BBC BLOGS - Football Tactics
« Previous | Main | Next »

How Arsenal can beat Barcelona

Post categories:

Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 06:31 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Ever since Arsenal and Barcelona were pulled out of the hat to meet in the last 16 of the Champions League, reigning champions Inter Milan have been held up as an example of how to beat the Catalan giants in Europe.

Inter's two-legged win over them in last season's semi-finals was achieved in the second leg where, reduced to 10 men and hanging on to a 3-1 home leg victory, they were happy to yield possession and committed themselves to all-out defence.

The chances of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger taking a similar approach to then Inter boss Jose Mourinho are even less likely than the prospect of a goalless draw between the Gunners and Barca on Wednesday evening.

Instead, Wenger will get the opportunity to show that attack can be the best form of defence and prove that his team have progressed since they lost to Pep Guardiola's Spanish charges at the quarter-final stages last season.

The problem for the Arsenal boss is that Barcelona have improved too, adding David Villa to their ranks to supplement the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Xavi.

Former Arsenal full-back and Match of the Day pundit Lee Dixon has admitted that lots of things will have to go right for Arsenal to make the last eight this time.

But, apart from the recent 4-4 Premier League draw at Newcastle where they had Abou Diaby sent off, he has seen signs they have become more solid in defensive areas.

He has also identified aspects where the Gunners can play to their attacking strengths.

"Arsenal were a bit naive last year against Barca in the first leg," Dixon said. "They thought 'we can go out and play as well' and they ended up being too open.

"That's not to say they have to play defensively this time, but they didn't get tight enough, especially in Barcelona's midfield, which is now as strong as ever.

"I don't think Arsenal can change their approach. They have got such a forward thinking mentality that they stick to it, but if they are to get any joy against Barca then they will need width and it's not something that always comes naturally.

"At times, Arsenal play quite centrally with short passes and try and play their way through teams so I think Theo Walcott could be a key player for them."

That proved to be the case last season, where Walcott's introduction in the home leg helped Arsenal claw their way back from 2-0 down to secure an unlikely 2-2 draw.

Comparing the average positions for Arsenal in the first and second half of that game show how Walcott (number 14) was their most advanced player.

Theo Walcott's introduction against Barcelona in the first leg last season helped them achieve a 2-2 draw.


"I don't think Barca have the best defensive full-backs," Dixon added. "And I'd actually like to see Walcott play on the left cutting in on his right foot against right-back Dani Alves."

With Alves one of Barcelona's rampaging outlets, there would be plenty of space to exploit and the England winger has also been more positive in Europe this season, improving the frequency of his goals, his shots on goal and their accuracy.

Another aspect that Dixon has urged is a premium on possession, which is something Arsenal have improved on in the attacking third in the Premier League this season.

"You would like to think that as good as Barcelona are, Arsenal will have the ball for a fair share of the game which means the opposition hasn't got it," he stated. "The more you restrict Messi, Iniesta and Xavi from having the ball, the better.

"If you know you are going to get it back then you can be a bit sloppy in some of your passing or you might try and knock a few risky balls. That is clearly not going to be the case here so it's very important Arsenal treat the ball like money."

Arsenal have been described as Barcelona-lite for their attacking approach but if they are to succeed this time, Dixon said, the Gunners need to replicate some of the Spanish champions' defensive qualities too.

Guardiola's team are renowned for their collective pressing with the Spanish coach reasoning that the higher up the pitch his team win the ball, the closer they are to the opposition goal.

The key factor when attempting to do this is that groups of players are involved, allowing deeper midfielders or defenders time to adjust their positions.

However, Wenger's team are not noted for their shape when they don't have the ball.

They are particularly vulnerable to counter attacks with statistics showing that over the past two Premier League seasons they have conceded the highest percentage of goals this way, with only Wigan conceding more in number.

"When you lose the ball against Barca, wherever you are on the pitch, there has almost got to be an instant blueprint that you go to," Dixon explained.

"Obviously you react to where the ball is, but I think their positioning elsewhere on the pitch has to be quicker. It has almost got to be instantaneous."

This also goes for closing down space when Barcelona are further forward. That is when the importance of midfielders Jack Wilshere and Alex Song is underlined.

"I was watching Messi in the 1-1 draw against Sporting Gijon on Saturday and he goes off and wonders around the pitch but then he just stands still in front of the back four with other players just running off him," added Dixon.

"He's brilliant at it, and then all of a sudden the ball comes to him and he's 15 yards outside your penalty area and he's off. That's why that area is a really key one. Wilshere, for example, has to be disciplined.

"Sometimes because he is so young, the 19-year-old can get a bit enthusiastic and go off and leave Song on his own, but against Barca that would not be wise.

"Going forward Arsenal have got enough about them to worry any team. I don't think they should back down on attacking, but I think the transition into defence is the major thing they can improve on. It might be the aspect that earns them a decent result.

"How things work defensively is not something at the forefront of Wenger's mind most of the time. He's aware of defence but it's not a priority for him which could be their downfall.

"They are more than capable of scoring against anyone so any sort of victory would represent a good result and even a 0-0 is never a bad thing in Europe at home."

Betting odds of 14-1 suggest that is unlikely. Yet if Arsenal can retain their attacking instincts while remaining compact they could be capable of springing a bigger surprise.


Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    How Arsenal can beat Barcelona: Praying?

  • Comment number 2.

    Arsenal are useless, they won't win. I can't wait to see the bitter goons reaction.

  • Comment number 3.

    Maybe we (Arsenal) should adopt the way other teams in Europe have beaten Barca, parking the coach in front of the goal and hitting them on the break? It worked for Chelsea, worked for Inter and worked for United a few years ago.

    But then again we against Newcastle the strengths of Arsenal's defensive/tactical qualities. Whatever happens tonight, I hope we do ourselves proud. There is only way we know how to play, and if we lose then we lose to the best side in the world. If we win...

  • Comment number 4.

    Not saying Arsenal will go through the tie, but Barcelona have never won a Champions League knock out away leg under Guardiola, and have won just one of their last 6 Champions League away games (in a dead rubber against Panathanikos reserves).

    Arsenal definitely have a good chance of winning the game tonight.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe Arsene will read this blog, job done then!

    They do have a chance, look at last night. The keeper will have to make a few saves over the two legs, the defence will have the play a blinder, the midfield will have to work like donkeys and the forwards will have to take their chances.

    I give it 20% at best. I hope they do it.


  • Comment number 6.

    Key to beating Barca is keeping their midfield quiet, Messi flourishes precisely because Xavi and Iniesta are so good

    Mourinho saw this when Inter beat them last year, by nullifying Xavi he was able to keep Messi's influence to a minimum

    Arsenal should also be looking to keep Alves' influence to a minimum, wingers will be important here

    Much depends on whether Wenger will be rpepared to sacrifice his football ethos. As Fergie, Mourtinho and a host of others will attest to, trying to match this gbarca side at ther own game is akin to composing your own suicide note

  • Comment number 7.

    You neglect to add that Inter were 10 men last season because of Busquets theatrics getting Thiago (I think?!) sent off, for ABSOLUTELY nothing.

    I am a Spurs supporter and genuinely hope Arsenal prevail against a team that should be known as much for their talent as their gamesmanship which leaves a very bitter taste and detracts from their undoubtedly attractive play as a spectacle.

  • Comment number 8.

    Man City fan here:

    Good luck to Arsenal tonight. For all Barcas talent they are only 11 men. Arsenal need to avoid defeating themselves psycologically before the game starts. Other teams like Man United capitalise on their reputation and it can give them a big advantage. So I think Arsenal can go all out and win if they have a good game.

    Well done to Spurs too.

  • Comment number 9.

    We have to have a solid back line tonight which is of course vital to winning this tie. However the key to this game are Wilshere and Song. They will have to stay back, supporting the defense and breaking down Barca on the attack. If they are both on their game, they could easily play the ball out to our offensive players. With Nasri/Arshavin playing on the right and Walcott on the left, Fab in the center and Persie up front, we should have more than enough opportunities in creating openings for ourselves.


  • Comment number 10.

    I don't envy any team matching up against Barcelona these days. The obvious suggestion to 'deal' with Barca would be to give Messi some rough love from the off.

    However, as we all know, Barcelona there so much more to Barca's game than just the Leo Messi show. If you contain Messi, David Villa will punish you. If you are good enough to contain Messi and Villa, then Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi will punish you.

    Having watched Barcelona I vouch that they are one of the best sides for working the ball both with and without possession. If they lose the ball they press until they get it back. Then in possession they have the cutting passes of Xavi to carve open opportunities for the trio of Messi, Villa and Pedro to work their magic.

    The balance in the Barcelona line-up is incredible. They have all the right weapons in key areas. Dangerous players that are not only technically gifted, but consistent in delivering a performance.

    The only way Arsenal can win is with energy and precision. They need to work Barcelona hard, press them into making mistakes (which they rarely do) and not give possession away cheaply. Every player in the Barcelona team uses the ball with conviction, so the less the likes of Xavi, Messi and Villa have the ball, the better Arsenal's chances of success will be.

    All I know is that it is going to be one hell of match. I'm a neutral so I can watch on without kakking my pants every time Messi receives the ball on the edge of the area.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's a tough ask to beat the best team in the world, but probably only Arsenal can stop them. The indiscipline that has derailed Arsenal at crucial times will be decisive. Eboue is one of the worst culprits and Barca could exploit that. At least Denilson and Diaby are unlikely to figure - talented players who get lazy or impetuous. Arsenal are looking good though, up there with United in the premiership and the only team in all major competitions. With just a little luck this could be Arsenal's season.

  • Comment number 12.

    Exploiting the space behind the Barcelona fullbacks with pace can be key in stopping their style of pressing the ball so high up the pitch. With Walcott's pace he can keep a check on one of them at least. If this doesn't work Barca's fullbacks press on so much the centre backs have to push extremely wide leaving space in the middle which Arsenal can exploit.

    I'm not Walcott's biggest fan but his pace can be key, although I'd really like to see Spurs place Barcelona with Lennon and Bale attacking the flanks.

  • Comment number 13.

    SZCZESNY & Djouru have added to the strength of the Gunners defence. The battle should be won on the midfield. Given the Graduation of Wilsher from a Whizkid to an established midfielder, I don't see it is gonna be a problem to have a slight advantage over Xabi & Iniesta. The only problem I fear is whether Song will be able to mark the explosive Messy & break the link of the midfield from the two killer strikers; Villa & Messy, while covering the the center backs.

    I back Gunners to come up on top tonight. Who will make it to the quarter final, will be decided on the second leg. That needs a prayer for gunners to make it through!

  • Comment number 14.

    Arsenal simply don't have the defensive ability to cope with Barcelona, particularly with Vermaelen out. They might be able to hold on in the home leg but I can see them being hammered at the Camp Nou. Good luck to them, they'll need it.

  • Comment number 15.

    As mentioned by a couple of others already, I do think Arsenal's secret weapon is Theo Walcott's pace.

    He destroyed Barca when he came on late in the tie last season and if he is given space in front of him again, he will do the same tonight.

    Van Persie has hit a bit of form of late so Walcott supplying the Dutchman on the break could be a good gameplan.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nice Blog Lee!

    I think there is far to much hype surrounding this tie and i hope AW and
    the players dont read to much into the media and many other writing them of.

    Judging from his press conference Arsene really does know what is required and i hope the players do also.

    It would be great if we keep a clean sheet this negates the possibilty of chaseing the game in the return leg.

    Barca are beatable! make no mistake about it, they would rather not be
    faceing Arsenal thats for sure.

    To all you doubters and defeatest's we are going to knock them out and
    A Song is going to be the hero!

    best of luck lads

    go and do the buisness

  • Comment number 17.

    I watch Barca all the time and the thing is they always play as a team but when a team makes it difficult to play such as A Madrid two weeks a go Messi steps up and it becomes the Messi show until he scores 2 goals then the whole team gain confidence and will just embrass you. So if you go in to stop Messi straight away you are very stupid because Iniesta, pedro and villa will attack while xavi and messi will push back.
    Last year you didn't experience Iniesta who was out most of the season everyone seems to forgot that and Iniesta is on top form as for Puyol being out well he didn't play against you in the second leg who has been awful this season and Abidal has stepped up.

    I love Barxa and their passion but best of luck Arsenal

  • Comment number 18.

    Its going to be a very difficult night for Arsenal againts Passalona but if they did their homework and watched Barca's game from the weekend then they will have seen the blue print they should follow.

    Sporting in the first half pressed them all over the pitch and attacked in mumbers and Barca found it very hard to deal with- and thats againts a team with 10% of the quality Arsenal posses.

    In the second half Sporting 1-0 up sat back and ivited pressure, and inevitably Barca scored...they are so patient with the ball teams very easily get tired of chasing shadows and will sooner or later lose concerntration.

    That said i still think a team containing Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Alves and Busquets will beat every team in the world over two legs.

    Arsenal 1-2 Passerlona ( 1st leg )

    Passerlona 3-1 Arsenal ( 2nd leg )

  • Comment number 19.

    A home draw is the best the gunners can hope for. I can't see anything but a heavy defeat again in the second leg though. For all Arsenal have improved this season, I actually think their defence has worsened - Kosielny isn't cut out for this level.

  • Comment number 20.

    We're much better placed this time around, not as many injuries and placed better in all competitions. That said we MUST win tonight to be in with a chance in this tie.

    Today is going to be a long day!

    Ps. Nice to see some Spurs support, credit to you.

  • Comment number 21.

    Haha CharadeYouAre

    Glad you're here. If you'll excuse my going off topic, I was wondering what I should make of this:

    3:14pm on 07 Feb 2011

    I will confess though to having a soft spot for man city and im very pleased to see at last they are giving you lot something to think about

    11:31pm on 12 Feb 2011

    as for City?????????? what a dire team! and what a pretty useless boring manager to boot, af was correct when he deemed them " noisy neighbours "

    Talk about defensive! and with all that money spent and so called talent on display it was a dire match to watch. I dont think mancini will be there after this season and rightly so, his tactics and understanding of the game in england like most other italians is poor.


    Well which is it?!

  • Comment number 22.

    I believe as an Man Utd fan that Arsenal can beat barca, but they must take a ead going into the 2nd leg, it is vital as i can't see Arsenal winning at the Nou Camp. It will very much depend on how the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi are controlled, but then again they still have the on-form Pedro and Villa! A.Song will be the most important player on the pitch, he will have to play well for arsenal to get something out of the game, but if Song doesn't have a particularly good game then i'm afraid Barcelona will have the advantage going into the 2nd leg. Barca looked tired on the weekend when all the big platers had top play the whole 90 mins to force a draw.

  • Comment number 23.

    Well van Persie got his wish, go out there and make North London proud lads! Nothing wrong getting beaten by the best team in the world but at least show your bottle and give them a game!

  • Comment number 24.

    For me Arsenal need to take their chances when they come. Bendtner is particularly wasteful and they cannot afford to be against Barcelona.

    The big ask is nullifying the Barcelona midfield, like someone mentioned earlier, take Iniesta and Xavi out of the picture and you take a big step towards stifling Barcelona, but this is much easier said than done. However Arsene has shown in the past an unwillingness to change the way he plays. He knows Arsenal are vulnerable against teams like Stoke yet they always play the same way and don't adapt well.

    So I think we can expect to see an open game, tight but open, and that is exactly what Barcelona want. This Arsenal team is stronger, both in terms of the players skill and mentality, than the one that folded at the Nou Camp last year, but I can see Barcelona winning over the two legs. It will be tight, it may even come down to away goals, but playing Barcelona at their own game is likely never going to work. I hope I am wrong as, even though they are our main rivals at the moment, I think Arsenal deserve to have a deep run in the competition. Spurs showed last night how to play without fear and even though most people wrote them off they are now favourites to go through. Arsenal can do it, but their players will need to play the best two games of their careers.

  • Comment number 25.

    Everyone is very negative about Arsenal's chances!

    Barca are beatable as Wenger says, it seems everyone has decided Arsenal have lost before they step out onto the field, this will help give Arsenal that 'siege' mentality.
    Besides a side with the likes of Van Persie, Nasri and Fabregas who would all walk into the Barca team should have plenty to offer, especially when you couple that with Walcott who on his day is excellent and the impressive young Wilshire.
    The fact is Barca are the best team in the world, but with Arsenal's home advantage and Abidal and Maxwell playing at the back, Arsenal can win if they take the game to Barca and keep disciplined at the back and especially just in fornt of the back four with Song and Wilshire.

    If Arseanl play to their potential (and replicate the Chelsea performance) and Barca aren't quite at it, Arsenal win.

    But if Arsenal aren't quite at it and Barca play the way they can....

  • Comment number 26.

    Arsenal are Barca-Lite, not one single Arsenal player would oust a Barca player if Guardiola had a choice, even Fabregas who is being tracked by Barca as a Xavi replacment. The problem is that you need luck to beat Barca. Inter were lucky last year (1st leg third goal was offside and Bojan's last minute goal should not have been disallowed, this would have put Barca through.) However, you can beat them by being direct on the break and running at their defenders, but this is risky as it means playing two quick wingers who will work hard to defend and then attack quickly and I am not sure Arsenal have the players or mentality for this. The upside for Arsenal is that with Puyol out Abidal will have to move to the centre leaving Walcott up against Maxwell and he should be able to exploit this. If Arsenal try to go toe to toe in midfield they will be destroyed, no one outplays Barca as they exist on a different planet of pure football. It will be fascinating and Arsenal can do it if Wenger gets the tactics right, if not and they are too open I fear the worst for them, especially if Barca want to prove a point and reproduce the first 20 minutes of last year's tie for the full duration.

  • Comment number 27.

    Am not an Arsenal fan but I hope they beat Barcelona FC because that will show the quality and standard of the premier league. Also it was great to see Tottenham beating AC.

  • Comment number 28.

    The current Barca starting 11 is the best in football history. Not only they play the best football ever experienced, they have the best 11 players in the history of the game. All of them belong to the world 5 best on their position, 7-8 to the world best 3. For the first time the world best 3 players from 2010 were from the same team according to the Ballon d'Or votation.

    Not only Barca's tactics are thrilling, with the best attack and best defence worldwide, not only they play at a higher pace than any other team. They just have way better players than anyone. The worst player in Barca's 11 is better than the best Arsenal player (whose biggest star, Cesc, is a substitute in the Spanish team, i.e. a substitute of Xavi and Iniesta). Barca are way better than last year, anything less than a 2 goal difference today for Barcelona would be a massive surprise.

  • Comment number 29.

    The referee will decide the outcome of this game - always the same with continental sides and also major international tournaments.

    As #7 already pointed out, the ability (or inability) of the ref to spot Barcelona players diving will be key to this match.

    I'm not saying that English players (or French in the case of Arsenal) are not averse to the odd tumble, but frankly watching continental football is everything that is wrong with the modern game - ruined by cry babies (OMG, you got kicked in the erm ... shin pad?!) and referees who are not backed by UEFA or FIFA as they should be.

    If Sepplatini do one thing before they step aside and let other unqualified morons to make even worse decisions, it would be to introduce the Rugby style of refereeing from back to front. Captain talks only, anyone else abusing any officials is off (or perhaps sin-binned ...)

    The second would be to give the very, very top flight games the chance for each side to contest perhaps two or three decisions maximum, where technology is easily available to the 4th official to make the call within seconds.

    Oopsy, went slightly off topic, but there - the ref will decide, and that's just sad for football.

  • Comment number 30.

    We must believe.

    Their list of stars is endless but if we believe and trust Wenger then anything can happen.

  • Comment number 31.

    So who's job is it going to be to man-mark Xavi? You don't think Iniesta and Busquets can find Messi and Villa with the ball? Nullifying Xavi is not how Inter knocked Barca out, it's because Schneider's distribution is class and they played very well on the counter. And then defended. Well. For most of the 2nd half in Italy and the entire 90 mins in Spain.

    This is the only way to beat Barca when they have a first XI and are on their game. Arsenal never play this way. Unfortunately I think that for this very reason they're the worst match-up with Barca out of the top English sides. Man Utd have a better defence than Arsenal and are better on the counter attack, and play with natural wide men, so I think they'd have a much better chance.

    You need to be able to touch of the ball to win a game of football.

    6-0 aggregate score this time round, Cesc unveiled as Barcelona's new signing in the summer. Sorry Arsenal fans....

  • Comment number 32.

    15. At 10:32am on 16 Feb 2011, olrion wrote:

    As mentioned by a couple of others already, I do think Arsenal's secret weapon is Theo Walcott's pace.

    He destroyed Barca when he came on late in the tie last season and if he is given space in front of him again, he will do the same tonight.

    If Walcott did destroy Barcelona last season then it won't be so secret this time around. To put things in perspective, Walcott doesn't destroy every defence in the Premier League, and Barcelona's defence is certainly better than most of them. You'd have to think they've been scouting Arsenal for a few weeks.

  • Comment number 33.

    21. At 10:50am on 16 Feb 2011, kanchelskis_legend wrote:


    no worrys:

    My 1st comment was in relation to being happy man city should now be able to compete on a somewhat more level playing field with the red half of manchester.

    the second comment is based upon what i saw when they played us ( the gunners) and the derby and would have thought that with all that talent etc they would perform much better and not have such a negative attitude when it comes to playing the top sides if that is they wish to be considered as more than just noisy neighbours.

  • Comment number 34.

    HAHA CharadeYouAre

    Fair enough I suppose. But why did you still have a 'soft spot' for them after they'd played that way against you?!

  • Comment number 35.

    How Arsenal can beat Barcelona... playing cricket instead?

  • Comment number 36.

    #3: To suggest that Arsenal should 'park the bus' - a la Inter Milan last season - against Barcelona and hit on the break is the worst possible approach. Arsenal do not have the defensive mentality Mourinho etches into his players' minds. Wenger will attack, that's for sure, and so he should with a rampant Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere in his ranks. But the key will surely be how much we press them and harry them when they have the ball. Last year we stood off and let them play and they murdered us, albeit without scoring in that sensational 30-minute period.

    Barca have been used to thumping virtually everybody in La Liga this season, but they won't have come up against an attack as potent as Arsenal's for some time, so perhaps we can surprise them a bit.

    I think Walcott's pace against Maxwell will be vital. He slaughtered him when he came on in the first leg last season so to have 90 minutes at Maxwell in the form Walcott is in must be a scary prospect. Also, although Eric Abidal has done well filling in at centre-half, he's hardly a natural there so we should be able to exploit that.

    I think Arsenal can win at the Emirates. Anyone thinking the same should get on the crazy 3/1 odds that are available.

    That said, I think Barca will be irresistable at the Nou Camp and get through.

  • Comment number 37.

    to all fellow Gooners:

    Less of the Negative Waves please!!

    and to the rest who will want to be proved right brace yourselves for a shock Barca will be going out of the tournament this time around.

    as for the suggestion of a 6-0 scoreline thats stretching it a bit 3-0 is far more realistic Arshavin (2) Walcott (1)

    as for the return leg ( which as i see is actually going to be far more important ) A SONG will prove the Hero I'm telling YA!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Anyone know where Dixon got his 14/1 odds on a 0-0 from? Laddy B's are only offering me 8/1...

  • Comment number 39.

    As a Barca fan..can't wait for this game to start.For Arsenal to beat Barcelona in the first leg..two things have to happen in favour of Arsenal.firstly..Barcelona & Lionel Messi have awful day,second..Arsenal will have to play their hearts out..having said that even if Arsenal salvage a win or draw...Barcelona will roar back at Nou Camp and its where Messi plays his best football..

  • Comment number 40.

    28. At 10:56am on 16 Feb 2011, CP - 606 legend wrote:
    The current Barca starting 11 is the best in football history. Not only they play the best football ever experienced, they have the best 11 players in the history of the game. All of them belong to the world 5 best on their position, 7-8 to the world best 3. For the first time the world best 3 players from 2010 were from the same team according to the Ballon d'Or votation.

    Not only Barca's tactics are thrilling, with the best attack and best defence worldwide, not only they play at a higher pace than any other team. They just have way better players than anyone. The worst player in Barca's 11 is better than the best Arsenal player (whose biggest star, Cesc, is a substitute in the Spanish team, i.e. a substitute of Xavi and Iniesta). Barca are way better than last year, anything less than a 2 goal difference today for Barcelona would be a massive surprise.


    Hahahaha. I assume this is a joke. They're an amazing team (horrible theatrics aside) but the best 11 players in the history of the game? Good lord.

  • Comment number 41.

    I would love to see Arsenal winning and especially progressing to the next round, but I just can't see it happening.

    Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.

  • Comment number 42.

    For all those touting Walcott as the 'key'... I hope you dont get seriously disappointed tonight. It's very likely he wont do much

  • Comment number 43.

    Plenty of fans writing here need to remember one simple fact: when the referee blows his whistle to start the game, the score is 0-0.

    Reading this, you'd think it was already 4-0 to Barca!!

    Plenty of fans should rewatch Arsenal taking Chelsea apart, in terms of their presssing and their clinical finishing. They need both of those tonight.....

    Plenty of fans should rewatch Walcott in both legs last year: let's hope the threader of passes tonight picks the right options and Theo finishes like he usually does on top occasions....(that's clinically, lest you wonder......)

    Plenty of fans should review Djourour's performances the past month: it's his biggest test tonight, but his confidence should be good.

    Plenty of folks should review Arshavin's upward curve the past 6 weeks and his performance at Anfield a couple of years ago. Is it Andrey's turn to be a superhero? Let's hope so......

    Plenty of folks should review Song and Wilshere this season: a transformation in cutting edge mopping up midfield, allied to creative edge. Tonight will show just how far Wilshere has come and how far he can actually go........

    You won't beat the best team in the world if they turn up and you don't. So nobody expects Arsenal to win unless they are at their best.

    But equally, Barcelona's team will be eleven men and seven subs, not 18 Gods. Men can be perfect, but are usually a bit imperfect. So if Barca are pressed, harried and hounded, maybe they'll be slightly off their game?

    If all that happens, Arsenal can win.

    And if the perfect 10 scenario were to happen and Arsenal won 3-0, which we all dream of but won't top ourselves if it doesn't happen, then I'd love to be a fly on the wall as Arsene Wenger smiles sweetly at a few Pressmen after the game!!!!

    As that might crystallise belief that Arsene and Arsenal might just put one over Sir Alex and win the bleedin' lot..........

    Which has never been done and would probably be the hardest thing in World football to achieve.........

    Just the sort of challenge that Arsene Wenger likes, eh?

  • Comment number 44.

    Arsenal are going to have to play out of they're skins tonight! Barcelona have too many quality players on the ball, it's not just about stopping Messi/Xavi/Iniesta. That just gives another player the chance to destroy you.

    If you look at both teams, Arsenal have too many average or young players to cope with the squad that Barca have. Wilshire is still learning, and I can't see him having enough discipline to stick alongside Song to nullify the Barca attack.

    I'm a big fan of the way Arsenal play football, but I just can't see them pulling it off!

    Sorry Gooners!

  • Comment number 45.

    Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.

    Amen to that!

  • Comment number 46.

    Plenty of fans should rewatch Arsenal taking Chelsea apart, in terms of their presssing and their clinical finishing. They need both of those tonight.....


    What? You've ripped us apart once in like 13 games. Funnily enough the one time you manage to beat us in recent years is the same time we're going through our worst run of form since RA come in.

  • Comment number 47.

    34. At 11:20am on 16 Feb 2011, kanchelskis_legend wrote:


    I have always thought City played good football, even before the wealth arrived and thought they deserved a lil more success than they have had
    so far . I do however feel they will not achieve this with their current coach, whom i beleive is far to negative but i think his remit is clear top 4 nothing more and im sure City fans will be pleased with that and in pursuit of this target I wish them well.

  • Comment number 48.

    Wenger cannot take notes off the Mourinho win last year with Inter. The only chance is relying on the barcelona team having a bad day or having good luck. I remind you that barcelona had to take a coach from barcelona to milan because of the volcano eruption and even during the game they did score first and relaxed. Even Inter had their dose of good luck when the 3rd goal was off side.

    I'm not denying that Mourinho deserved the win but I do believe that a full strength and concentrated barcelona side can put ANY team to misery. Mourinho tried to do the same against barcelona with madrid this season and ended up with a 5-0 result to think about on the coach back home. At one point he had lass, khedira and xabi alonso just to contain xavi but this little man still managed to direct the game and score the opener.

    The barcelona defence is weak, stating aside that the main man puyol is out only pique is solid at the back with alves and abidal more worried about running to the opposite goal than defending their own. Quick and skillful wingers like arshavin and walcott serving an on form van persie could do the trick but can a defence with the likes of clichy, djorou or koscielny defend against a team not based on physique but on shear passing ability and speed? My money is on barcelona.

  • Comment number 49.

    The way to beat Barca is to compress the space in the middle of the field, force them to go wide and cross the ball.

    They aren't half as good in the air as they're playing tiki-taka through the middle.

  • Comment number 50.

    43. At 11:27am on 16 Feb 2011, rjaggar wrote:

    well said that man!

  • Comment number 51.

    CP - 606 legend, praying won't help a bit.

  • Comment number 52.

    Lets also hope Arshavin turns up this game, the guy on his day can be simply untouchable and we've really missed that but he always seems to turn up with some great assists every now and then, and if not well Nasri will definitely be ready to take his place, and what a sub to bring on!!

    Arsene knows!

  • Comment number 53.

    You wont beat Barca by adopting the "We'll play you at your own game and score more than you" approach.

    Defend for your lives.

  • Comment number 54.

    The Arsenal fans citing the fact that they got a 2-2 draw last season when they were "weaker" seem to be forgetting that without Almunia producing the best performance I have ever seen from him Barca would have been 4-0 up at half time. The ease with which Barca sliced open the Arsenal defence (which IMO was slightly stronger this time last year as Koscielny and Squillaci look slightly out of their depth at times in the EPL) was frightening and they are a better attacing unit this season than they were last.
    Yes Walcott had a lot of joy coming on later in the game, but at this point maxwell will have been beginning to tire and I believe that he will cope a bit better with Walcott this season.

    Unfortunatly Arsenal need most of what they try to go right tonight and Barca to be off form to get a decent result IMO. If barca can produce a performance like they did against Mourinhos Madrid earlier this season then it could be a very long night indeed for Arsenal fans.

  • Comment number 55.

    Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.

    Amen to that!


    Just like your 'rock-hard' defence is having right now!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Celtic/Barca fan here: What a mouth watering game!

    Slightly off topic, but i rarely read the blog comments and it's nice to see such a wide variety of supporters giving such positive support to different sides.

    I hope Arsenal stick to what they are best at and play fast passing attractive football. With Barca's not so perfect away CL form i hope this game reaches its potential.

  • Comment number 57.

    Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.

    Amen to that!


    Just like your 'rock-hard' defence is having right now!!


    But Chelsea's defence has no relevance to tonight's game.

  • Comment number 58.

    Barcelona have a very narrow way of playing forming triangles between iniesta/messi/xavi/pedro/villa. Arsenal have got to keep the ball away from the middle of the park, get walcott and nasri/arshavin to force the full backs to stay back and frustate the players in the middle. Wilshire and fabregas have got to protect song and there main duties should be spraying the balls out to the wings rather then trying to do what barcelona do but worse. I'm a united fan but would like nothing more then arsenal to go through, and they can, they just have to be disciplined and patient, no silly passes. If in doubt go back to the start, and start again.

  • Comment number 59.

    45. At 11:28am on 16 Feb 2011, Mr Chelsea wrote:
    Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.

    Amen to that!


    keep that prayer mat close by your season is about to get much worse than it already is.
    you will need considerable divine intervention if you are to finish in the top four this season.

    however in the intrim sit back and watch how football should be played.

  • Comment number 60.

    Dream and dream - Arsenal is 10 yrs distant from beating barca.

  • Comment number 61.

    'Arsenal are weak against strong teams and are hopeless in defence. They'll be found and exposed.'

    Guessing that means Chelsea are not a strong team then! And we've let in two more goals than Man Utd this year (and only a handful more than Chelsea and Man City), so presumably their defence is pretty hopeless too.

    Anyway so long as we put up a good show in this tie I'll be happy, we're unlikely to win but there's no shame in that when you're playing this Barcelona side. I'd be far more annoyed if we messed up our coming league and domestic cup games to be honest.

  • Comment number 62.

    It will most likely be a repeat of last year, Arsenal will either draw or win the game, but ultimately lose the tie. If their defence is being called into question at home, how can they be expected to go to the Nou Camp for anything else but a Barca goal riot?

    And just my own view on how Inter and Mourinho "stopped" Barca, they didn't. Everyone seems to forget in their praise of the special one that it finished 3-2 on agg in which a goal was disallowed for no good reason in the last 10 mins at the Nou Camp, Mourinho got a lucky referee decision to beat Barca, without which Barca were through on away goals.

  • Comment number 63.

    Lol. Why bring in Chelsea's defence? Has no relevance to tonights game.

    We're not playing Barcelona. You are.

    Do you want bring in West Brom's defence too if it makes you feel better?

  • Comment number 64.

    Now, now boys and girls let's not turn this into an Arsenal v Chelsea scrap. Arsenal have a big enough task awaiting them this evening!

    What is interesting about the comments so far is whether Inter's approach is the only way of defeating Barca in Europe. It certainly worked but it is obvious that Arsenal will not do the same.

    I'm interested to see how much Arsenal will try and keep the ball when they get it. Will their possession, which is up this season, be more guarded as Lee Dixon suggests?

    Many of you are right to back up his points about Walcott too. He has really grown in confidence this season and I can see him causing Barca problems. Don't forget also that Fabregas is fit, unlike last season, and Arsenal's twin midfield of Wilshere and Song looks strong, so there are reasons to be optimistic.

  • Comment number 65.

    firstly this is not arsenals biggest game of the season that will be when united come to the emirates in what will probably be the title decider.
    if barcelona play well arsenal will lose. The bigger problem for the tie for Arsenal isnt tonight its the nou camp even if they get a good result at the emirates.
    But for the home tie Arsenal have to win if they stand any chance of progressing realistically because i can't see them beating barca at the nou camp.

  • Comment number 66.

    If people are saying Inter were lucky to overcome Barca last season, maybe they'll find a better blueprint in Chelsea's performance two years ago, where Barca relied on a last-ditch wonder strike and a disastrous refereeing performance to stumble through...

  • Comment number 67.

    Since when was football so predictable? Arsenal can damage Barca tonight; the Chelsea fans on here are just gutted they wont be in the Champs league next season.

    Will Walcott start??

  • Comment number 68.

    I think comparing Arsenal's defence to Chelsea's or Utd's is legitimate in the wake of lazy disparaging remarks. Looking at the goals conceded and fixtures played suggests that Arsenal's defence is pretty solid in comparison to their rivals.

    In regards to tonight's fixture, Arsenal need to be disciplined and match Barcelona's work ethic when it comes to pressing high up the pitch. If Song and Wilshere play a clever game and cover for each when pushing up on the counter Arsenal definitely have a great chance at the Emirates if they combine that and utilize Walcott's speed effectively. Will be a great game.

  • Comment number 69.

    Ah Lee, I remember when you were an aspiring winger, before Messi obviously, where did it all go wrong

  • Comment number 70.

    People wrote off Spurs at the beginning of the CL but they have performed well and continued to pull off results. Last night people said without Bale they would be torn apart yet they come away with a 1-0 win from the San Siro, something I believe only Arsenal have done in the past. Whilst Barcelona are undoubtedly one of the top teams in the world and of all time, they aren't unbeatable. As for saying they have the best eleven players in the world, I would apply that to the big three of Xavi, Ineista and Messi, but as for the rest there are players out there who are as good or better than them at the moment.

    Arsenal need a big performance over the two legs if they are to win but there players are beginning to come into their own, the likes of Song, Walcott, Nasri, Van Persie, Sagna etc have all improved greatly since last year. Add in the likes of Wiltshire and other new faces that have added a bit of depth and this Arsenal team looks close to the one that dominated the early part of this century. As Messi said Barcelona fear Walcott's pace based on last year, and this year he is exponentially better. I would back Arsenal to squeak it tonight and fight for a draw at the Nou Camp to go through.

  • Comment number 71.

    38 - Odds on 0-0

    You can get 17/1 on a well known online 'bet against your friends' site, betf...

  • Comment number 72.


    Cheers fella. Just found 14/1 on Will H - think I'll go with that. Not sure I trust those community betting sites.

  • Comment number 73.

    I am a Barcelona fan and do not support any club in the EPL, but I am not sure how anyone can conclude that Barca are unbeatable or that Arsenal dont stand a chance. Granted, Barcelona are the better team, but when that whistle goes at 8.45 CET, anything can happen and the Arsenal players especially need to believe that they have the ability to win this game and even the tie.

    I hope we get a good result to take back to the camp nou, but this tie is by no means a foregone conclusion. The respect Guardiola, Iniesta and Messi have been paying Arsenal in the pre-match interviews should tell us that they take this Arsenal team very seriously

  • Comment number 74.

    Bring back 606!

    Is there a link, blog, contact or similar on this website where we can find out exactly the why's and wherefore's of the death of 606 and have a right to reply?

  • Comment number 75.

    No problem, personally I'd save the money, can't see a 0-0 with so much attacking talent on display (especially with Arsenal's defence).

    I like 3-1, can't decide whether it'll be 3-1 or 1-3 though!

    Gd luck either way!

  • Comment number 76.


    Interesting post, I have to agree all areas!

    Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love watching Barcelona, their movement and passing is phenomenal. But as Patinho pointed out, their gamesmanship levels are second to none! The 2006 final v Arsenal (Henry himself stated this was why he's NEVER play for them after the game), the 2008 semi v Arsenal, numerous el clasicos, just about every time I watch them - card waving, diving, niggly little fowls - contstantly! Nobody ever mentions it! (Puyol, Iniesta and Busquets I think are particularly bad/good examples)

    Yes, they're an exceptional team to watch at times, with an excellent work rate, but don't forget they are also a very clever side; very good at the naughty niggly stuff too!

    Also, nice to see a Spurs fan want the gunners to win. by the way I support Liverpool, but nearly always want the British teams to do well in Europe, even if we're no where near it!

  • Comment number 77.

    I am just looking forward to a great game football and hope that both teams play to the level they are capable. If that happens we are in for a great spectacle - but a Barcelona win I feel.

    I love the Champions league - pity my team (Liverpool) no longer compete :-(

  • Comment number 78.

    Or am I wrong and has the niggly stuff calmed down since Pep has been in charge?

  • Comment number 79.

    78. At 12:35pm on 16 Feb 2011, monkeyphoenix wrote:
    Or am I wrong and has the niggly stuff calmed down since Pep has been in charge?


    I think this should answer your question.

  • Comment number 80.

    One thing for sure is that this tie will provide the winner of this years Champions league. There is no other team in world football that can win against Barcelona apart from Arsenal. Even mourinho's madrid can't winn against this side.

    So if the football world wants to see another side apart from Barcelona win the Champions league this season,we should all pray and hope because Arsenal are the only team capable of doing so......

  • Comment number 81.

    Why are not enough people brutally honest about this?

    Barca are a much much better team than Arsenal (and everyone else) and the chances of Arsenal playing out of their skin, whilst Barca don't up, is just seriously unlikely.

    This is going to come down to some form of luck if Arsenal win and that is not saying they're not a quality team, they're just not as good... 1 or 2 great saves (scuffed shots) and 1 or 2 clinical finishes (lucky deflections) from Arsenal could make this a much better tie. I'm crossing my fingers for you!

  • Comment number 82.

    If Arsenal are to win they will have to keep running at them none stop.
    Barcelona can´t stand being pressed back, they lose composure and become disorientated, it has happened a few time this season in la liga. What you cannot do is to speculate pretending to be cool headed by trying to keep possesion. Keep the defence tight but pushing forward and the front 3 must be charging at their defence. Barcelona move as one, so if you keep their defence busy, Messi and Co. will have to fall in line and away from Arsenal goal.

  • Comment number 83.

    80 3DFootball

    It's possible that Arsenal may beat Barcelona. However, even if they do, Arsenal are not as unbeatable as Barcelona as has been shown on a number of occasions this season.

    If anything, Arsenal knocking out Barcelona will open up the field for others.

  • Comment number 84.

    83. mr blue burns

    I know what you mean because i would like to here from you out of the remaining 16 teams in the competition, who do you see beating this barcelona team.

    the confidence of beating Barcelona on the other hand will make Arsenal beat anyone else there.

    Take Inter last season, after beating Barcelona did you think they would lose the final?

  • Comment number 85.

    I think Arsenal will edge it tonight, but over the two legs Barca will be too strong.

    But then who gave Spurs any chance against Milan last night, or even getting this far????????

    Good luck to the arsenal, they will need it.

    Spurs Barca in the quarters, would love to see Bale and Lennon ripping into the Spaniards.

    No doubt though, that you will have to beat Barca to win the CL

  • Comment number 86.

    70. At 12:17pm on 16 Feb 2011, ManUtdsince1987 wrote:
    People wrote off Spurs at the beginning of the CL but they have performed well and continued to pull off results. Last night people said without Bale they would be torn apart yet they come away with a 1-0 win from the San Siro, something I believe only Arsenal have done in the past.


    I'd have hoped that you, as a Utd fan, would also know that Utd did it too!

  • Comment number 87.

    Simple really.....Arsenal have as much technical ability and are great to watch but.....they don't have the mental strength, the organistaion and the power to beat Barcelona. The teams, notably Chelsea, Man Utd and Inter all had these, obviously along with the ability, which is why they prevailed. As good a footballing side as the Gooners are, they lack that winning mentality on the big stage. I really hope they do well and I'm looking forward to the spectacle but I can't see them going through at all. Wenger is a class act and my respect is huge but I do feel his stubborness at times has had an influence on the lack of trophies.

  • Comment number 88.

    Well Barcelona are certainly wary of Walcott, Guardiola must have mentioned him 10 times in his press conference. He will no doubt have devised a tactical plan for him, probably involving a rested Busquets.

    Puyol's injury is big. Not that convinced by either Milito or Abidal at CB, and if Abidal fills in, Maxwell v Walcott is one that Theo will fancy. By contrast, Eboue is a big liability in defence. Sagna is IMO the best RB in the league by a margin, but Eboue can be lax and a bit erratic. David Villa could own him.

    But I agree with Dixon, we have to play at Premier League tempo. Let's hope the referee isn't conned by their diving, because if we harry them, that is exactly what they'll do. Careful there Jack!

    I also think set pieces could be crucial. That is one of Barca's major weaknesses and RVP has a great delivery. They probably won't be expecting it either. Coome on you reds!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    I detest the term Barcelona-lite. As if Barca introduced attacking football in the last few years. The Invincibles would've wiped the floor with this Barca team.

  • Comment number 90.

    It's quite funny how many posts have Walcott and Wilshere as the key men for Arsenal. Remember that these two guys may have improved recently but neither made the less than great England world cup squad.

    To win the tie, Arsenal need to keep the ball and defend better than Barcelona. They are not capable of either.

  • Comment number 91.

    86. lilliwhite

    DO you think Spurs can beat Barcelona? if yes state reasons.

  • Comment number 92.

    Spurs fan here - still a little giddy from last night - but just wanted to say that I'm not sure this is going to be as one-sided as most people seem to think. Someone mentioned earlier that Barca drew 1-1 at the weekend? If that's true then they're not quite 'unstoppable' are they? Not many gave Spurs a chance last night and they made a table-topping AC look second-rate - no reason Arsenal can't do the same.
    That's not to say I expect an Arsenal win though!!

    The best team will come out on top over the two legs...

  • Comment number 93.

    Barca are a great side, however I do not understand where the image of god-like invicibles (as the media likes to portray them) comes from. What a load of... rubbish! On the pitch they are eleven men just as any other team are. Pace and possesion are the keys to winning this tie, if Arsenal can control those aspects of the game then they stand a good chance of being in the hat when the draw for the next round is made.

  • Comment number 94.

    I really struggle to see Arsenal prgressing. I do not think they will fail to score but the defense is nowhere near good enough to keep Barcelona's attacking monsters at bay for 180 minutes.

    The article talks about signs that Arsenal are getting better defensively, but I just don't see it. I have never seen such pathetic defending from a team deemed capable of winning trophies as I did when Arsenal went to Portman Road, while the capitulation against Newcastle cannot be glossed over.

    And if the other key to Arsenal's success is exploiting width, I again have little confidence that Arsenal have the players and the style to do this on a consistent enough basis.

    For me, if Barcelona could have hand picked a tie it would probably have been this one. If Arsenal go toe-to-toe with Barca it could get messy (no pun intended).

  • Comment number 95.

    to 81

    spot on really! Barcelona are better than Arsenal end of. If Barca turn up then they will beat Arsenal and will certainly beat them over 2 legs. Quite where Wegner gets this "we are a much better team now and our mentality is strong" i do not know!

    is this the Arsenal mentality that let 4-0 slip recently, 2-0 hosting Spurs and I am sure United beat them rather easily with a tame performance. OK they beat Chelsea but even my Liverpool managed that!!

    as much as i admire Arsenal and they way they play I am still to be convinced they have the metal for the big, big gmaes. maybe tonight is the night...

  • Comment number 96.

    The only way Arsenal can beat Barca is Barca decided not to turn up and go awol. You bloody gooners have no chance!! Barca again will put you lot to the sword as they always do. I wonder what Wenger's latest exuse will be? Spurs for CL.

  • Comment number 97.

    I think Arsenal will beat Barca over the 2 legs, simply because the form Van Persie is in. Arsenal will run riot tonight, trust me!

  • Comment number 98.

    Even though i'm a man utd fan, i want arsenal to win. Although i do enjoy watching barcelona play it does not outweigh my sense of national pride so i'll be supporting the English teams all the way in this competition.
    It'll be tough for the Gunners, but i think they have to quality to beat Barca if they can stay disciplined and exploit Barcelona's weak (or at least the weakest part of their team) full backs. If they can pull Barcelona in by keeping the ball and making them press like you said they like to do then they'll have a chance to utilise the likes of Theo Walcotts pace on the wings and hopefully create a few chances.

    Come on the Arsenal!

  • Comment number 99.

    92. the-bowlers-holding

    Ah but you are forgetting the gulf (and I mean GULF) between AC and Barca. AC are great but only when Ibrahms and Robinho are performing. On their days these 2 can go into their little sulk and that renders Pato (still a great player) to go score alone. Barca on the other hand have so many match winners it's ridiculous!

    I might sound negative in my comments but don't get me wrong, I am really hopeful of an Arsenal result and I also hope Spurs can get the right result in the 2nd leg too!

  • Comment number 100.

    Ishouldbeonskysports wrote:
    Simple really.....Arsenal have as much technical ability

    No, they do not....


Page 1 of 3

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.