Over the past six seasons, Arsenal’s season has come to unravel in February and March with the Gunners faltering in the EPL chase and in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions.
This year has brought up the same challenge and the Gunners’ fans are asking if it will be possible to buck the trend of recent history.
The Gunners have totally been written off in this encounter against Barcelona. Let us tell ourselves the truth – what we are hoping to see or witness is how much damage the trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez will deliver to the Arsenal on Tuesday at the Emirates.
But having watched football for over two decades, I can understand this postulation and therein lies the beauty of football. The supposed underdog always has a chance against the ‘Goliath’ in as long as he prepares with the mindset of landing a deadly blow.
So here are five pointers to how Arsenal can defeat the best [arguably] football side in the world on current form.
The good thing about football is that no matter how highly rated your opponent, you still stand a chance in the 90 minutes and the lure of football is that once in a while, there is a fairy story.
I have therefore enunciated five ways through which Arsene Wenger can get the better of Luis Enrique in this last 16 clash.
Play to their greatest strength
Arsenal have a collection of very fast players and I believe that is their greatest strength. The three players supporting Danny Wellbeck on Tuesday should be Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez. And as they will say Wenger must find seven other players that will defend for this front four.
Deploy Flamini and Coquelin in defensive positions
I know many people will exclaim – Flamini? Yes, the rash Frenchman might not be the most technically gifted in this current Gunners’ crop but there is no other Arsenal player that has fire burning in his belly. He will not be afraid [even though he has to be told to curtail his aggressiveness] against the big names of Barcelona – rather he will be motivated and you can be sure that he will cover every blade on the Emirates pitch on Tuesday.
|Pass Accuracy [%]||84||87|
|Shot Accuracy [%]||59||48|
Play long – from back to front at every opportunity
Because of the way tBarcelona possess the ball and their harrying techniques, the safest and most valuable route to goal will be for long diagonals to the wings in search of Walcott and Sanchez. This ploy will quickly get Arsenal’s attack in the face of Gerard Pique and company. And from what we know of Barcelona, they do not like to defend as much s they like to attack.
Try and shackle Busquets
The main instigator for all the Barcelona attacks will be Sergio Busquets. If Arsenal can find one player in their ranks that will be judicious and disciplined in sticking close to the defensive midfielder than half of the work would have been done.
Pray that Barca have a bad day
Barcelona are firing an all cylinders at the moment as Messi, Neymar and Suarez are playing at the highest levels possible but for all their prowess, they are still human beings and not machines. They cannot be 100% effective 100% of the time. Wenger must pray that February 23 will be one of the days when they are not at their best and they have conceded at least one goal in their last four matches with unheralded Las Palmas been the last team to score against them.
Arsenal’s next five matches
|Feb.28||vs. Man. Utd||Away|
|Mar. 2||vs. Swansea||Home|
|Mar. 5||vs. Tottenham||Away|
|Mar. 8||vs. Hull City||Away|
This Barcelona is a start of five matches between now and March 8 that could determine Arsenal’s season. On Monday at the pre-match press conference, Wenger said, “No team is perfect.
“Barcelona are not far from it. We need to take our chances. Barcelona are super favourites, we need to raise the urgency level. Tomorrow [Tuesday] everybody is convinced we need to absolutely be totally focused to have a chance.”
Though it looks impossible and improbable, Arsenal have a chance to win if they take their chances.