Catching My Breath: ARS/BARCA Thoughts

I have to admit to two frailties related to writing about soccer that likely separate me (and not in a good way) from those lucky enough to do this as their primary source of income.  First, I can't stay away from the internet/instant messaging/SMS/etc. during matches - they don't even have to be terribly important ones.  If I'd been trying, I couldn't have stayed away from Birmingham and Newcastle the other day just because I had two players on my fantasy team playing in the match.  Second, once I know the outcome of the match, I generally can't bring myself to watch it on TiVo/DVR later on.  This second part is particularly poor form as there is likely important insight I'm missing out on by not going back and seeing what is happening that doesn't show up in the statistics or the match report.  What young and on-the-rise player or players are playing better than reported or conversely, which players of strong reputation are fading faster than we expected (I'm looking at you Gerrard and Lampard). I'm not proud of these things but in a life where I have a day job, a wife, and occasionally a social life I have to make some hard choices and not watching matches on DVR is one of them.

I relay those failings so I can tell this story.  Yesterday afternoon, when Arsenal vs. Barca was on live, I had work commitments and couldn't watch live.  I followed parts of it via Twitter updates when I could but I wasn't even able to follow via a "textcast" stream which would be my usual fallback.  Since the game "sounded" amazing via Twitter I figured I'd better watch later on DVR just to see what everyone was so excited about and because, you know, ARSENAL CAME FROM BEHIND TO BEAT BARCA!  Fortunately, despite the apparent self-awareness stated in the first paragraph, I tend to DVR big matches in hopes that this will be the time I keep myself from the results.  Here's some thoughts from my view-after-the-fact:

  • Catch a Rising Star - Wilshere got all the immediate post-match plaudits and they were well deserved but they weren't the most important performances in the long run for Arsenal.  What were? 
  • Catch a Rising Star #2 - Djourou wasn't spectacular but before this season who would have bet that he could even hold his own against Barca's world class attackers.  He did.  When Arsenal got in trouble, it was predominantly the fault of Clichy and occasionally Eboue but rarely did Djourou look like he was at fault.  He was generally calm on the ball as well.
  • Catch a Rising Star #3 - Szczesny was very good.  Given that the big criticisms of Arsenal have been at the back and in the net, the fact that young players at both positions asserted themselves over the last month and confirmed those performances with strong work on one of the bigger stages they're every likely to see can be seen as nothing but positive for the club.
  • The Other Revelation - Koscielny was really good.  Certainly we were all pretty uncertain after his awkward tackle and subsequent red card against Liverpool on opening day and some other clumsy performances early in the season.  He is by no means Vidic or even as impressive as Luiz was on Monday but he looks to be a well-above-average CB which is pretty important given Arsenal's frailties at that position.  If Vermaelen can come back and Arsenal can rotate Verm, Kos, and Djourou in front of Szczesny then you have to think that the future looks pretty bright regardless of the rapidity of Wilshere's progress in midfield. 
  • The Gap - Now if only Gibbs would stay healthy and we could find out if he is a superior alternative to Clichy who seems like he's decided to skate by on pure physical ability (mostly speed).  It certainly doesn't feel like he's learned much "craft" since breaking into the first team.  I don't KNOW that Gibbs will be better but I'd sure like to see him with an extended stretch of play so I can develop more of an opinion on the topic.  
Oh, and as for watching the match on DVR, I'm not sure how this happened but despite the fact that I knew the outcome and when the goals were scored, my heart was STILL racing for the entire 90 minutes like I was watching it live.  Maybe I just didn't believe it had really happened.

In any event, we'll be back over the weekend as we find out what impact FA Cup matches and the inevitable injuries and suspensions will have on the next fantasy match week (or when we figure out something else interesting to write).


  1. Dead Leg United11:15 AM

    Clichy was horrible, and Eboue only slightly less so. Thank god it didn't cost them completely (though the away goal that Clichy fell asleep on certainly doesn't help).

  2. Anonymous11:35 AM

    Neil, I'm not in the least bit superstitious but since Arsenal won, when neither of us were watching, we owe it to the club not to watch the return match. ;~)

  3. "Oh, and as for watching the match on DVR, I'm not sure how this happened but despite the fact that I knew the outcome and when the goals were scored, my heart was STILL racing for the entire 90 minutes like I was watching it live. Maybe I just didn't believe it had really happened."

    I totally get this Neal. I can watch some of Spurs'/England's best wins and still get nervous beforehand/shivers down the spine as the events unfold, despite the fact I know exactly what's going to happen. It's what makes being a real football fan such a privilege - no other sport gets me like that.

  4. Being a Barcelona fan (first) and an Arsenal fan (second) made watching this game both exciting and disheartening simultaneously.

    On the one hand, Arsenal looked so good. On the other hand, Barca looked so shakey.

    The beautiful game was even more beautiful yesterday with two teams playing relatively open futbol. It was nice not seeing Arsenal or Barca play against teams that had 11 behind the ball.

  5. Also, I really look forward to seeing Vermaelen and Djourou partnership.

  6. Neal, Clichy (and I'm no Clichy fan)was not that bad. And I could have sworn it was Koscielny that just let Villa slip through the I'm not sure they were even trying to off-side trap. Also I must mention that it was a touch volley that sprung THE GOAl. I totally agree, that he has given up on securing an all-around technical game in defense. But I do think he has improved massively on the other half of the field. He does tend to limit the killer mistakes when he has Djourou next to him as opposed to Koscielny.

  7. I submit that Wenger should challenge his guys to play that brand of football. It was fantastic having to only see one mindless clearance.

  8. i am the opposite an huge arsenal fan and a big barcelon supporter. no love lost when arsenal players go to barca, it is infinitely better than going to real or inter.
    villa scored through kosc. channel, but it was clichy who kept him onside. clichy was not prepared in the first half. he didn't seem to take his defensive responsibilities too seriously. they kept putting the ball just inside and behind him and he never got to the ball first. in the second half, he came closer to djourou and the space disappeared. his chip to van persie was deliteful. would like to see both sagna and clichy doing that regularly and that will give the midfield much more space.

    to me the key was the substitutions and lack thereof. guardiola made a huge mistake taking out villa and replacing with keita this gave the defense a reprieve. taking out iniesta, late, for another defensive player is mindboggling. they were losing and didn't have any attacking reinforcements. wenger sent off song for arshavin, therefore giving the midfield to arsenal for the first time and later put in bendtner, who didn't hurt the team.

    my favorite battle by far was nasri and dani alves. nasri eventually got man of the match honers. dani alves should have had a few yellow cards.

  9. "Oh, and as for watching the match on DVR, I'm not sure how this happened but despite the fact that I knew the outcome and when the goals were scored, my heart was STILL racing for the entire 90 minutes like I was watching it live. Maybe I just didn't believe it had really happened."

    i can 1-up you on that...i re-watched all the Germany 06 World Cup matches months after the tournament ended, and in the England-Portugal penalty shoot-out, i was STILL hoping England could win that ^_^