Arsenal: a case for the defence.

March 9, 2011 32 Comments by Sian

OK, here we go.

Inhale.

Let’s do this.

Exhale.

Right. Last night Arsenal were beaten by an excellent team. We had not a single shot on goal and were out-possessed throughout. Congratulations to Barcelona, who now progress. It was a horrible match to watch, made worse by the fact that, from our perspective, it was little blobs playing little blobs in a stadium of little blobs. We actually had to duck when a plane flew by at one point.

So we’re now out of the Champions League with our tails wedged firmly between our legs. They were better, and there’s nothing that can be done about that now. However, there are a number of issues I’d like to highlight, in the defence of my team. So here we go:

First of all, we were beaten 4-3 on aggregate. If Nicklas Bendtner had controlled the ball better mere minutes before full-time, we could have scored to put us ahead on the away goal rule and we could have been going through to the next round. Amazing really, considering the stats, but that’s how close it came. Last year it finished 6-3 on aggregate and we had not a chance in hell. I wonder, had we have gone through, what everyone would have been saying then? Would we still be being battered for our lack of shots on goal? Or does that only happen when it’s Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan knocking Barca out with just as many? (In fact, we’d have had more with one shot, obviously, if Nicky had have scored).

If Barcelona are the best team in the whole entire universe ever, we came one kick away from knocking the best team in the whole entire universe ever out of the Champions League. With ten men. How on earth this means that our season is now ‘on the verge of collapse’ is quite honestly beyond me.

Ah yes, ten men. That little incident. Where Robin van Persie was sent off for a second yellow card, for continuing after the the whistle had been blown for offside. I mean really, what a useless idiot. What kind of footballer can’t hear one man’s whistle over a sea of 90,000+ over-excited people? The same kind of pathetic man whose reaction times aren’t quick enough to have stopped himself from running and going for the shot LESS THAN A SECOND after the ref’s tossy little whistle was blown.

In all seriousness, it was an outrage. This afternoon both Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri have been charged for comments they made to the Swiss referee regarding the decision after the match. Fine. I’m glad they had a go. I wish they’d had a go harder. I don’t know how the man can defend it. Now, I’m not saying it excuses the fact we were outplayed but if Barcelona are difficult to play against with 11 men, how pissing well impossible is it with ten?

Believe you me, when Robin says he couldn’t hear the whistle, he’s telling the truth. Barcelona fans have one setting and it is whistling. Listen back. It is all they did. The referee’s decision was not a mistake. It was wrong. He made the decision and he made it wrong. Not a mistake. He chose to send him off. And he’s my personal prick of the year for having done that.

Arsenal ended the match having received five yellow cards (two of which went to van Persie). Barcelona ended with none. So, I’d quite like for someone to explain this. And this. And this.

**I’m writing quickly, those photos are not mine, if you want me to credit you, say, but otherwise everyone, those photos belong to other people, thank you to them!**

But of course no one will have to, because referees never have to explain themselves do they. Let’s just assume that throat-grabbing is OK now I guess and be done with it. Look, I’m not saying they should have been sent off for these offences but how we received so many yellows and they didn’t get one, I just can’t quite grasp.

Anyway, moving on. The criticism for not getting any shots on goal. Well, as you can see they didn’t really give us too much of the ball in order to enable us to do so. I’d like to point out, however, that we went there defending a lead. We didn’t HAVE to score. We didn’t come to the stadium hoping to grind out a draw. We knew how rarely people go into matches against Barcelona with the upper hand, and we were defending that with our lives. We went 47 minutes without conceding before a silly little backpass from Cesc set Messi on his way. That’s not very Arsenal of us at all, but it was bloody brilliant of us. It wasn’t a great performance overall but defensively, it was as good as you’re going to get against a team like this.

Then, our striker did go for a shot and was sent off. Then we played without a striker until Nicklas Bendtner came on late. Xavi can fuck off when he says we didn’t go to play football. We COULDN’T play football. Yes, partly because they’re so good but partly because of the circumstances above.

Speaking of Cesc, it was not the return to the Camp Nou he’ll have wanted. Injured after fifteen minutes, slipping up to give them a goal and pretty non-creative throughout. By Cescy’s stupidly high standards, he was poor. But I felt very sorry for him after. Still, the good thing is, the fans were vile, Barcelona were ugly, maroon is not a flattering colour and I’m quite sure Cesc will have looked around the stadium last night and thought “Well you can shove this right up your arse”.

The injury to Wojciech Szczesny. I mean really, it could only happen to us, could it not? When he called for help in the 15th minute, we all went green. When Almunia stood up and started warming up, we all heaved. Goalkeepers don’t get subbed. How very, very unfortunate for us. As it happened, Almunia came on and has to be patted on the back for playing so well. His nose must be about as out of joint as Woj’s finger having been so blatantly dropped this season, but he had a brilliant match last night. I suppose the fact he received MOTM in a match in which we conceded three goals says a lot. So it didn’t matter really (though it will if it means Szczesny’s out for the season), but it did still take up a substitution, which is never ideal. Plus, if Cescy was injured around the same time as Woj, you have to wonder… did this influence Cesc’s decision to stay on? He could hardly say “Wait up Woj, I’m coming with!” Maybe if he’d been subbed sooner…

Oh, you could drive yourself looney couldn’t you?

Let’s look at the good stuff. Jack Wilshere was marvellous again. I think there’s something wrong in his head. He doesn’t have a panic button. He doesn’t get over-awed. He just gets on with the task at hand and he gives so much. I love him. As an Arsenal fan, I hope he gets the armband one day. As an England fan, I hope he gets that armband too and leads the new generation of non-arse England players to the 2014/2018 World Cup, in which we will draw both Spain and Argentina and knock them both flat on their arses. (Go on, bring on the ‘Not in a million years’ comments… I believe in England too!)

Djourou and Koscielny are excellent. They made so many amazing tackles yesterday and, let’s face it, without them and Almunia it could have been a rout.

I think that’s all bases covered. I’ll post another blog up in a bit about the match experience as fans and the whole trip (if anyone’s interested?) but for now I’ll just reiterate that if you have the chance to go to the Camp Nou, stay at home. Not only will you get well and truly felt up on your way in, your view is almost non-existent, you’re kept behind a net (until irate Gooners tear it down) and the atmosphere is totally meh.

I was very proud of our fans last night though. I don’t know if you could hear us over all the buggering whistling, but we were giving it all. There was no miserable whinging, it was all just fans believing the team could do it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One day, we will.

One goal from a mistake, one goal from a penalty and one goal from, well, a good goal. Could have been worse. I truly hope this will mean that the boys now take a good look at themselves and think ‘Sod it, we can still win two trophies’. There’s the disappointment and the anger, but none of it is down to us having been poor. It’s down to us having been beaten (just) by a better team

Barcelona play lovely football. They’re hideous, but they play lovely football. Still sooner be a Gooner than anything else in the flamin’ world.

31 Comments

  1. irishgooner
    2417 days ago

    great post as usual. Big game Saturday now,Nani out is a blow for Utd.
    I’m sure Arsene will play as strong a team as possible depending on injuries and recovery from last night.
    Onwards and upwards

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Had forgotten about Nani. Nice little plus for us. Onwards and upwards indeed.

      Reply

  2. The Ghost of Silvestre
    2417 days ago

    We heard you. Loud and proud!
    I couldn’t believe my ears that you guys managed to generate that much noise!

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Good! They didn’t get loud until 90 seconds before the whistle. Except for their whistling of course.

      Reply

  3. mind_of_benzy
    2417 days ago

    My issue with the sending off is not really whether he heard the whistle or not (although I imagine it would indeed be pretty difficult to hear anything among that amount of screaming toss bags), it’s more about it being such a stupidly petty reason to give a red card. If the ref really thought RVP was time wasting then I could have just about lived with him getting a yellow card, but not when it’s a second yellow leading to a red. Some common sense should have been employed there. In a game of that size with over half an hour left, essentially sending off a player for time wasting is utterly ridiculous.

    PS. Good blog.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Yes, very true. I thought that last night but had lost that train of thought until you just pointed it out. Ridiculous decision either way.

      Reply

  4. AnnMS4
    2417 days ago

    Great blog as always. Just a thought, sure you didn’t get felt up cos you’re young & gorgeous and the Catalan stewards couldn’t believe their luck when you & little sis turned up at their gate :-D

    Reply

  5. ifranch
    2417 days ago

    Amazing post. You know Arsenal is becoming my 2nd team after Real!

    Congrats

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Glad my persuasive powers are still in fine working order. :)

      Reply

  6. reznuk
    2417 days ago

    “I think that’s all bases covered.” um, I don’t think so. Good blog by the way, and as positive as it gets today, but some bases not covered. Like… where was our midfield while Barcelona were passing the ball round to themselves? Diaby, Rosicky and even Cesc were pretty much missing most of the match. Okay, Cesc was injured (although official confirmation from the club seems to be conspicuous by it’s absence). I think whilst most of our players gave their all, some of them have a case to answer in terms of their committment and concentration.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Note the title. ‘a case for the defence’. Yes, the midfield was poor and I’d be OK with us selling Diaby but I’m pretty sure every other blog on the horizon has already ripped them to shreds, no sense jumping on the bandwagon.

      Reply

  7. isaac
    2417 days ago

    i think youre right!! maybe uefa have to opened a case and involve referies and barcelona, we lost 2006 final because of that, chelsea didn’t beat barca 2 years ago because the reffs, so whisch case is more important??

    Reply

  8. El Greco
    2417 days ago

    Thanks for the lowdown, Siany, and I am sorry you had to witness, again, another defeat at the hands of Barca.
    Though I could never experience the atmosphere of being there, I didn’t have to keep touch with air traffic control either!
    From the discomfort of my armchair I simply had to witness the boys get beat by ‘the best team on the planet’, though it wasn’t the result which caused the discomfort, it was the way they played and we weren’t allowed to. The stats speak volumes to anyone who missed the match!
    So, it’s 2 down, 2 to go, and I hope the Arsene and the boys can pull themselves together for the fight against Man.U.

    Reply

    • Nikolaj
      1975 days ago

      Kelly I loved your first post in your blog!!! You are a very special peorsn and I am glad to have met you this summer I am looking forward to many more times with my new friends from Coach Joan’s Class!!!Kim

      Reply

  9. Gary
    2417 days ago

    Good blog.

    Still angry about that ref last night and I dont think that time is going to change that. It was an incompetent decision that ruined any chance we had of going through.

    I wont deny that Barcelona were the better team. We could barely get a sniff of the ball and usually lost it anytime we did get it, but we were defending heroically, something every1 and their auntie and her dog said we couldnt do, and Barcelona had almost no clear cut chances until the red card.

    Basically they were guilty of what so many opposition fans, press and pundits love to accuse us of: having the ball, all the possession but not converting it to goals.

    With the red card it all changed. With no out ball, no threat of a counter attack Barcelona just steamed forward again and again with no worries. They could press us so high up on the pitch and that done us in.

    Djourou and Koscielny were towers of strength last night, uttery fantastic. Diaby and Wilshere played well having to cover Cesc who was clearly not fit and off the pace. Nasri was everywhere. Such an awesome, awesome player he is. And Almunia…..had his best game I can remember him having. I dont rate him but he was top class last night.

    Can only agree with your sentiments about Jack. He knows no fear and he doesnt have poor games. The longer the game went the better he got. A definte future captain of our club.

    The injustice of last night was highlighted by the image of Arshavin and Iniesta being head to head. This is the Arshavin who when hit massive tackles etc just gets up and gets on the game. That he went head to head with anyone tells its own story IMO.

    So flamin angry at the ref because if not for the red card I think we would have went through.

    We defended well to make a mockery of everyone saying we couldnt defend. The laughable thing is the people having a go at us for trying to defend. Those same people who would explode in enjoyment if Mourinho and Ferguson defended like we did at times but for us it was just wrong and our tactics were flawed etc.

    Suffice to say I am proud of my team and continue to belive that we will win the league this year. They need to take the feeling of anger and turn it into a positive and blow the teams in our remaiing league games off the park.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Marvellous comment, if you don’t already write a blog, Gary, you should!

      Reply

      • Gary
        2416 days ago

        I do! Its not very good mind but I am trying. Thanks tho!

        Reply

  10. Mikael
    2417 days ago

    Good post but I do think Arsenal should learn to be slightly more gracious in defeat. They got completely outplayed and sure, the RVP sending off played a big part but really it was only one team that looked like winning it. I realise you only have to defend as you were already ahead but it clearly wasn’t working after 20-25 mins, Barca were dominating from the off and Arsenal adopted a style of play that doesn’t suit them – defending. It was a great effort and a game full of controversy but let’s be honest Gunners, Barcelona were far too good for you.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      “One goal from a mistake, one goal from a penalty and one goal from, well, a good goal. Could have been worse. I truly hope this will mean that the boys now take a good look at themselves and think ‘Sod it, we can still win two trophies’. There’s the disappointment and the anger, but none of it is down to us having been poor. It’s down to us having been beaten (just) by a better team.”

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

  11. Girl Gunner
    2417 days ago

    Hey Sian!!! I agree barça were better,but fairness is still important,and since FIFA are too busy worryin about snoods,mayb after i finish A level,i can study to become head of FIFA and demot useless refs such as yesterdays!! Jack for me is the next world best player,pray to Jesus szczeny recovers and that wasn’t it for him this season,i mean the guy got swag and u can see the confident look on his face,love it,tho Manuel did excellent yesterday!! Man Utd next!! Gunners to make FA cup a devils free competition! Btw,i think i’m addicted to ur blog!!

    Reply

  12. Jack Roberts
    2417 days ago

    Nice read, thank you. You mentioned you were going to include some of the songs on offer by the Gooners there but you didn’t include them.

    Also, I can’t understand the whistling by the Barca fans. Why would you want to stoop so low? When we inevitably draw Barca again next season I’m going to boo the **** out of them whenever they have the ball at the Grove.

    Also, I don’t see the fuss about “but they deserved to go through”. It’s a bloody cup competition. If every year only the team which “deserves” to win the damn thing wins it, Barca would be the only team winning it!

    Finally, I love Arsenal and Robin van Persie. Just want to hug him and say “the referee was an utter **** and we love you to bits Robin”.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      Well said, Jack. How does it feel sharing a name with a god? Also yes I did, and I’m just about to start that post now!

      Reply

  13. UncleK
    2417 days ago

    Only caught the game on radio,due to circs,but Lee Dixon said when he played at Camp Nou,he couldn’t even hear Martin Keown bellowing in his ear,let alone a ref’s whistle.Busacca ruined a game that may well have been very different.

    Reply

  14. Alan
    2417 days ago

    Super blog, bird. Agree with all you say. I just have to have a bit of a moan and say that a few of the boys seemed to freeze on the night and give the ball away far too easily, which certainly didn’t help our cause. Djourrou, Koscielny and Sami were excellent and Bac and Clich did OK whilst Almers and Jack were simply immense. As for the others, well…
    The Vanp incident was just too silly for words and makes me feel that they might as well just give the CL trophy to Barcelona and save everyone else the bother. I actually now have some sympathy for Chelsea when they were refereed out of the competition in 2009 (I think). Not impressed at all with the way away fans are treated at the Camp Nou and their fans are just toilet.

    Reply

  15. Penny
    2417 days ago

    What a a painful game to watch! I love Arsenal because they play the beautiful game and we didn’t see any of that last night. I could feel the lad’s frustration as they couldn’t get anything started and it was doubly annoying to see Barca run rings around us. Barca fans probably have a right to feel smug but it is irksome. We know our lads are capable of so much more.

    Almunia really deserves a lot of credit for coming cold off the bench and doing a steller job and Djourou and Koscielny have improved so much this year (and Szczesny is starting to look like the real deal and when Vermaelin is back we’re going to be very solid in defence) But for whatever reason our midfield was just unable to get anything going and at times it felt like Barca had 20 players on the field.

    AW of course defended our lads but I know he knows in his heart we were beaten and well beaten by a better team. Now we need to channel our anger and frustration because we are in a great position to take the league title. Nothing would be better football wise than to see ManU sitting in second place at the end of the year with the Gunners on top.

    Love the blog!

    Reply

  16. Mikael
    2417 days ago

    “beaten (just) by a better team.” You got well and truly mauled, not “just”. Over the two legs you dominated them for about twenty minutes at the emirates, other than that, it was a Barcelona master class. I am pro Arsenal for the record, I think they are quality but forget all the controversy, Barcelona were deserving of the victory, which you did admit to your credit it’s just others didn’t! All that shone through after last night is Arsenal need a few players. Sill think a tough tackling CM is needed and a CB. Best of luck for the rest of the season though, hope you win the league!

    Reply

    • Sian
      2417 days ago

      “Just” referred to my original point. One kick from knocking them out. One kick. That’s what I mean by “just”, not that they were “just” better than us.

      Thank you though, and I hope so too!

      Reply

  17. goonergal
    2417 days ago

    excellent blog I have read some real rubbish today still enormously proud of our team ~ yes beaten by the better team on the night, but for a team that can’t defend we were excellent. I really felt for Nasri he spent the whole game defending like a trogan, loving Koz and Dj, clichy for me was poor, and if only bendy’s foot was as confident as his brain
    que sera sera, bring on fergie and his boys, gooner for life

    Reply

  18. fourstar
    2417 days ago

    Bravo.

    This and your other post (from the Nou Camp in outer space) sum up the tie perfectly. We will never know if we might have qualified — and obviously that doesn’t imply we were/are better than Barca, just that over 180 minutes we might have done enough to get through — because the ref took it into his head to be controversial, rather than invisible (like all good refs should be).

    Ah well. Bring on the league. Anyone think United’s wheels appear to be a bit wobbly?

    We will be back.

    Reply

  19. Theo van Nasrigas
    2416 days ago

    A pleasure to read as always. Thanks for really and truly being “a girl who loves the gunners”, AND managing to convey that passion into each and every blog.

    Like a lot of Gooners, I am more disappointed in the WAY we lost rather than the loss itself.

    That being said, I am beginning to think that it’s just not possible to win more than 1 or 2 competitions in this era given the reality of injuries, poor refereeing and thuggish opposition. Putting aside the domestic cups and UEFA, we’ve got to face muggers and bullies from Birmingham, Newcastle, Stoke and others over 38 games.

    I’m just proud and happy that we’re the only Premiership team with the talent to stay in 4 competitions for as long as we did. It’s a remarkable achievement for which no trophy will be awarded but each one of us should hold our heads high and continue to cheer on the boys this Saturday.

    It is ALWAYS great to be a Gooner!

    xxx

    Theodora

    Reply

  20. david
    2415 days ago

    Arsenal was beaten by a far MORE excellent team of one Barcelona on Mar the 8th, but have we forgotten that it also lost to a far inferior team called Arsenal 3 weeks back !? NO !?

    Reply

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