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Arsenal again played fantastically only to lose their fifth game in seven on Wednesday night. Though fans ruled out an overturn even before it became a topic of discussion, their performance highlighted everything right and wrong with them of late.
Here are the five things we learned from the inevitable defeat to Barcelona.
Addressing old issues: arresting attacks
Arsenal have lately been slated for being too nice to their opponents (barring Gabriel Paulista’s double-footed tackle on Troy Deeney), especially when they kick the ball out of play whilst their opponents fake an injury.
In the reverse fixture, fans lambasted Francis Coquelin for not bringing Neymar da Silva down in the buildup to Lionel Messi’s opener, but it appeared as though Arsene Wenger had instilled aggression in his personnel, as evinced by Alexis Sanchez’s challenge on Neymar on 49 minutes when it appeared the home side might capitalise on the space the visitors left at the back.
Old-school Wenger: he is staying
Body language says a lot about what goes on in a person’s mind, and Arsene Wenger’s arrogant – and spectacular – reaction to Mohamed Elneny’s equaliser speaks volumes about the intent and confidence of the manager.
Given his unorthodox celebration, it can be speculated that the French manager, who has not won the Premier League in twelve years, still feels he could guide his team to glory in the near future.
Despite his sacking or graceful stepping down being the talk of the town, he appears to be ready not just to see out his contract that runs until summer 2017 but also to win his four English title.
Money talks: Better team lost, but the better team won
Despite enjoying only 40% of the ball, Arsenal looked comfortable going forward and had 20 shots against arguably the best team in the world. However, only 15% of those efforts would force the Barcelona shot-stopper into a save, with Alexis, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi all missing from point-blank range.
Arsenal ran the show in Spain, but it took only three incredible moments from three world-class players to settle the tie. Though Iwobi and Welbeck gave many reasons to look forward to their Everton game this weekend, it was evident that the Gunners lack what it takes to be as dominant a team as the Invincibles.
Bipolar defence: Fantastic defending and awful mistakes
The Arsenal back four combined to make 21 interceptions as opposed to the weak tally of a measly eight in the reverse fixture and made seven fewer clearances, meaning they were at ease despite playing against the so-called MSN at the enemy’s territory.
They also attempted twice the number of tackles they had when the treble winners visited Emirates Stadium and put a dominance performance overall. Gabriel and Hector Bellerin closed down Neymar exceptionally whilst Laurent Koscielny offered little freedom to Messi.
However, all the good work was tarnished by the Arsenal skipper’s moment of madness when he stepped out his territory only for Luis Suarez and Neymar to combine for the opener. Despite their unquestionable prowess, their frequent and costly errors prove to be the hindrance to producing positive results.
Uninterested Ozil: Is he going?
Mesut Ozil splits fans when it comes to his attitude. Seconds away from the final whistle, Alexis had only a couple of Barcelona centrebacks and Marc-Andre ter Stegen to beat, but Ozil had a brilliant overlapping run and was in the perfect position to score Arsenal’s second.
The Chilean winger opted to have a crack at goal only to be blocked and Ozil did not seem impressed, to say the least. The former Real Madrid midfielder did not partake in the subsequent corner and did not feel the need to track back with the hosts launching a counter.
Arseblog also wrote that Ozil did not care to wave at the travelling fans, instead opting to walk towards the tunnel as soon as referee Sergei Karasev had blown the whistle. Ozil seems the least excited player on the pitch of late and world-class additions in the summer is imperative to prevent a downward spiral.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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