Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Arsenal have a right to feel robbed after Barca ref farce

Journalists and stats fans have been quick to point out the vast disparity between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.

Ok I admit nineteen shots to nil and 724 passes to 119 don’t exactly add weight to Arsene Wenger’s assertion that Arsenal would have won the game had Robin Van Persie not been harshly sent off.

But when is any side going to out-pass Barcelona? Even a side like Arsenal?

Those stats were always going to be in the Catalan club’s favour, just as they were against Inter Milan last April, when Jose Mourinho’s smothering tactics worked perfectly and perhaps uncovered Barca’s only weakness – their tendency to over-pass and lack of a killer instinct.

That may seem like a churlish thing to say about a side that has Lionel Messi and David Villa up front but across these two games against Arsenal – up to Van Persie's sending off - Barcelona were wasteful and allowed the Gunners to stay in a tie that they perhaps should have been out of.

The first 45 minutes on Tuesday went pretty much to plan for Arsenal, until a suicidal back heel from Cesc Fabregas on the edge of his own box allowed the ball to be played through to Messi – now a scourge on Arsenal – to put the home side ahead.

Previous to that though Barca had looked subdued and when Arsenal grabbed a fortuitous equaliser in the second half it was not beyond the realms of possibility that Wenger’s men could hang on.

That was until he referee intervened with one of the most ridiculous decisions I have ever seen. It showed a complete lack of common sense and, in my opinion, showed him to be susceptible to influence by the Barcelona players.

As talented as they are and for all the plaudits they rightly receive, their behaviour towards the referee is a disgrace.

Be it rolling around on the floor or surrounding the ref to demand a booking, Barca new every trick in the book. But such is the style of their attacking play it seems to be bypassed by the media – would the Arsenal players get away with such things back in England?

I can perhaps grudgingly agree that, over the two legs, Barca had the better of the play. But I go back to last April’s game with Inter again where it was the same story.

And to suggest Barca were always going to win anyway is also a misnomer given the balance of the tie when the ref intervened. The referee changed the course of the game and made Arsenal’s holding task impossible. And for that they have every right to feel aggrieved.

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