Why Arsenal’s Nou Camp experience was similar to Inter Milan’s

On the 28th of April, 2010, in the second leg of the semi-final of last season’s Champions League, Inter Milan played Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Taking a 3-1 lead into the game, the Italian side defended impeccably throughout the match until, in the 84th minute, Gerard Piqué scored to put Barcelona within one goal of qualification. Then, two minutes into stoppage time, Inter defender Walter Samuel played the ball into Yaya Toure’s stomach, it rebounded into the path of Bojan Krcic and the Serbian lashed the ball past the goalkeeper to put the home side through.

Or so, for a split second, they had thought. But on account of the referee deciding — absolutely incorrectly — that Toure had handled Samuel’s attempted clearance, the goal was chalked off.

The decision meant that Inter Milan, who played with 10 men for over an hour after Thiago Motta’s sending off, achieved only 25% of possession and ended the game with just one attempt on goal — off target, for the record — won the tie and progressed to the final. There José Mourinho’s side, a team he admitted “didn’t want to have the ball” against Barcelona, beat Bayern Munich 2-0 to win the European Cup for the first time in almost forty years.

At the time Guardian journalist Richard Williams called Inter Milan’s performance against Barcelona “a victory for a rearguard tuned to near-perfection: a virtuoso demonstration of the Italian defensive arts”.

Fast forward to the 8th of March, 2011, where Arsenal took a similar lead into their second round away leg against the team that Inter Milan had knocked out almost eleven months earlier.

A similarly resilient first half performance from the English side restricted Barcelona to just one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes of the game, yet the home side capitalised on a Cesc Fabregas error in first-half stoppage time to take a 1-0 lead.

Despite not having an attempt on goal, Arsenal leveled the game just seven minutes into the second half as Sergio Busquets headed into his own net, leaving the aggregate score at 3-2 in the English side’s favour. At this point Barcelona required two more goals to knock out an Arsenal side that had defended every bit as resolutely as Mourinho’s Inter and were surely boosted by the fact that they, rather than Barcelona, had finished the stronger in the previous encounter between the two sides.

But three minutes after scoring, Robin van Persie received a second yellow card and subsequent sending off for playing on and shooting after being flagged offside. Despite the Dutchman’s vehement protests that he did not hear the sound of the referee’s whistle above the noise of a packed Nou Camp, he was heartlessly dismissed.

The decision turned the tie in Barcelona’s favour, allowing them space to develop their relatively tempered attacking attempts into irrepressible waves and they got the two goals to register the 3-1 score they required to progress.

Over the course of the 90 minutes Arsenal failed to register a single attempt on goal and managed just 32% of possession. But over the course of 180 minutes they only lost the tie by one goal and, but for a refereeing decision that changed the complexion of the contest, may well have progressed through to the quarter-finals off the back of an organised and efficient defensive performance.

Yet the same Guardian journalist who covered Inter’s progression eleven months earlier, that man Williams, remarked that Arsenal’s inability to register a shot on goal meant “dismay and perhaps even a measure of shame are the proper responses to such a lamentable feat”.

The similarities between the two games are remarkable. The sparsity of attempts on goal and the enormous lack of possession by Inter Milan and Arsenal indicated what a difficult team Barcelona are to play against at the Nou Camp. Yet while one away team received a helping hand from the referee to turn their dogged defensive display into a monumental, history-making night for their club, the other was on the receiving end of a bad call at a significant moment.

But the most amazing, ironic, almost unbelievable link between the two games came via the ITV Sport commentary that covered the reaction’s to Bojan’s disallowed goal: “You know, I’m not surprised the players couldn’t hear the whistle Clive, because it really is deafening here.”

The conclusion to make from all this is quite simple: football is a game of fine margins and it hinges on moments like Bojan’s goal and van Persie’s red card. Barcelona are a wonderful football team, easily the best I have ever seen, thoroughly outplayed both Inter Milan and Arsenal and deserved to win both ties.

But deserving to win and winning are two completely different things and just as Barcelona were dreadfully unlucky to be knocked out against Inter Milan last season, so Arsenal — despite being forced into a brand of football that was not in keeping with their ideal vision of the game — were in their own way unlucky to suffer a similar same fate.

The difference in tone between Williams’ interpretations of Inter Milan’s “success” and Arsenal’s “failure” is symptomatic of the modern football fan — and in this case, the modern journalist — looking to attach meaning where there is little meaning to be found. How two such similar games could be viewed so differently by the same person, simply because one team won and the other lost just boggles the mind.

From an Arsenal point of view, being dominated by one of the greatest sides to play the game does not make them a bad side. On the contrary, winning the first leg and defending as commendably as they did until van Persie’s sending off and only losing the tie by one goal suggests that they are a very good side indeed. One only needs to look at Real Madrid’s 5-0 defeat at the same stadium earlier in the season to see how ordinary Barcelona can make a good side look.

Arsenal might have rode its luck in many respects but at the end of the day — like Barcelona eleven months ago — they were dealt a cruel blow by the referee at a moment in the game where victory looked more likely than not.

Spread your love of Arsenal by leaving a comment.



  1. good post. Id like to add that both red cards in both games were ridiculous. not sure ill ever get over this game. Yes we defended but I am convinced that this was the strategy and that in the second half, introducing Arshavin would have turned the tide in our favor. Remember, Barca’s dominated posession but were not getting shots on goal until after the red card… Sad sad sad

    And to add to it- Wenger is fined after three Barca players choke our players (if you have seen that picture). None of them are fined afterwards while De Rossi did for his elbow to Srna’s face… Something fishy for sure

  2. As usual very interesting post weber.

    But you have failed to mention some very key points.
    1. The stone cold penalty that Barc was denied in the first half. Which would have certainly opened the game up earlier.

    2. Bendtner’s missed chance, because he can’t trap, some thing my 5 year old nephew is very good at. (BASIC) WHAT MORE DO WE WANT?
    So while i respect your views, the fact is we had the chance to still go through, we just couldn’t take it, as have been the case this whole season, so nothing new.

    Football is a game of opportunity if you don’t take it then screw you.
    If we are presented with so many opportunities this season and we have so far failed to take even the smallest one’s (Latest Sunderland) how can you justify that?

    This team has been blowing chances on every front and that’s a fact.

    There is no dispute that this team is a good team BUT in a competitive world good is not good enough you have to be great, and Arsenal’s trophy drought Regard less of what wenger or any other Arsenal fan who is in denial may say is straight up testimony
    to that.

    I am convinced that It is no coincidence that we have not won any silverware for so long
    something is wrong, I know what it is, but time will tell.
    I wish i could be optimistic and think like women do by often replacing facts with Intuition
    but that almost often get you in trouble……………

  3. Loved it! I didn’t think of these two games being similar until you mentioned it. Like Wenger said, I truly think we could have won. Barca has to thank its fans for the win, cause that is an incredible and scary fortress. Again refs are just horrible…I wonder when things will change in football.

  4. Great post, I’ve ben telling everyone who will listen the same thing; no credit given for a great defensive performance, something we usually don’t do very well. As for the pundits and journalists, I think Wenger must have slept with all their wives, they seem to dislike him so much.

  5. Beautifully written Andy.

    Let’s hope the boys can pick themselves up and keep that fighting spirit alive.

  6. Hey Kel, thanks for commenting. I’ll make a few points based on them.

    1 – I don’t think it’s a penalty, honestly. Messi has two feet off the ground when Djourou comes in and from Busacca’s spot, it looks like a dive. But even if it had been given, and the goal had been scored, it doesn’t necessarily change the points made in the article.

    2 – Bendtner’s miss, while important, still doesn’t have to do with the point I’m making. I could have packed the article with all the moments in the game but to make my point of similarity between the two games, it’s not necessary.

    3 – Sunderland was not a blown chance. We played well, created plenty and had a penalty and perfectly good goal disallowed. Hard to ask for more on the eve of the big game. Barca were equally as profligate/unlucky against Zaragoza.

    4 – I have always called this a good, rather than a great team. But your statement seems to miss the point of this article. Are Inter Milan great because they won? Is greatness defined simply on winning or losing? That’s the important question.

    5 – It has been statistically shown that women are no more intuitive than men. In contrast, men are able to detect lying more easily which suggests that the effect may be the other way around. Bit of an old wives’ tale there.

  7. Remarkable article. I never reply, but that was excellent.

    Well done m8. Give up the day job and be a sports journo!

  8. Great article man. I never knew it was the same journalist who positively lauded Inter’s performance last year. That angers me even more. The difference is the love for Jose Mourinho I guess. Arsenal aren’t a team built to defend (any more) but they were defending with absolute aplomb on the night, whereas a fundamental discipline ingrained into Italian football is resolute defending. In all honestly, I was proud of the display at the back.

    Kel, maybe if Bendy wasn’t on the pitch, and that was perhaps Van Persie (who you wanted to sell if memory serves) with the ball at his feet, we’d have had a better finisher up there to put it away at the death. I am sure your nephew would play a blinder in an absolute pressure cooker with 100,000 other human beings screaming at him to miss. Oh wait, footballers aren’t human.

  9. Great post. Richard Williams’ pieces in the Guardian over the past few months have been absolutely pointless. Really phoned-in, clichè stuff.

    I find all these calls to “get over it” and “admit that the result was right” to be a bit nauseating. And Wenger is taking on exactly the right tone at the moment. I love that he’s properly angry.

  10. Excellent read and very very true. Arsenal were slaughted by not only Barcelona but the media, but why? because they didn’t have a shot on target? People forget easily they were down unfairly to 10 men, 5-0 thrashing of R.Madrid, against the best team in the world and at the nou camp. Arsenal defended amazingly, and yet to some people, Barcelona wasted their chances. Chelsea were cheated by the ref with their game against Barcelona. People also forget, its about results, not the way you play. Everyone mouths that to Arsenal when they lose, then take the complete opposite opinion when they lose. Arsenal are picked on twice and are unfairly judged by critics. This however was an excellent article!

  11. Sorry Andrew Webber but there’s absolutely no way Arsenal’s defensive performance against Barca was anyway near as good Inter’s last season.
    Firstly, even before Van Persie got sent off Barca were making clear inroads into Arsenal’s defence, especially in the latter stages of the first half. Ball hitting the bar,Messi getting fouled in the box by Diaby when he was through on goal.
    And of course you conveniently forgot to mention that last season, Inter’s Thiago Motta was sent off for elbowing Sergio Busquets early in the first half at the nou camp. Yet Inter was still able to stop Barca from launching relentless attacks on their goal. This they did for about 70 mins. Against Inter last year, all of Barca’s attack was in front of the Italians’ defence and they had to do very little last ditch defending like Arsenal had to do on Tuesday. In addition, Inter limited Messi’s influence on the game. Not so for Arsenal.
    So dude, while I’m an Arsenal fan, I’m still open minded enough to admit that our defending abilities still leave a lot to be desired. Maybe Inter benfitted from a refereeing decision, the fact remains they played large parts of the game with 10 men, same as Arsenal and at no time did they have to defend desperately like we did. I mean they had Lucio,Samuel, Maicon and Zanetti as their back four and they also have the excellent cambiasso in defensive midfield. Who have we got? Koscielny and co. No camparison.
    Besides we benefitted from refereeing decisions too. Messi scored a good goal in the first leg which was disallowed. And they should have had a penalty in the first half of the second leg when Diaby felled messi in the box. RVP was unfairly sent off but there was no way we were going to finish with 11 men after so many yellows.
    Anyway the point is Arsenal’s performance is not in anyway similar to Inter’s last season. Inter knew what they were doing and set about it perfectly. Arsenal had no clue how to defend.
    I rest my case.

  12. In as much as I would blame some referees with their ridiculus officiating of matches,I would as well blame the entire UEFA GOVERNING BODY which to me is full of QUACKS in the name of LEADERS in the game of football.They are all corrupt n’ have simply passed that to thier subordinates(refs) coz they are all GAMBLERS n’ have introduced gambling into the game of football,They are simply killing the game that is most loved n’ played in the World,why should we have CHAMPIONS LEAGUE if this BASTARDS remains as

  13. When I think about it though, Arsenal are said to have wasted their chances when they’ve dominated and had 19 shots on targets against lower league teams only to draw or lose by a goal or two. How about giving credit to the Sunderland keeper because he was brilliant. I still remember those crazy Gomez saves against Spurs which kept them in that game. But instead of credit, the media just pick on Arsenal and say they wasted their chances.

  14. @goonerdude – Thanks for the comments, really appreciate them. But I wouldn’t have written this article with conviction if I didn’t think I could counter at least parts of your rebuttal.

    1 – I think your memory of their performance has probably changed in the last year. Check out some decent highlights of the game and you’ll see that Barcelona had a few very decent chances to score against Inter, and were denied a clear penalty when Ibrahimovic’s shirt was literally ripped up by Lucio. At no time did they have to defend desperately? Did you see the save Cesar had to make, or the two legitimate goals that were scored against them? Strange statement to make.

    2 – Barca were making in-roads towards the end of the half, but aside from one Messi shot they didn’t create much. I already said I don’t believe the challenge on Messi (from Djourou, not Diaby) was a foul and Adriano may have hit the post, but Almunia was covering a shot that would have been on target. They made many one-on-one opportunities after van Persie’s sending off, but created very little before.

    3 – Mentioning what players Inter had and who we have does not change the quality of the defensive performance. It just makes no sense. You might not value “Koscielny and Co” but our defence played superbly until the sending off.

    4 – The interesting point you make is about the two red cards. I was tempted to include this in the article but thought things might have gotten too diluted. In my opinion the impact of the red cards differed because the two sides approached the game differently. Inter Milan didn’t want the ball, as Mourinho said, but we did and just couldn’t get it. Considering this, losing a player didn’t change Inter’s defend-at-all-costs approach while losing our only outlet impacted our gameplan by denying us an out-ball. Although we didn’t get a shot on goal and had little of the ball, the fact is that we were always looking to get at Barca when we got the chance. The mentality of our team is not to defend and that is why the red card impacted on us more than Inter Miland.

    5 – Saying that Arsenal had no clue how to defend is really bizarre. The statistics indicate how similar the two games were and your opinion seems to support my conclusion that people choose to interpret things very differently based on what they want to see. You see players like Cambiasso, Zanetti and Lucio and assume defensive masterclass but fail to make similar conclusions based on our usual mentality and the presence of certain players that you obviously don’t rate.

  15. PS. Why do people continue to call me “Andrew Webber”? I could understand if someone was saying my name but it’s written right there! One ‘b’! Gah!

  16. Andrew Weber

    I did not expect you to back down. However the stats do not lie. I watched the Inter match and you could not honestly say Barca could have run up a cricket scoreline against the Italians. I mean it was not edge of your seat stuff, both before and after Motta was sent off. I mean how many saves did Cesar have to make compared to Almunia. Fact is It could have been 6-1 to Barcelona against Arsenal!
    And It’s not a question of me not rating Koscielny. He’s just not good enough for Arsenal!
    Get real please!

  17. VERY interesting, thought-provoking and enjoyable once again, Mr. WeBer.

    Our club has been unfortunate in many respects this season, and once again we were dealt a killing blow by an inexplicable call from the referee in this match.

    It boggles the mind to think that down to 10 men, we came close to sending off the best club in the world at their house, had Bendtner controlled that pass and connected with a strike. We do have a striker with sublime 1-touch skill…oh wait he was sent off.

    That all being said, we need more steel and less glass in our make up. We need a manager as great as he undoubtedly is, to take his players to task when appropriate (Look at Kenny Dalgiesh’s comments today – he’s made no excuses for Liverpool’s performance). We need to learn how to win and be natural born killers. That is the only way to survive 38 games in the EPL, 2 cup competitions, and the Champions League. I dearly love this club but we are very from that right now.

    Prove me wrong Arsenal and let’s do those Mancs!!!


  18. Sorry mate but your article does not have the facts. Inter Milan and Arsenal are two very different teams with different styles of play. When inter came to Barcelona it was expected for them to defend and they defended really deep with great success, however Arsenal are an attacking team that promised to attack and did have a high line in defense that was totally exploited by the 40th minute. When a side that is known to play passing and possession football manages only 32% possession cannot string 3 passes together and no shots on goal it is a shameful situation. The red card has nothing to do with the victory the margin could have been even bigger if villa scored his 3 sitters. Conclusion Barcelona beat Arsenal convincingly in the return leg and this article is crap

  19. Andrew, you bring up some very valid and incisive points and while comparing Inter last year to Arsenal this year is comparing apples to oranges (or lemons as the case may be) there are certain similarities. However there were other elements playing against an Arsenal upset:

    1) Cesc and RVP were both playing injured so we had half a team. We have NEVER fielded our best team for more than 2-3 games in a row this or any other season.
    2) We are an attacking team that was forced to play last-ditch defense and did that well.
    3) The final aggregate score of 4-3 truly reflects the first versus 2nd game. We neither dominated the first nor the second by any stretch but we did our defensive job very well indeed. We don’t have a Messi nor a Villa and with Cesc having an awful game(his own admission) and Bendtner not up to RVP’s standards, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
    4) The ref made a serious judgmental error in sending off RVP .and that hurt us, not offensively, since we had none to speak of but defensively against a team of sharks like Barca.
    5) We are the garbage pail of the British media or should I more accurately say the toilet for their crap to be piled on. We will NEVER get a balanced review or treatment from those hacks and media idiots on ITV,Skysport etc. Maybe IF we win something this year we will get a tiny bit of recognition but I am sure they’ll find something else to criticise at Arsenal.
    6) EUFA and FIFA are so anti-British that any fairness and balance is lost the moment a UK team ¨offends¨their precious referees or their Barca brats. Wenger and Nasri will be found guilty and be punished severly as they LOVe to make examples of UK teams,managers and players. could you imagine what SAF would have said if Manure had lost to Barca like we did with a referee like that!!!!
    Goonerdude is trying to till the field of despair and prepare for what he sees as the inevitable falling away of his ¨team¨ over the run-in. I’ve seen it all before but your answers to his critique were excellent….overall a great blog….keep up the good work!

  20. Jeez man, thats your best yet, I loved it and you know how contrary I am. Hats off.
    ……But, in my opinion, sometimes you look for loupholes and they just dont satisfy or address important issues, Im sure someone with the time could find as many differences in what Inter acheived to the similarities youv unearthed. Off hand I have a couple of things that i feel differed.
    Inter were against a full strength Barce, Arsenal were against one missing both Pique and Puyol, surely that encourages or inspires confidence somewhere.
    Inter defended as a unit with men who knew how to tackle, check out Diaby going to ground poorly for Xavi goal, thats not good enough.
    Inter fouled when they needed, there is such thing as a good foul, someone should bring that to Cescs attention after he withdrew his attempt to tackle Ineista when he gave him the ball in such a dangerous area for their first, we are not cynical when the needs there for it, we definately do not smell danger and are defensively naive.
    Inter went on to win the competition and that makes them a great team. They responded after Busquets dramatics and cheating that got Motta sent off, they fought like men…..we do not do that as a team, generally we do not respond well in adversity, its a fact.
    Andy you know I think your a legend man, not least for your enduring tolerence of me, but I just cant find any comfort in what you say in this piece, I think we were dominated in every department, mentally, Physically, for hunger and desire, technique and execution by a team who know how to play their game, by a team who Guardiola even says uses their rivals as moulds for imrpovements, by a side who done the same last year to us and went out and bought Mascherano, Villa and the dutch kid Affelay when they already knew they had our number, who did we sign to bridge the gap. Sebastian Squillachi for 8M?????
    I dont wanna be going down the road of slagging the team after one defeat to the best team in the world….I just think it highlights where we are and how far we have to go and what irks me is the managers reluctance to admit failure and change the plan, in short the Inter Milan team of which we speak are 10 times better than this Arsenal one and the Barce team we have to beat to win the cup Le Boss wants are 20 times better than us….and they will look to improve again by signing big names.
    What are we gonna do about that.
    I think we should start buying quality or Wenger should stop feeding us garbage about being able to win the CL because we simply can not win it.

  21. wat about the disallowed goal from the first leg?
    I agree Arsenal were coming back until RVP got red, however if you count on referee decision Barcelona had already won the match before half.
    1st leg 2-2
    2nd leg until half: 2-0
    But yeah you’re right “karma is a bitch” just like wat happened to Chelsea in 2008-09 after Chelsea deceived Barcelona INTENTIONALLY in 2004-05 season. Karma turned back to Chelsea.

  22. I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was given a Dennis Bergkamp Arsenal home kit in 1999 as a graduation gift. However, I’m a rather late bloomer to the soccer blogosphere.

    This is a lovely blog, Andrew. Just came into it via @runofplay on Twitter. Your piece on “A Moment in Time” was superb. As a guy who was not able to watch the first leg of Arsenal v Barcelona, I found your re-telling of that second goal almost as scintillating as the goal itself.

    So, anyway, regarding this post, I absolutely love the connection between the Bojan disallowed goal in the deafening Nou Camp in 2010 and the considerably suspect RVP sending-off at the deafening Nou Camp in 2011. The referee as hingepoint. Fascinating. Likewise, I track with your assessment of The Guardian’s Richard Williams’ overdone attachment of meaning to what is — and was on Tuesday night — a very thin line between success and failure. It somewhat reminds me of the unbelievably absurd minutiae that N.F.L. commentators conjure up.

    But it seems — in the case of Arsenal and Inter Milan — that it’s not so much that Williams might be missing the reality that, as you say, “The similarities between the two games [against Barcelona] are remarkable.” (Though it’s true that he’s missing it.) Instead, no doubt what Williams finds so “lamentable” is that, despite the *remarkable* difference in philosophy, style and temperament between Arsenal and Inter, the result against Barcelona went the way of Inter.

    Yes, this is football, and, of course, the margins are thin. But, without defending Williams per se, I can’t help but think that one club played remarkably like themselves (Inter) and won while the other (our beloved Arsenal) played uncharacteristically like themselves and remarkably like Inter — for awhile anyway — and lost. The irony is, well, and this is easy: unremarkable. And in the end, lamentable. On this, I’m with Williams — but with less disgust and with more sadness.

    In one of your comments, you ask: “Is greatness defined simply on winning or losing?” Of course greatness is not defined “simply” on winning or losing. There are plenty of examples either way on this. It is more, to be sure. But a club can’t get to greatness without at least occasionally winning that very Big One. And for me, despite all of Arsenal’s aesthetic pleasures, they simply can’t find greatness because they can’t find the win when they most need it.


  23. Kudos to you for writing this. It has been hard trying to explain to people that this time around, Arsenal approached the game in a much better way and that the scoreline is a bit harsh on them.

  24. An interestingly different post from the ones on other blogs.
    I think that in the Inter-Barca match, the ref clearly helped Inter our more (lucio ripping shirts, disallowed goal plus noise (ironic…)). Their red card as you described didn’t impact their plan all that much. With Arsenal-Barca, it was the ref again who decided the tie. RvP’s red card was just the worst joke I’ve ever seen in a football match. Messi had a disallowed goal in the first leg, and Diaby had a challenge that could’ve very much resulted in a penalty (a wonder that it didn’t with that fuckin referee around).

    I’ve seen both matches (inter and arsenal) and while both teams did a tremendous job at bracing the attacking waves of barcelona, Inter was better at it. Sure, they had to do some real last ditch saves and got lucky a couple of times, but most of their defending was taking place around the penalty box, not in it. We did amazing last ditch tackles, Almunia was a hero and we had lots of luck to not concede many times. So there is the difference. Inter conceded twice, Arsenal twice in open play as well, but the manner of defending was very different. But as you said, our game plan was not to JUST brace their waves but to also probe for the ball and get it forward, thus RvP’s fucking sending-off was a killer for us. That we didn’t manage to get forward much had a lot to do with Cesc being horribly ineffective. Apparently he played through pain, poor guy.

    This whole match left me with a bitter bitter taste. The media’s reaction is typical and I didn’t expect anything different from those idiots. While the reactions to the two performances are opposing like day and night, there was a fundamental difference, though it got blown waaay out of proportion of course.

    My view on the team’s performance though is a good one. We went to Camp Nou and scared the shit out of Barcelona. We’d have beaten them, too, were it not for a corrupt maniac referee. Wenger brings sanity by pointing out that yes, losing against Birmingham in the CC, we did so due to an unbelieveable cock-up, but were absolutely headed for a win. We would’ve beaten the favorites of the CL were it not for bad bad ref decisions. As gloomy as things look right now, I think the team has actually been improving over the recent weeks.

    I’m not scared for ManUtd on Saturday at all. I think even without Cesc, we will be dominating them. Only hope I have is that RvP doesn’t pick up an injury and that Almunia shows us what’s in him again.

  25. Thanks to everybody for the comments.

    There are a few people who are looking for more reasons as to why we lost the game: looking at our inability to keep the ball, the players we had available, or further refereeing decisions. But this misses the point I am trying to make.

    To reiterate my major points are:

    1 – This game was not very different to Inter Milan’s “win” over Barcelona last season. I have explained why, yet the difference in media reaction — simply because Inter hung on and we went out — is remarkable. This “Arsenal are a disgrace because they didn’t have a shot” stuff, when Inter had only one off-target effort, is extremely strange.

    2 – Although the game went down a similar path as Inter’s, our performance did not betray our philosophy. Whereas Inter came simply to defend, we always looked to attack (hence why we scored and they did not, despite not having a shot on goal). It’s just that Barca — as they so often do to good teams — stopped us from playing. I think the difference in philosophy was felt when RVP was sent off: while it galvanised Inter, who didn’t want the ball, it prevented us from having the little possession we needed to rest our defence and keep them always worrying about our counter-attack.

    3 – Football is a game of fine margins, where the performance of a team is often determined by their results. Williams’ articles show this: but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we only lost by one goal, to a remarkably strong team, and were a much better side than many people are making out.

  26. Great Post.
    And from the kind of defense we displayed against a good team like Barca, I think its high time we accept that we have an absolute great defensive line-up. Yes i say those boys saved us from total humiliation, we dont need to talk of buying anymore.

    Finally, we may have lost now but the boys have gained confidence that they can face the best rated and scare them to the very last whistle.

  27. Great post Andrew. But still I have to aggree with KEL. We have to see it coming. Once you are at this level we have to be great. No more good. Playing with Barcelona which is Spanish top of the table leader . We must play up to perfection. NOT on GOOD. Please!! no more whinning we need to concentrate on two more trophy. Against M.U. what other excuse Arsene going to give. WAke Up guys. I have posted my comment earlier this year. How Much longer Arsenal Fan have to wait for trophy. They have been fully supported the team. Arsene have to do something. Stop Whinning guys. We must Play GREAT not Good.

  28. I think it’s great from you to point out this aspect of the media manner, actually I avoided to read articles of the media, then I can’t compare the two mentioned games, cause I can’t remember the Inter Milan match, maybe I haven’t seen it at all :mrgreen:
    but I want to insist to the point that I thought van Persies behaviour of the first yellow was simply silly, why on earth did he get a second yellow at all? it could have been his first and not his second , he’s a striker with a second yellow and I didn’t like his behaviour after the neck attacks, ……… so it doesn’t go down to the referee alone, he delivered the basis for the red card by his own. it’s my opion, you can’t react such miscontrolled like van Persie did with the first yellow, fact.

    and regarding this penalty controversy out of the first half, I couldn’t see a foul, I think Messi let him go down, there was no real contact in my opinion, maybe the shoes touched each other, nothing more from what I have seen in the replays, so the right decision there, but if the ref had been totally biased, he would have given a penalty, I would think

    I don’t think Arsenal played badly, it was bad luck, they had a chance against I would say one of the best teams in the world, and I think that is remarkable, no shame, not at all, they had a chance untill the last minutes, that wasn’t the fact last year, as I remember 😉

  29. I have just seen on some other forum some gunner fans giving Cesc the stick for Cesc in the tunnel before the game? Going round shaking hands and cuddling all the Barca players one by one – WTF was that all about???

    Would you have have seen a real captain like Tony Adams doing all that shite? I think he realized he was playing for the wrong team on the night – maybe thats why he gifted barca the first goal. This so called captain of ours is a A Class disgrace and the sooner he pisses off to Barca the better – dont need his type at our club

  30. @ parekh – There’s a reason why it was on another forum and not this one: a total waste of time.

    If people are going to criticise the attitude of the player that has given more than anyone else for this club over the past six years because he is greeting his friends before a game, they don’t deserve to be heard. That stuff happens all the time when a player meets their old team, it’s nothing new and has nothing to do with his performance on the pitch.

    You say we don’t need “his type” but if we had a team full of players of “his type” we’d be a lot better off. That you can even question his dedication to the team annoys me more than anything that has been said on this post. If anyone is a Class A disgrace it is you for not using your brain and simply rehashing the thoughtless, brainless comments of another person on another forum.

  31. I think that’s an unfair assumption of Cesc, although he did play very badly. I’m more uneased at his lack of conviction on the field on that day than Cesc showing good manners.

    Re-thinking I assumed Cesc was injured and somehow its proven, he’s not playing against ManU.

    If there’s anything positive to take from this season is Jack’s consistency, he still has much to improve but the fire in his eyes is so vibrant I can see it through my telly. Time for me to get an Arsenal Away jersey. I shall print “Little Jack” at the back.

  32. Great insight, Andy, quite an interesting angle and between you posts and everybody’s comments I see very little reason not to acces your blog a few times a day. It’s not meant to flatter, just to say keep up the great work 😛 I’ve been thinking these days of our performance in the UCL this year and consequently the way people are judging our team and I think what annoyed me the most about the game against Barca was that they had the reason to go on and see only the bad things, mostly that we are inconsistent and that we fall under pressure. I must say it didn’t killed me that we lost that game, but most of all the way we did it. And I kept saying myslef, dammit, we’re Arsenal, we have a beautiful way of playing the game, that’s why I love this club so much, and the whole world was supposed to witness that tuesday night.

    Before the match, some of us (myself included) didn’t think we were going to take so many goals as the last season. And yet we almost did. If I’m not mistaking, shambogunner said in a prior topic that 99 games out of 100 we would lose against Barca and it seems to me that’s the harsh truth. But even admitting this, we lost in a shameful matter, without a single shot at goal, and I can’t shake the feeling that we seemed like sheep to the wolves there. I understand the comparison with Inter last year, but we’re not them, we don’t play the italian way, that was not what I expected to see.

    In regards to the red card, Wenger himself considered it a turning point, as many people do, but for me it just doesn’t cut it. Watching the game I had this feeling that even with RVP on the pitch we wouldnt’ve done much, but we’ll never know and you can’t really get arguments based on “what if”, so you’re left with only the score and the way the game developed. But if I add to this how our players behaved in the last 10 minutes, mostly just watching how Barca were passing the ball, I know I just won’t shake the feeling I had at the end of that game.

    In my country, the commentators said something about Rubin Kazan against Barca, about how they lost, indeed, at Nou Camp 2-0 but that they played with courage and that it was quite a display against the best team in the world. And we, 2nd place in the EPL, the most powerfull league on the planet, gave up like we never had a chance.

    Many things were said, many would still be to say and trying to get to all the angles of this matter, I still have the feeling I had at the end of the game, that it was a shameful performance from our team. However, what’s done is done, the guys need to look ahead and grab one of the 2 trophies, the most accesible being, in my opinion, the EPL. As for the Cup, we have our chances, but a bad day, a single goal conceded at the wrong time can rule us out. In the League, a bad day can mean a draw, one point closer to the leader, and some 10 matches to make ammends.

    In the end, I stil have faith in this club, in Wenger and I still want to shout GO GUNNERS and bring us a damn trophy this year!

  33. In all fairness barca deserved to win as arsen’s strategy from the start to field five-man midfield with four of them midgets was never going to stop the spanish side from dominating. To be honest this arsenal defence is the weakest in epl and it proved once again in a crunch game. Of course rvp’s sending was disgusting to say the least but he too never had a sniff while he was on the field. I sensed that arsenal lost the match when almunium was introducted in goal. He i am sure is a curse for gunners from the day he was signed.I knew it was not gunners day. He is the worst goalkeeper in epl and had so far let in 11 goals against barca in four outings two as substitute. May be being a spanish he was doing favour to barca. Any good goalkeeper would have saved at least half of them especially the two he let in in the final of 2006.With such a blundering keeper I dare arsenal may for the sixth year likely to return empty handed with aresene contunue to make lame excuses.

  34. @Andrew Weber as long as someone does not make a mistake and call you andrew web (howard webb) its fine by me.
    I have to go with Andrew on this.Arsenal defended so well in the first half if not for Fabs back heel. Barcelona will always create more chances than any team in the world because of their football philosophy. The same Koscieny bar Wilshere was oustanding in the first leg and never gave up in the second leg. I totally rate him high. This is his first season and he has done very well against the likes of torres, drogba, messi et all. He made a mistake in the CC final but who doesnt make mistakes on their jobs please stand up (tune of eminem).
    It is worthy to note that between the 45th and 56th minute when RVP was sent off Barca has on shot of target and please with all due respect to arsenal we were winning at that point. Review the statistics after the sending off and revert. You might call the players useless, not up to quality but it is pertinent to note that a certain team had the most expensive player and got beaten 5-0 in the same stadium.
    The story of this match is the story of ‘what if’.
    – if only Bentner had squared the ball for asharvin or nasri in the first leg it would have being 3-1
    – if theo walcot was fit, we might have won
    – what if vermaleen was fit? we might have won
    -What if Nic had buried jack wilsheres pass….
    – what if it is a conspiracy that the best team cannot be sent out of the competition at this stage? UEFA will lose money
    – what iiffffff!!!!!!!!!!
    I am sooo proud of our team, second in the league, fa cup to die for. have we improved from last season? Yes we have.
    Thanks Andrew. Your article was spot on. I rest my case

  35. I am so dismayed by the double standards of these so called soccer pundits. they are just crazy lads who write for the sec of writing with no moral judgement whatsoever. I am really lost for words. But I heavenly believe the referee has a stake in tilting this game in favour of Barca. All said and gone, lets focus to the Man-U game. My biggest happiness will be regained if we triumph against this man called Sir Alex.

  36. I’ve never commented on an article before, but after reading this beauty, i think it’s time to start…quality reading…thanks!

  37. arsenal were pathetic in the second leg and they betryed their philosophy from the start. its true barcelona dint let them play but they didnt show any signs of playing. and the goal was an own goal so i dont understand how youre saying arsenal scored. You managed to beat barca with determination and some good football in the first leg but in the second leg you guys were pathetic and over the two legs the better side won by some margin. I think youre stupid so dont bother to write any more articles.

  38. Nice article mate. I think that most of the world does not want and expect us to win crucial matches. Koscielny and Co. might not be ‘glamorous’ but they do their job. Even if it is a last ditch attempt. Same rule applies for our keepers. The media/pundits/players hate us because we do not believe in throwing money at other clubs and snatching their so called prized players for short term benefits. We have waited for 6 years and lets support our team. They need us now the most. Support any player who dons arsenal shirt in any match. Hail them. Raise their confidence. Sing songs. Show them that we are willing to wait for the glory. Its our self-doubt that really creates the problem.Patience is the key here. No body wants to lose. Neither Arsene. Nor our boys. We are in here for the love of the game and our club. And team.Don’t be sad or dejected. Good times or bad times, we should all be united. Here is my question for all the criticizing journalists and pundits: What were they all doing in their teens? What were their achievements? Are they really doing the work what they always wanted to do? Let me tell them something. While they were confused, delusional and fighting acne, a few chosen were toling hard to achieve their dreams and carry hopes a million more on their tiny shoulders. And, one of them is a 19 year old. So, who is the real loser/choker? Not the men in red and white. Definitely not. One day these young guns will do us proud and the whole world will be envious of us. The battle has just started. Next year, we shall fight them on the beaches.

    Support the team. The curve of life is not always linear. Its all about crests and troughs. One day we shall paint the whole world red.

  39. Andrew. I support gunnerdude last year Inter actually defended in waves. I watched the match and actually slowed it down. They held a disciplined line at all times from deep midfield. I am not a fan of defensive football but they actually went to the Camp to defend.

    I have backed this side from ’78. I have actually seen the ups and downs. We must be practical here do we need a more disciplined back line that works better at the Champions League. We have played the same opponent now two successive years. The positive we have beaten them this year but at home … when we play them next year (which is possible) do we need to plan for another holding midfielder and an improved backline.

    In this we must yes support the Team but we also have to ask questions it has been six years without silverware. Do we continue with the style of football we have become famous for no matter what the costs. Do we sacrifice a little bit of flair for a better result. Arsenal has never played like this before in all the years i have seen it (as a matter of fact it was quite brutal the brand of play we had back in the day) but there was normally something at the end of the season.

    We need to start winning something in Europe especially – it is bragging rights in this businss. Since 1995 the European Cup Winners is all we have from this aspect of our campaigns. Finals alone do not count – trophies do.

    Well nice article though.. onward and upward to Old Trafford this weekend

  40. @ Jatin

    What do you know about Arsenal’s philosophy? It was Diaby’s pressure which made Sergio to panic and head the ball in. So, what do you know about football?

  41. Parekh,
    Your well out of order kid, have you never listened to Cesc Fabregas speak about Arsenal or football? have you not witnessed his performances and celebrations when he scoresfor the team?
    Do you not think he is professional enough to greet his countrymen in the tunnel before going out and giving everything for the Arsenal cause, if you truly think otherwise you are a fool.
    The fault lies with Arsene Wenger for selecting him, he wasnt fit, he played on the fringe of our biggest game of the season and after putting in only a tiny portion of what he is capable, he is ruled out of the Utd game, also Van Persie was not near fit and this is a damning indictment of Wengers faith in the squad, hed rather play a half fit Van Persie and shell of Fabregas than use Bentdner, Chamakh, Arsha or any other of the subs you can name.
    Im no world class manager but Im pretty sure any fully fit player is better than a half fit one. Poor judgement by Le Boss but no-ones talking about that.
    As for the media, Im surprised any Arsenal fan reads or listens to their tripe anymore. They love trodding on us and the double standards are amazing but I think it reflects how we are perceived outside the club; as a soft touch.
    I mean the way some pundits speak of Arsene Wenger is sick, they wouldnt dare speak ill of Ferguson or Anchelotti in this way and I truly believe its caught on everywhere bar our own club, maybe it has even made its way into our psyche and this is why some blatant errors on the managers part are met with such staunch and rigid defense from ‘anti negative’ fans when brought up by the doom mongers, all fans have the right to challenge and question things as long as they are objective and not personal attacks and I think we really should be getting behind the Club as a whole now, if listening to those pundits doesnt make you wanna do that then your only as bad as them.

  42. Its sad to read some people questioning Cesc’s contribution. Pathetic. He has done so much for us and is one of the best play maker in the world. Period.

    Yes,we have made some mistakes.
    Yes,Arsene is not the best coach in the world.But, then who is? No one was questioning him 6-7 years ago. He is one of the best. Like everybody else.

    The media and so called pundits have poisoned our mind. We all want trophies. Yes, we do.But, in the last couple of years clubs have used the power of money to attract the football talents from all over the world and this has spoiled the whole system. Look at Chelsea and Madrid. They are still not on the top. Once you start this habit then there is no looking back. Deep inside we all love Arsenal. Its our self doubt and insecurities that is the root of all evil. Look at the supporters of Blackpool, Wolves and West Ham. We should always support our team till the season gets over. Our days of glory might be numbered but they will the best days of our lives. Always take the positive.Please, do not doubt our team and club’s vision.The kids are alright. The kids are awesome. They always were.

  43. @andy – Cesc’s attitude hasn’t been great, but I don’t think he has to leave – I just don’t want to play Barcelona next season – there is too much nonsense surrounding those games!

  44. @Bond,
    Yes my friend the kids are ‘alright’, but there has been alot of time and money invested in them and we sould really be seeing a return sometime soon shouldnt we? 4th highest wage bill in the League, I mean how does that happen when your buying young players you have asked us to be ‘patient’ with who have actually won nothing or done little to justify these huge wages…..seriously we have a bad habit of offereing big wages to average players or players with potential, thats folly.
    But you do put things in perspective the very reason I get frustrated with Wenger is probably cause for me to actually commend him……throughout the time of the average players he has bought and the failure to replace winners he has still got us to the CL every year, and with some of the men in this squad, I think that has to be seen as good management, but this is just a portion of what this club aims to acheive and I think our fans have been patient and loyal and yet we are in for more price hikes to our tickets that are already the most expensive, on and off the field the respect of the man in the stands has taken knock after knock the last few seasons and we need an injection of something into the club to re-invigorate us, maybe another coach or something, I dunno but if we falter again this season it will leave a bad taste i the mouth.

  45. I took my time so that i dont write in the heat of passion. Lets face the truth. This is the worst display we have ever had in Europe. Wenger is still and will remain our achiles heel. All his vitupurations with Uefa are signs of a guilty man trying to hide his shame. I admit we were done a blow by a disgrace of a Ref but the coach is solely to blame. Who could have imagined that we shall have Almunia in our goal at Nuo camp again. On all three occassions we have played against Barca with him in goal we have lost regardless of his miraculous saves. Why on earth was Rosicky on that pitch. He has been on the loosing side all season in all our games and i dont remember him having played well all season apart from a headed goal he scored in which we drew. But Wenger rewarded him with a starting place against a mighty team at the expense of B52 and Andrei. Diaby is some one i have never rated at all. He is so lethergic, lazy and an embarrassment at best was played ahead of Denilson who did well last year at Nuo camp. Fabregas is simply becoming a joke of himself. He has been no where near the team against both legs when playing Barcelona never mind him gifting them the opening goal. We better think twice on his loyalty to the team and grant him his wish.I dont think we shall win anything with him. Its better we organise our team afresh but with willing and committed hard working players than world class players who have no team at heart. V.persie and Nasri looked the only concerned players but not Fabregas even after the game it looked like a normal thing had happened. Fabregas should be granted his wish ,there is no excuse for his mediocrity against Barcelona.All in all we were beaten and deservedly lost there is no excuse in the red card. Inter milan qualified on the same pitch. Am very very assured that we could have scored a goal had we attacked Barcelona but not with players like Rosicky in the evening of their years. We must go back to the drawing board and buy a few descent players in our midfield. Chek Tiote is there for the taking , we need another pretty descent striker forget this rubbish in Chamak and B52, we need out three keepers back with out Almnia and Rosicky must have played his last game. Diaby needs to go on loan. Otherwise we shall never win a trophy and believ me United is going to thump us tomorrow the best we can do there is forge a draw but i dont see it comming. It will be a miracle if we won the premiership with Wengers continued stupidity. He must accept defeat that we were beaten and out played by the best side and codemn our players for lack of the English spirit and a never say die attitude. Almnia clumsy as he is is very coprrect in criticising this bunch of young players as we shall never win any thing with them. Imagine B52 wasting a chance which could have taken the team to another level by his poor first touch. Had Persie been in the same situation what could he have done. I think he could have done better. We must stop the blind faith in Wenger and attack him head on for his mediocrity and feeding fans on pack of lies with substandard kids and French players. No wonder he is now raising his madness to another level by opening up a pandora box with Uefa. The solution must be solevd in house and he must buy players simple.

  46. @ delano – I could swear we’ll be top of the table if we win our game in hand? Yet you want to get rid of all of our players off the back of this performance?

    Real Madrid lost 5-0 to Barcelona earlier in the season. They were absolutely hammered. Does that make them a terrible team? No, it does not.

    Wenger’s “blind faith” has seen player after player after player develop into brilliant performers yet someone like you thinks that he should cast them all away. Thank goodness you’re not in charge of proceedings at the club.

    You say Wenger is our achilles heel? What garbage. I can’t believe people like call yourself a supporter of this club.

  47. To add to the silly nature of your comment, you say that Fabregas did not look concerned after the game. Did you read the quotes he made? For your information:

    “”I take full blame for the result tonight. One of the worst moments of my life. I apologise..”

    Get a grip, dude. Seriously.

  48. We cant fuss all we want folks BUT the fact is no new player can come in now, WELL except for the keeper situation, so that is a closed case, for now!!

    But my concerns are the injuries, if we don’t have the big four on the pitch soon there is no way we can win this league particularly walcott with his speed, he has in my opinion be come Arsenal’s most feared player.
    Frankly if we win tomorrow then so be it but the league title is more a realistic bet.

  49. OOps!!!!
    forgot to mention our record at oldTrafford is atrocious to say the least………..

    Just taught i would let u know but am sure all arsenal fans are aware…………….

  50. Good write-up Drew,
    definitely some of your best work,
    I’d like to comment further but there is a coast guard helicopter giving us a Tsunami Warning? Finish this up later.

  51. Great article really interesting. Well I for one am proud of the team. in my opinion the guys were great, I’m seeing critiscm of Fabregas. Van Persie and Kos, all of whom give there all. Lets not forget what a good side Barcelona are, nobody wants them in the next round, Without that diabolical referee we stood a chance, maybe we didn’t deserve to win but we certainly had a chance.

    The team needs full support now, paricularly Almunia, we’re still in a great position and with a fair wind will deliver. Having sounded all the positives, I do cringe a little when I see Denilson, Diaby or Rosicky on the team sheet.

    Lastly a little bugbear of mine, I appreciate English isn’t everyone’s 1st language and maybe I am being pedantic, but you lose a game (losing) not loose or loosing….. Sorry

  52. I’ve just read all of the articles above and cannot believe some of these people are Arsenal fans! It is like listening to drive time onTalksh!te.I have supported Arsenal since 1970 and have been an away fan since 1978. I believe the problem with these ‘so called’ fans is no long term experience of failure.I remember how poor we were from 1981 until 1987 and how we were nearly relegated in 1973(i think). The team of the early 80’s was poor and we were nowhere near success. I, for one , have loved watching this team since Arsene took over.Some of the performances have been spellbinding, even Clive T on ITV(self confessed Moan U fan) has waxed lyrical about our brilliance.Finishing in the top 4 year after year is a fantastic achievement and to be in there fighting for trophies year in year out is a testimony to how close we have been.

    I support your article and agree that it is heartening to read something sensible for a change instead of reactionary nonsense.We can definitely win at Old Trout Farm (i remember being there celebrating Giggs miss like we had scored) and we should keep the faith. Supporting a club is for the long term, if you don’t like what’s going on then go and watch Chelsea’s mercenaries, you will never see what we have seen as true Arsenal fans, some of the best football ever, played by some of the world’s great players. Charlie George,Liam Brady, Anders Limpar,Rocky,Dennis,Bobby P,Paddy Viera,Wrighty,Thierry,Cesc,Sammy and little Jack. I am proud to be a Gunner and will support the boys through thick and thin as we all should.

    Once again, thought provoking piece, reading it and all the rest certainly stirred me , UP THE GUNNERS!

  53. @ shambogunner

    I do agree with you mate that some players do seem lost on pitch and as a supporter we all have the right to vent our anger at the team. All I am saying is that there is no point in criticizing the squad mid season. It does more damage than good. Carling Cup was just a whisker away and so was sealing Barca’s fate for good. So, you never know. The team has shown some a lot of promise this season. And, Barca’s defeat at Emirates was not a result of their one off day. It was glimpse of the talent our young squad posses,if fully fit. Haters gonna hate. They will always hate us even if we manage to win the league or FA cup or CL next year. Just because anyone else cannot does not mean we can’t do it.

    P.S. Redknapp said that he does not want to face Barca next. What a coward. We want Barca next year. Seriously,this is a battle now. If there is one team which can bring Barca down to earth is, its ours. And, the whole world knows this. Pity,they are too afraid to admit this.

  54. Graham, well written my sentiments exactly. I’m probably a little older than you, but I remember climbing a 20 foot high fence and screaming my head off when Peter Storey, equalised in the 1971 cup semi final. Knocking myself unconcious on a barrier at Goodison Park when John Radford (I think) scored against Stoke in a cup semi final replay. My son was three months old when Michael Thomas scored at Anfield. My wife told me off for making too much noise and I then made the mistake of saying it was the greatest moment of my life,. If you have ever seen Fever Pitch I swear that was based on me.

    Once a Gunner always a Gunner

  55. @Graham: thanks for the walk down memory lane. How about your namesake Graham Rix, one of my all-time favorites? Good to see other long-timers checking in with full support.
    Great analysis, Andrew. Definitely showed how fine the line is. Nobody should even listen to critics, especially in the media. We have enough “supporters” of that kind in our ranks.
    Rooting hard for Schalke and Shaktar in next round and c’mon Olympique Tuesday.
    Want win tomorrow real bad, but still think Premiership is our best chance. Even SAF
    knows that!

  56. Unchained speaks sense, we do have a very lovely style to watch but we are wanting in the defensive midfield and at the back. Thus, no hardware. Had Song been there and Robin stayed on well,coulda,shoulda woulda. I’m sure the management is at least as aware of our frailties as we are but show me the money. When The Emirates is paid for we may the kind of cash that makes for quick results. Until then we will have to see what’s up with Vermaelen, go with what we’ve got and hope for the best.

  57. stop talkin about this match!the refereed disallowed a goal for messi in the first leg and a pentaly in the 2nd and ur still talking about the referee!arsenal fans i ll introduce to somthing called REPLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  58. Excellent post, enjoyed reading it!
    Journalists only say what the majority want to hear these days.


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