Thursday, 17 February 2011

Still all to do for Arsenal

Well, it was quite a match. Not a classic in an 'all time' sense, maybe, but a game that had you constantly on the edge of your seat. In the English Premier League, Arsenal are a team who others often struggle to get near, playing a fluent and forward-thinking passing game, laced with moments of destructive dynamism.  At home to Barcelona in the Champions League, however, roles were reversed.

Barca dominated proceedings for large chunks of the game, taking the lead through David Villa on 26 minutes. The Gunners were tenacious, but even when they could get the ball (their opponents had 61% of play throughout) they struggled to find a way through. Then in an extraordinary spell in the second half, Arsene Wenger's men turned the game around, coming out 2-1 winners thanks to two pieces of considerable skill and creativity from Robin Van Persie and Andre Arshavin.

The response from the home fans was ecstatic. Recording a first-ever win over the Spanish/Catalan giants was like winning a cup final to them. Except that the Champions League final is still a good way away, and Barca remain firm favourites for the second leg at the Nou Camp. Tough but true. With an away goal in hand, they need only a single further one at home to go through. And with a pre-announced determination to attack remorselessly, it is difficult to see Pep Guardiola's team not getting at least one. That means Arsenal have to score. Their chances will lie in the space made available by Barcelona's need to regain the advantage.

Can the Gunners do it? If they do, will they be able to maintain the momentum beyond such a momentous achievement? There's all to play for on 8 March 2011.

Graphic courtesy and (c) of the Mirror

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