Barcelona 2 - Arsenal 1


I was going to let Neal vent his spleen on yesterday's game (and I'm sure he will when he can uncurl from his fetal position on the bathroom floor) but did want to share my thoughts:

You have to start with the red card, right? Whether or not it was the 100% correct, Pareto optimal decision, it was probably fair to both teams. It was a red card worthy foul as Lehmann was the last defender. But Arsenal were probably lucky to escape going a goal down as the result of an advantage call. In fairness, they could have gone a man and a goal down and not had any complaints.

Barcelona identified Campbell and Cole as Arsenal's weak points and went at them, even sacrificing Eto'o for streches by sticking him on the left wing so Ronaldinho could run/dance around Campbell in the middle. It was working as Guily was getting behind Cole, and Barca were getting runners through the middle. That's what led to the red card, and should have later produced a goal from Eto'o were it not for Almunia's thumb.

I thought ESPN's coverage of the game (here in the USA) suffered from trying too hard. Celo Balboa didn't bring anything to the table and having to work in the "sideline" reporters disrupted Seamus Malin's normally smooth call. I hope that they can play it a bit straighter for the World Cup coverage, but I suspect they'll succumb to the "event" mentality, especially in the later knock-out games.

One particularly frustrating aspect of going a man down (and you could see this from Henry time and time again) was that when Arsenal got a goal kick, Almunia would out kick the entire team and give possession immediately back to Barcelona. But was that his fault? Or just the nature of the game you have to play with 10 men - 1 forward and 9 defending too deep to support him.

Another part of the game that confused me was Arsene's substitutions. Has there been any word on Cesc's removal? Was he hurt? Tiring badly? He, as usual, was so solid in midfield for the Arsenal. Though he seems to turn into trouble too often, he can usually get himself out of it. And he was so calm on the ball. Making the right pass at the right time... not rushing things, but drawing the defenders to him and only then releasing a team mate. (fantasy note: he also took a few set pieces) So why remove him from the game? And why put in Flamini, who hadn't played in midfield for months, regardless of how well he played at fullback? If you do want to get him in the game, why not put him at fullback and move Cole into the midfield.? Arsenal lost the middle of the pitch when he came in and a -2 "plus/minus" for Flamini says it all.

The other odd substitution was the late introduction of Reyes. I understand you're chasing the game, you put in a forward. But why not do it earlier? Barcelona took off the defensive-minded Olegur for the more attacking fullback, Beletti. Why not put Reyes in right away and keep Beletti honest, or exploit the space he leaves behind? I'm not saying that this would have prevented the second goal... but maybe Beletti doesn't find himself in Arsenal's box if he has to worry about Reyes.

What are your thoughts?

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:28 AM

    my thoughts are:

    http://fifaworldcupblog2006.blogspot.com/

    great site!

    and: upset that arsenal lost. don't like Barcelona - everyone bigs them up too much. The match was ruined when Lehman got sent off. The ref should have given a goal and let Lehman stay on the pitch. At least Lehmans CL clean sheet record is still intact for next season. It's also a pity that Almunia had to come on as a substitute. He is rubbish! A better keeper wouldn't have let in either of the goals that he let in. The one thing I cna say for him though is that he made a good save against Eto'o earlier in the match. Also, what really grinds my gears is that Arsenal didn't have any energy left for a fightback after they conceded the 2 goals. They did not even attempt to create a goal.

    Campbell scored a goal which is good for England and he did have quite a good match. Ashley Cole was alright, but Guily did get past him a few times.

    If you want more great opinions on football and the WC in the summer visit:

    http://fifaworldcupblog2006.blogspot.com/

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  2. The red card was unfortunate, but fair. Even the ref says he might ave yellowed him and let the goal in, but it was a bad foul and last man back.

    The credit goes to Barca - they are too good a team and with a man advantage, it was all a matter of time. That arsenal hung for 72 miuntes is a credit to them but they did not have the people or the strategy.

    The blame (such as it is) goes to wenger. you cannot defend for 45 against Barca a man down. It can;t be done. Too many options for barca as witnessed by three four and five men streaking into the box from different positions. Henry was screwaming for Eenger to provide a midfield link so he could get some service. Freddie ran his ass off trying to relieve pressure and was having some joy. Allow a third man to help make that run, and barca does not get as many chances and your defenders get a little more rest. Wenger may be great at finding young talent, but his handling of tactics has to be questioned.

    Lastly, how about props for Larsen. His last game for Barca and he makes both goals happen. Mule-boy was an afterthought in the second half - it was Henrik that made Barca champions.

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  3. Chris O.6:29 PM

    Note to Anonymous: can the spam.

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  4. Anonymous10:23 PM

    Arsenal's keeper's combined to lose the game...Lehman for being Lehman and Almunia for,well,being Almunia.....credit to the outfield though

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  5. Hard to get too upset at Lehmann...he didn't give up a single goal over the course of the Champions League (Almunia gave up all 4 that Arsenal conceded). Without his work vs. Villareal the Gunners would have been watching from home.

    As for Almunia, well, too bad we don't have a better back up.

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  6. secondorder1:53 PM

    From the Guardian: "The quirks of a referee's verdict also came to Arsenal's rescue. Their opener stemmed from a free-kick granted when Emmanuel Eboué's dive fooled Hauge. The correct response would have been a second caution of the night to send the full-back down the same path as Lehmann. As it was, Campbell got away from Oleguer to head home Henry's free-kick with power and direction in the 37th minute."

    Hmmmmmmm....

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  7. Excellent analysis. You offer many insights that I haven't seen elsewhere.

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