Plenty has been written about Arsenal’s defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, not least by Gooner John Cross of the Daily Mirror. He describes the defeat as ‘yet another glorious failure’.
Arsenal lost 5-1 on aggregate. They never led over 180 minutes of the tie. They had fewer shots, fewer shots on target, fewer corners and 35% possession over the two legs. And Mathieu Flamini started at the Nou Camp. Failure? Yes. Glorious? No.
‘Arsenal simply could not live with them,’ writes Cross in his article. ‘That they could lose to Barcelona and still emerge with credit because they avoided a thrashing says much about the gulf in class between the two teams.
‘That was the most important part of all for Wenger who knew a crushing defeat would potentially shatter his men’s confidence and crush their season.’
Horse. Ship. Bolted. Sailed.
Left back in the changing room
One final word from Cross, who questions the decision to start Nacho Monreal in Spain. The left-back ‘got the nod despite [Kieran] Gibbs’ impressive recent form,’ says Cross in his match ratings.
Mediawatch is unsure whether Gibbs’ ‘impressive recent form’ extends to playing the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Watford. Or the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. Was it his performance in the 4-0 cup replay victory over Hull which stood out? Or how Gibbs ably sat on the bench against Swansea and Manchester United, and did not even make the squad to face Leicester in February?
On second thoughts, it’s probably the whole ‘being English’ thing which was so impressive.
A Messi state of affairs
Lionel Messi was pretty good on Wednesday. Luis Suarez and Neymar of the feared Barcelona triumvirate were better, but Messi was still impressive. The Argentinean scored one goal, attempted six shots – more than any other player – and had 83 touches, with only two players having more.
The newspapers were suitably impressed. John Cross lauded ‘magical Messi’ with his ‘wonderful tricks’. The Times labelled him an ‘omnipresent threat’. Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph describes the forward as a ‘wonderful force of nature’.
It’s the last example of praise which raises a few eyebrows. Not because Burt is wrong, but because a couple of inches below his article lies the match ratings from the Nou Camp. Luis Suarez is given a nine, and is a worthy man of the match. That is where the sensibility shudders to a halt.
Javier Mascherano is the only other Barcelona player to be rated an eight or higher. While the Spanish side has just two players rated eight or above, David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez are handed eights out of ten.
Arsenal receive two fives out of ten (Hector Bellerin and Mathieu Flamini); Barcelona receive only one fewer (Jeremy Mathieu). When the ratings for the 11 starters on each side are tallied up, Barcelona are granted a marking of 73 out of a possible 110. Arsenal’s players combine for a figure of 75.
But the best part is saved for Messi. The forward is rated a six out of ten. Seven Arsenal players score higher, including two of the defence which conceded three goals – one of which was scored by Messi. Just three of the 22 starters receive lower marks.
No other newspaper gives Messi a lower rating than any Arsenal player. Did the Telegraph’s ratings compiler witness the same 3-1 defeat everyone else did?
Face of God
Writes Matthew Dunn in the Daily Express: ‘Neymar’s ball picked out Messi six yards out, his touch, as ever, was immaculate. But somehow David Ospina palmed the ball over the bar when the Argentinean genius finally unleashed his shot.’
Does David Ospina have a hand on his face?
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) March 16, 2016
‘HERR RAGE’ screams the headline on the two-page spread in the Daily Mirror. Ander Herrera seems quite mild-mannered; what has angered him so?
Paul Scholes, according to David McDonnell. ‘Herrera hits back at Scholes and insists ‘proud’ United players have the ‘fight and desire to win,’ reads the sub headline. Well, this sounds great. What did the Spaniard have to say?
“We always fight, we always have the desire to win. Liverpool are in very good form, but you can never say that we don’t want to win or fight. Everyone has to respect us on that issue. We want to fight – always.”
Translation: F*** you, Paul Scholes. F*** you.
News… but not as you know it
It’s time for a look at The Metro’s website as of Thursday lunchtime. Delight in headlines such as:
‘Top club have decided to let big name striker leave for Liverpool’
* Otherwise known as ‘Mario Balotelli will return from a season-long loan at the end of the season’.
‘Confirmed: Incredible ex-Barcelona man says he wants Man Utd transfer’
* Otherwise known as ‘Keita Balde Diao wants to move to Manchester United’. That’s Keita Balde Diao of zero appearances for Barcelona, and an ‘incredible’ ten goals in 70 Serie A games.
‘Picture shows even Arsenal’s Facebook page don’t want Wenger as manager.’
* Otherwise known as ‘official account makes mistake’.
‘Manchester City want two men at a combined cost of over £80million to kick-start the Pep Guardiola revolution: Everton’s John Stones and Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte’ – Antony Kastrinakis, The Sun, March 6.
‘Manchester City are set to splash £80million to rebuild their defence, ready for Pep Guardiola to take over as their manager. City want to buy Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte and Everton’s John Stones to give Guardiola the long-term centre-back partnership he wants’ – Richard Tanner, Daily Express, March 17.
What’s 11 days between friends?
One in £3million
‘Palace legal battle costs Pulis £5million’ – Gary Jacob of The Times.
‘Tony Pulis has been hit by the Premier League for over £3.5million’ – Mitch Henry of The Sun.
‘Pulis ordered to pay £3.5million to Palace’ – The Guardian.
‘Pulis must pay back £2m bonus to Palace’ – Matt Lawton and Sami Mokbel (it takes two, baby) of the Daily Mail.
Tactic of the day
“Whatever we do, be better than them. As a striker, be better than that defender, same in midfield. Run, tackle, do it better than them’ – Jermain Defoe.
It just might work.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Stayton on Guangzhou Evergrande.
Owen Gibson on FIFA.
Charles Ducksbury on Luciano Spalletti.