Once again MSN dominates the world. Not the online version, the on-field variation of Messi-Suarez & Neymar of FC Barcelona. For 70 minutes Arsenal were well in the first leg of their Champions League (CL) last 16 tie with the Catalan club. But then MSN showed just how terrifyingly destructive they are. And all in just 16 seconds.
As a football coach, Wenger set his side up perfectly in the first half in regard to tactical approach and team selection to execute. Ramsey covered ground like the roadrunner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sanchez provided a threat with pace on the break while they kept things tight, limiting the visitors to one clear chance with Suarez right on half-time. I thought Arsenal were beginning to take control in the second half, creating a couple of decent openings, most notably Giroud’s header. Mascherano did well to stop the Frenchman getting more power on the effort.
Arsenal though, are Arsenal. If they have a sustained period of pressure, gradually players drift forward into the attack and against Barcelona, that can be fatal. A simple clearance helped on became the catalyst for a move that changed the game. Personally, Coquelin should have fouled Suarez before he crossed the halfway line. It’s smart play, frowned upon on these shores but at the highest level, necessary. As a defender who is slower than a snail, Mertesacker should be using his experience to recognize that the last thing you want to give Barcelona, is space in your defensive third. And yet he gets dragged forward, compounding it by going to ground! Criminal defending!! And then Messi did what absolutely no-one was shocked by and scored. Guess it’s just Chelsea he can’t score against, rather than Petr Cech.
If I’m giving Coquelin partial fault for the first goal, then his replacement Flamini managed to go even further. He has a small defence in that Mertesacker should have cleared the ball first time, but Flamini see Messi arriving, just stand up and show him away from goal. He’s either got to score a sensational goal or cross the ball. Mertesacker might even have been able to cover him.
Again, Arsenal are Arsenal so he does the stupid thing by bringing Messi down. Penalty, comfortably dispatched, 2-0 and game over. Arsenal won be able to outscore Barca by two in Spain.