Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arsenal's Wenger bemoans Barca defeat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola didn't exactly see the same game. After Barcelona won the second leg of their UEFA Champions League series to advance to the quarterfinals, 4-3, on aggregate, Wenger suggested the Gunners would have won if Robin van Persie had not been sent off. Guardiola appreciated the argument but noted Arsenal failed to string "three or four passes" together.

Arsenal had just evened the second leg at 1-1 on Sergio Busquets' own goal when van Persie was given his second yellow card for time-wasting after kicking a ball on goal after referee Massimo Busacca's whistle blew.

"I just spoke to UEFA people," said Wenger. "They are shocked as well as it killed a promising, fantastic match. What for? If it's a bad tackle, OK, but frankly it is embarrassing."

After van Persie's dismissal, Barca pulled even in the series on a Xavi goal and went ahead minutes later on a Lionel Messi penalty kick.

"I felt Barca gave a lot in the first half. We were completely dominated, I agree with that," he added. "But in the second half we felt there was more space, I knew that like the first game we could come back into the game and overall I'm convinced we would have won this game."

Guardiola said he understood Wenger's argument.

"I have got sympathy because I love how this team [Arsenal] play," he said.

I agree with the fact that Arsenal wasn't helped by the decision to send off van Persie - it was already a daunting task to defend Barcelona with 11 men, and when sent down to 10, the floodgates opened even more.

Saying that, as Rafa Benitez famously once stated, "These are the facts":

A) Barcelona had dominated the opening period when the game was being played 11 v 11 - having a 70-30 edge in possession and held Arsenal without a shot.

B) Even at even numbers, the only chance that Arsenal were able to muster was an own goal by Sergio Busquets on a corner kick.

C) If van Persie hadn't received a yellow card for a silly foul in the first half, it certainly wouldn't have mattered if he was booked in the second half

D) It certainly seemed strange to book someone in that fashion - knowing that van Persie certainly had a case of not being able to hear the whistle wth 90,000+ fans screaming. Saying that, it is the laws of the game, and is not subjective based on who it is called against, what time in the match it is, or how many fans are watching.

Arsenal has to be able to draw positives from this UEFA Champions League match-up versus Barcelona, as they were able to defeat the best team in the world in the first leg. There are a number of items to build on as they press forward into the final stretch of the English Premier League.

In the end of the day, Arsenal losing to the brilliance of Messi and Xavi would have happened whether it was with 11 players or 10...

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