Flamini was not the reason we lost the game
Flamini is coming under a lot of scrutiny for his contribution to our defeat at the hands of Messi and Co. Yes he conceded the penalty, and is an easy lightning rod for our frustration with the game as a whole.
When we analyse the situation further, it was actually Mertesacker who made the mistake that left Flamini with little choice – and we were already a goal down at this stage. Only the most optimistic of fans would say we looked like scoring an equalizer, let alone a winner.
He is not the world’s greatest defensive midfielder, but he has done incredibly during Coquelin’s absence. The bigger issue was him coming on in the first place – when chasing a goal, is an ageing defensive midfielder the best option?
Are Arsenal part of Europe’s elite?
Despite Arsenal’s recent resurgence in terms of spending and trophies, we are still off the pace when it comes to competing in Europe. We rank somewhere in the top three or four in the English league, but only just make the top ten in Europe – and that is being somewhat generous.
The fact that Barcelona’s three attacking players cost more than our entire team is a good indication of how our recent splurges are still relatively small when compared to European elite teams.
At the end of the day, we came up against a better team and lost. There is no shame in that, and as much as we would have liked an underdog victory, it was not meant to be. An upset, by definition, is unlikely – and beating Barcelona would have been an upset.
Big players failed to show up… again
Not for the first time this season, Arsenal’s big name players failed to perform on the big stage. The players’ mentality and ability to cope with pressure is often questioned – and this display underlines the validity of this argument.
Alexis is still struggling for form, and while he’s always a willing runner, his decision making and finishing is simply not there right now. He plays a high risk, high reward football, but when he’s constantly giving the ball away, it’s all risk with no reward.
Ozil wasn’t bad, but failed to influence the game as much we know he’s capable of doing. He’s the kind of player that goes largely unnoticed when things are coming together. His contribution is subtle, yet influential.
We are missing a game-changer, someone who can take the game by the scruff of the neck and make a difference by themselves. Alexis can be this player, but it seems that he is only capable of doing so in patches.
Scoring is a huge issue this season
For the last few seasons, it felt like we struggled to find the right balance in the team. We seem to be either excelling in attack or defense, but seldom both.
The addition of Petr Cech has ensured that we are no longer getting humiliated by our rivals. However, from an attacking standpoint, we have regressed significantly. Giroud is the only player showing any consistency in terms of scoring, and even he is missing a lot of chances.
Giroud will likely never be as prolific as Aguero or Kane, and even Wenger talked up his team’s ability to share the scoring burden. So far, this has not been the case, and too many players are simply not contributing in the final third.
Not signing an outfield player last summer was a huge gamble. The way things are going, we may look back on this as one of the reasons why we fell short of any silverware this season.
The only positive was our defensive display
On a positive note, we were defensively solid for 70 minutes against the best trio of attacking players in European football. It is incredibly hard to contain Barcelona to no shots on target for an entire half of a game.
I appreciate, however, that a game of football is not played over 70 minutes. As the team tired in the second half, mistakes started creeping in. Regardless of the final outcome, there is a great degree of positivity that can be taken from this defensive display.