Some cynics may look at how dominant Barcelona were and naively say 'well Barcelona would probably have scored again anyway even if van Persie hadn't been sent off' but that isn't the point, and nobody knows that, in fact I would have fancied us to go through. Barcelona had to score twice to win the game, in a game where they struggled to break down a very disciplined and organised Arsenal team throwing themselves everywhere to stop Barcelona from scoring. And Arsenal having 11 men on the pitch would have made it a lot harder for Barcelona to win. I'm very pleased with the way the team defended in the first half by the way.
The story of the bad parts of our season- the referee (or linesman in some cases) screwed Arsenal over. Not only is it worrying that Arsenal are being screwed over so much, but I also worry about how many times it is going to happen again this season. Will it ultimately cost us success this season? Only time will tell.
Lets cast our minds back to this particular case of robbery. Robin van Persie receives a ball over the top from Fabregas, flagged offside (the linesman out of his sight) and shot the ball wide of goal. Literally ONE second earlier, the referee had blown his whistle, the one that was impossible for a player to hear when surrounded by 90,000 or so fans shouting, whistling and blowing horns. He was then shown his second undeserved yellow card of the match. Disgrace. How can you be booked for that? The referee had probably made his made up after caving in to the Barcelona players' pressure that he was instantly going to book the next Arsenal player that showed the slightest possible hint of not rushing to do something or time waste. Referees that give in to pressure from players and the crowd should not be refereeing, particularly in such a big game. Because, you could tell he was under pressure from the ever- moaning Barcelona players (very Man Utd like) and the crowd as Barcelona wrongly claimed that Arsenal had time wasted once or twice already in the game, such as when Wilshere and Szczesny went down injured. And just like Phil Dowd at Newcastle, he gave in and couldn't wait to get on their good side by instantly punishing Arsenal players without hesitation, such as van Persie's first booking when he did absolutely nothing but Daniel Alves went rolling down on the floor as so many Barcelona players have done over the course of this tie.
I am going to acknowledge the Arsenal performance as well as I felt we defended very well, were disciplined, organised and our midfielders tracked back excellently especially Nasri. They threw their bodies in the way heroically, got back in numbers and showed great determination and steel. Players such as Messi, Villa and Iniesta were struggling to make their impact on the game and Barcelona were being forced out wide, which is where you should force them. Plus, Barcelona didn't get many sights at goal in the first half or create many chances. (I watched it up until 59 minutes and then watched the last 5 minutes as I was wound up by the referee and very edgy). Last note on the performance goes to Samir Nasri who did absolutely brilliantly to win the corner for the goal, great strength and skill to win the corner against a posse of
Just to finish, here is a list of the games where big decisions have gone against Arsenal. A couple are from games we either won or it didn't end up affecting the result but could have done, e.g. Man Utd away.
- Sunderland A- played on way too long after injury time
- Tottenham H- freekick before the penalty (obvious non freekick)
- Aston Villa A- their first goal offside
- Fulham H- Ref should have stopped the game due to Koscielny having a head injury
- Man Utd A- Their missed pen wasn't a pen
- Wigan A- Their first pen shouldn't have been and we had a penalty identical to the one Tottenham won at our place turned down in the last minute
- Ipswich away- blindingly obvious offside goal
- Everton home- massively blindingly obvious offside goal
- Newcastle away (see previous article)
- Sunderland home- offside and pen
- Barcelona away