We can be sure to be met with the usual spiel about ‘courageous’, ‘heroic’ Arsenal when they perform bravely at the Camp Nou in the return leg, but, it was, as ever, the same old story with Arsenal.
A big tie, a decent start, and ultimately, the Gunners failed dramatically as the world’s best side go into the second leg almost guaranteed to make it into the last 16. Wenger’s side seem to be constantly excused for faltering on the biggest stage, as shown by their record of constantly flopping in the last 16.
This is harsh, yes, but this performance, even against Barcelona, was just like same old Arsenal. People will praise the performance as a whole for its resilience, but the final result gives Arsenal as good as no chance of progressing. Lionel Messi scored his first past Petr Cech in the 71st minute, before sending the keeper the wrong way to go 2-0 up and the tie, from that point on, was as good as dead.
Lapses of concentration, inability to remain defensively disciplined or poor decision making in possession have been Arsenal problems for years and there are very few signs of them being addressed.
So, here we have it, the five things we learned as Arsenal guaranteed Champions League failure…
Olivier Giroud, as devilishly handsome as he is, let Arsenal down again tonight. Usually a staunch defender of the big man, he didn’t make the right decisions on several occasions and Arsenal must finally invest properly in a centre forward.
Danny Welbeck’s work-rate was respectable when he arrived, but Giroud, particularly with a misplaced through ball as Walcott ran inside, Giroud too often fails Arsenal on the biggest occasions.
Lionel Messi managed to score past Petr Cech and we can all rejoice at the end to those woeful jokes about some sort of conspiracy for the Argentine to never pass the big stopper.
The Argentine still hasn’t scored against Chelsea – so we aren’t completely spared – but the little wizard has got a rather pathetic, irrelevant monkey off his back.
Up until the first goal, Arsenal had named the magical front three. Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi were, apart from a Suarez first half header, quiet.
Other defences will be able to maintain that level of defence for a whole 90 minutes, but the real challenge will come when a side has to resist at that level at the Camp Nou.
Many fans questioned Ramsey’s inclusion in central midfield when the XIs came out, but the Welshman proved many wrong.
His performance showed a more disciplined side to his game as he reined in his attacking urges and kept his attacking nature under control. Perhaps fans will begin to trust the central midfielder more in future, but he proved he can apply himself defensively, even against the world’s best.
While Dani Alves continues to earn the plaudits, there doesn’t look like there is a better long-term replacement for the Brazil international than Hector Bellerin at the moment.
The Arsenal full-back provided a solid performance against the pace and skill of Neymar and could easily be on his way to Barcelona in the near future.