, even Manuel Neuer wasn’t saving Suarez’s goal!
Gabriel was picked over Mertesacker due to his pace, which I have to say was a good tactical move. Gabriel’s confidence is increasing every time we see him play. He did not panic last night and he did not pass the ball back to the danger area when faced with difficult situations. He still needs to improve in his marking as he left too much space for Messi and Alves to walk into Arsenals box, but the more games he gets under his belt the more he will improve.
This was the man we all wanted to see back in the line up. Considering this was his first game coming back from injury I think he performed to a high standard. He made many crucial tackles and interceptions for Arsenal and was prepared to throw himself in front of the ball to stop the trio from scoring. We have sorely missed him in our defence.
Hector Bellerin faced a tough challenge being up against Neymar last night and I think his performance was outstanding given the circumstances. He evenly matched Neymars pace on several occasions which meant that he could close him down quicker. He pushed his team forward down the right wing and produced some excellent crosses, one of which Sanchez so nearly rewarded. As always he put on a quality display.
Nacho Monreal also faced with the most daunting task – being up against Lionel Messi. But he showed great confidence in getting forward down the left wing and put in many good crosses for his teammates. Great team player.
I was very surprised to see Flamini starting in replacement of Coquelin- Arsenals beast. After ten minutes of play, I was then understanding Wengers choice. Flamini made some good challenges winning the ball back for Arsenal on several occasions. Not to mention how ruthless his play was throughout the first half. Flamini even had a long range shot on goal which very nearly paid off!
Elneny’s best game in an Arsenal shirt yet to date. He had a fantastic game against Barcelona. He got back and defended well when he needed to and he also created many chances for Arsenal. Let’s not also forget that thunderous strike that gave Arsenal a mere glimmer of hope at one stage of the game. His finishing was sublime and I hope we see him take more chances like that against Everton on Saturday.
I saw Ozil miming prayers and looking up to the sky last night minutes before kick off and I thought to myself he looks like a guy that is desperate to win tonight. We are in for a real fight tonight. But he just didn’t show up in the same fashion as he usually does. If he lost the ball he wouldn’t track back to defend and generally he just didn’t pressure Barcelona enough in the midfield areas.
Ozil did have some great touches on the ball though and his vision was superb on many occasions, catching Barcelona midfielders off guard. But hey, if Ozil is having a bad game he usually still rates as a 7 or 8 because he is a world class player.
Sanchez had some exquisite runs against his old team mates through the midfield area and looked threatening at times. He got himself into great positions and nearly tucked away a header away after an excellent cross by Bellerin. But again, failed to score from another great opportunity handed to him on a plate.
My man of the match.
When I saw the starting line up for this game I thought to myself credit to Wenger for giving Iwobi a starting position. I mentioned last week that we didn’t see enough of him during the FA Cup defeat to Watford as he was absolutely superb on the ball. He proved last night that he is full of potential.
Iwobi was excellent at holding himself up and keeping the ball even when surrounded by three or four Barca players at a time. He was very positive, always looked to get forward and paired up with Welbeck very well. It’s refreshing to see young fresh talent in the squad and hopefully we will see him start more after his excellent performance.
Welbeck would have been my second choice for man of the match. As I mentioned, he paired up with Iwobi and they both had a great understanding of each other’s play. He got himself into some fantastic positions but just slightly lacked the finishing touch. He looked dangerous and threatened Barcelona’s defence throughout the game. That is what you need from a striker. Good move to start Welbeck and leave Giroud on the bench.
Considering he came on without warming up due to replacing injury prone Flamini, he had a good game. He was very strong in midfield and made some great tackles to deny Barcelona and win the ball back for his teammates. Great team player and showed a huge amount passion when Elneny scored. What Arsenal fan doesn’t love to see that from their players?
Giroud didn’t quite make a big enough impact when he replaced Welbeck. I thought Welbeck showed great agility and dedication so I questioned why Wenger was taking him off for Giroud, who’s been out of form for over 13 matches. He had a great chance in 5 yards from goal in the closing stages and he just couldn’t put it away.
Again, Walcott did not make much of an impact after replacing Iwobi, who in my opinion should have also stayed on the pitch. He is lacking vision and touch at the moment, carelessly giving the ball away in the midfield area. Considering his quality I expected a better performance from him against Barca.
Onwards and upwards Gunners!