Saturday 19 March 2016


So we went to Barcelona and the rest is history. We will be back in the UCL hopefully next season.

I was secretly hoping that Arsenal will recreate that night in Milan and I will be there to witness it live. It wasn’t to be and it wasn’t for lack of trying.

We had chances to beat them comprehensively but in the end they won handsomely. Their front 3, star men each one, all scored. Koscielny (love him to bits) was clearly at fault for their 1st goal.  Dear old Laurent needs to learn to lose that side of his game where he turns over possession needlessly by not doing the simple thing. Play the easy pass FGS.

I fervently believe that Koscielny is good to play for any team in any of the top European leagues but he lets himself down often. Monaco’s 3rd goal at the Emirates at the same round of 16 last season was also on Laurent in my opinion.

For Barcelona’s second goal and from where I sat, we were awfully static. I got the feeling we were ball watching. I only learnt later that Suarez’ wonder goal was something of a fluke as he shinned the ball. It was a delight to watch all the same.

The little magic man Messi scored their 3rd after we needlessly turned over possession.

I was delighted for Elneny breaking his Arsenal duck and secretly wished a 3 1 away win was on the card after we equalized but it didn’t happen despite the fact that we had the chances to do so. We had Barcelona on toast, they were not composed and were uncomfortable with our forward play and were wayward with turning over possession as we applied pressure.

To those who conveniently say Barcelona did not get out of second gear, I'm sorry I disagree and this is very much part of the agenda I bristle at. Because Arsenal were very good on the night, all of a sudden it is because the other team didn't do well. 

One obvious lesson going back to the Manchester United match at Old Trafford, if we defend with 6, 7 or 8 players with a reasonably good team, we will be under pressure and concede. Alexis and Ozil need to do more defensively in addition to their attacking qualities.

Unquestionably, we lost to a better side but a better side who could have beaten. Yes they have gone on this long undefeated run in all competitions, yes their front 3 appear to be the deadliest in world football at the moment but they were creaking under sustained pressure from Mesut Ozil and his gang. And if only we had taken our chances, Barcelona will now be shoving their Messi up that place where the sun don’t shine like the away fans sang with gusto.

The away fans were very supportive of their team. Passionate and irreverent. The Nou Camp was a shithole they sang. Asked the home fans if we could build a ‘fuzzy duck’ (Cockney Rhyming Slang) roof for them and that their supporting was ‘Tom Tit’ (another Cockney Rhyming Slang).

To be fair, the away fans’ singing wasn’t borne out of any envy, jealousy or bad bells. Nou Camp was a disappointment for me. The Allianz Arena it is not. The fact that the Nou Camp is almost a 100 years old was fairly obvious with a Welsh Arsenal supporter behind me claiming that the Health & Safety lot in England will not allow the stadium operate for one day if it was located back home.

The Barcelona support baffled me immensely. 45 minutes before kick off and the home end of the stadium was virtually empty. On the night, I doubt the stadium was 75% full and this is despite accusations that Barcelona oversold the away end. The absence of support from the home fans received adequate attention from us and we asked if they wanted us to help them sing.

The Arsenal away support was super. There were no divisive banners in the stadium all though that infamous banner was on display at a square in the Las Ramblas area where the well-oiled Arsenal fans were in full voice.

I got the impression from the few fans I interacted with that they were quite upset with the recent results and are taking that frustration out on Arsene Wenger. Upon the announcement of the starting line up, many reacted with disdain thinking it was the act of a surrender monkey. Many potentially feared a pasting but the performance on the night suggests to me that the fans who questioned the line up were wrong and reinforces the need to trust the manager / professionals to do the jobs they are paid to do.

Also, while many want a change of manager, they are not considering the fact that with 9 matches to go till the end of the season, this is the WRONG time to discuss a change of manager. The time is the end of the season or when it is certain that there is nothing to fight for. And you must forgive me that I consider 4th place / Champions League sport worth fighting for. Hopefully Manchester City don’t finish 5th and win the UCL.

Travelling to Barcelona to watch Arsenal play was a pleasure for me. The bonding with fellow fans, time off from work, pleasure of experiencing a different culture, visiting a new place and an iconic albeit disappointing stadium. It was all worth it.

Today’s match against Everton is a must win and so is the remaining of all of our fixtures if we are to make a decent fist of competing for the title. Cup finals every single one of them.

Many label the team as mediocre or doing the same thing over and over again. I disagree vehemently.  Using mediocre, as a label for Arsenal is WRONG.  If you disagree, please read the definition of mediocre in the dictionary.  IT DOESN’T APPLY TO ARSENAL.

Also I don’t think Arsenal do the same thing over and over again. We exited the Champions League last season because we were over confident and were already dreaming of the quarterfinal in that first leg at the Emirates. This season we couldn’t maintain focus for 90 minutes in the first leg. And you can go back into history to see that the stick many use to beat Arsenal is a broad brush and is largely undeserved.

However results are the be all and end all of football and when it comes to results in the Premier League and Champion League, Arsenal hasn’t been good enough.

But don’t forget – 2 FA Cups + 2 Charity Shield in last 2 seasons. Of course when it comes to Arsenal and the FA Cups, all of a sudden, results don’t matter. Make up your mind people. Don’t be a sheep.

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