A treat today on Fox, open, attacking football from two of the best in the game.
Arsenal vs. Barcelona did not disappoint in what is shaping up to be a doozy of a Champion’s League tournament. (Inter were 1-0 to the good against CSKA)
Quick question, how are everyone’s Champ’s League brackets doing?
Hopefully you’ve already caught some of the highlights. Arsenal, Barcelona at the Emirates today? A classic.
In case you missed it, Barca put on a clinic in the first half sending double digit shots in the direction of Manuel Almunia, but finding no joy.
For Arsenal, William Gallas and Andre Arshavin both were subbed out with injuries in the 1st half, while Cesc Fabregas picked up a yellow to rule him out of the return leg.
The 2nd half would tell a different, but no less exciting tale.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic notched two seemingly insurmountable goals for Barca.
His first right after the half whistle on a long lead pass and subsequent chip shot. His second a miscommunication in the back between Alex Song, now standing in for William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen who went up field to create the space to mark Lionel Messi.
It was a tactical move to introduce Theo Walcott that abruptly changed the tide for Arsenal. As Barca failed to adjust, Walcott bombed down the left flank, creating three scoring chances in a manner of minutes. The third hit pay dirt as as Walcott banged the ball lower left from deep inside the box to ignite the Arsenal crowd and energize his teammates.
In the 80th decade, Cesc Fabregas made ran on to a ball and appeared to go down easily on a touch from the late-recovering Carlos Puyol. Replays showed the Puyol did, in fact, impede the shooting leg of the Fabregas.
Some other bullets:
• Look no further than today’s game to see why Bob Bradley keeps forcing the issue with Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce on the left. Theo Walcott flat-out skinned the left flank of Barca today. As the half wore on, Arsenal consistently switched the ball to the right or switched to the left and back to the right to create space for Walcott who flew–that is the most accurate verb–by defenders consistently.
• Score it +1, -1 for Barca manager Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola made nothing less than a brilliant call in challenging the reshaped Arsenal central defense on the 2nd half whistle with a long ball over the top to a streaking Ibrahimovic. Despite contentions that Almunia misplayed–I saw some comments–Alex Song, playing out of position, failed to realize the threat and Manuel Almunia was left by his lonesome in a lose-lose decision.
Almunia choose to come out and force the 6’5” foward to play over the top of him, the Swede did you perfectly with a chip shot that rolled over the left half of the goal line. (After review, Almunia got caught in no man’s land. If he stays in the goal, he likely thwarts any shot with Song catching up to Ibra; if he comes out he needs to commit and he likely forces at worse a back pass. Poor play upon review.)
– 1 goes to Guardiola for not making a substitution early enough to change the game complexion or just slow a barreling Arsenal down after the Emirates made it 2-1. Arsenal got comfortable with their ball movement and who to attack. The lack of substitution essentially put or left Barca on the defensive.