When Arsenal beat Barcelona in the 1st leg, I posted an article ‘5 things Barcelona need to do right to turn it around’ and they did do few things right and turned the tie around as expected.
Let’s have a look at what they did right and what they did wrong:
- Find a solution to Jack Wilshere: They didn’t exactly find a solution to him since he had a good game, but Xavi and Iniesta performed better than him and were able to create chances. Iniesta created the 1st goal and Xavi scored the 2nd goal.
- Always keep a striker on the pitch: Even though they did keep Villa on the pitch for a long duration, he barely played as a striker. But his presence was felt as he was on the end of a couple of chances which were denied by Almunia. Barcelona’s wingbacks were getting forward a lot and were trying to put in very low crosses but due to Villa disciplined position on the left, there was barely anyone to get on the end of them.
- Get Puyol back for the 2nd leg: Puyol was still not back and Pique was out due to suspension. This meant Barcelona started with Busquets and Abidal in the defense. The defense looked shaky as expected but Barcelona midfield was pressing so well that Arsenal barely were threatening. Busquets unluckily scored an own goal and Bendtner could have scored one.
- Be positive: Playing at Nou Camp, they were bound to be attacking a lot. And they did. They created loads of chances and were denied a lead due to their woefulness in the final third and some awesome saves by Almunia. But ultimately their perseverance paid and they were able to score enough goals to progress.
- Hope that referee decisions go their way: Van Persie’s red card seemed very harsh. Whether RVP being on the pitch would have changed the game, we can never be sure. But it surely would have given Arsenal another dimension when they were chasing. After his red card, there was barely any threat from Arsenal as they did not have anyone to aim for. At some other places as well, the whistle could have gone Arsenal’s way.
The key to the win was as usual Barcelona’s pressing. They barely allowed Arsenal any chance to enter Barcelona’s attacking 3rd. Mostly they would win the ball in Arsenal’s half and build up the attack again. Barcelona’s wingbacks were forcing Arsenal’s winger way back into defense. Sometimes it felt as if Arsenal were playing a defensive line of 6 players. 0 shots on goal are a poor return. Even Inter, who parked the bus last year, had 1 shot on goal.