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Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1, Arsahvin scores winner after goals from Van Persie and Villa

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First off apologies for the late review, but this means I’ve had time to really mull over last nights events.

A could use a plethora of stats to excuse the Barca team from losing, like how the Blaugrana have only won twice away from home in the Champions League under Guardiola, or how Arsenal have never lost with Djourou in the starting XI. In fact I could point to Messi not scoring in his 8 games in England.

But I won’t.

The only reason Barcelona lost was themselves. They were not up for it, at least not to the extent that Arsenal were, and got punished. They played pretty good football in the first half, but acted as though the lead was much higher than the one goal it really was. They played, for the second time this week (!), with complacency.

Whether this was the fault of Guardiola and the coaching staff, or the players for falling victim to their own hype doesn’t matter. What matters is that the same attitude is not evident on Sunday, when our visitors are Athletic Bilbao.

I could list the players who didn’t play to their usual standard (Messi et al) but instead would like to grasp at some positives, and list the players who played well.

As I predicted before the match, Abidal was awesome, and I’m glad he will play at centre-back with Puyol (dear God please Puyol and not Milito) in the second leg at the Camp Nou. Busquets was OK, but perhaps not to his high standards, and Villa played well and scored what could prove to be a vital away goal.

More positives include the score, not disastrous, not great, but adequate. Considering the fine home form the Gunners have, it is not the worst thing that could have happened. First half, we looked lackadaisical for the first 10 minutes, but afterwards settled, and bar some freakishly poor (for him anyway) finishing by Messi, the Blaugrana could’ve been 3 or 4 up at the break.

That being said, they could’ve also conceded 3 or 4 as Arsenal always threatened on the break. Second half however, a completely different story. For the first 30 minutes, it looked as though Barca had settled for the one goal lead, and were stroking the ball around as if the opponents were Racing or Almeria (no offense to them).

Bad news. They weren’t. this was Arsenal and after a catalogue of errors that included Alves giving the freedom of the pitch to Arshavin, Clichy being able to pick his pass instead of being pressurised, Pique being left behind by Van Persie and then the biggest of them all by Valdes, who went against the goalkeeping code and left the near post to a world-class striker, who duly obliged and stuck it home.

Never mind I thought, only one goal and the tie is a draw just like last year. Then it happened again.

Arsenal were looking like…looking like us and tore us apart thanks to yet more errors by the Blaugrana.

Messi lost the ball, but instead of getting it back, just stood there. Iniesta stopped in the box rather than instead of putting some pressure on the Arsenal players, Xavi only half-heartedly trying the block, Maxwell getting completely skinned (not for the first time), Alves…well who knows where he was, same with Keita, then Pique decided he wanted to play the Barcelona basketball team and screened Valdes, leaving Valdes with no sight of the ball and Abidal to try and cover, but even he made a mistake by turning away from the shot rather than blocking it.

Now I don’t think Puyol would make any of those mistakes, but it would be the easy way out to blame the loss on his absence. Sure, he would have made a difference but ifs and buts won’t change it.

The only thing that will is getting back on track, with a win against Bilbao, and casting the return leg to the back of the mind until March 6th at the earliest.

Progress is not guaranteed, but surely Messi can’t play this bad again for say…the next millennia, and at the Camp Nou, where we have a 100% record in knockout Champions League football, the real Blaugrana show up.

I apologise if it seems like a rant against the team, but you should try being a Barca supporter in England today!

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