Sometimes you need to take things as they are. Sometimes you need to put things in context. Sometimes you need to accept things you cannot change (yet).
Last night’s four-nil defeat to Barcelona was very close to the reverse fixture yet so far away: the scoreline was similar, the game was very different.
It is hard to argue that you had a bad day when you lose four-nil at home but context is extremely important, in this case: we were playing arguably the best team on the planet and one of the best teams in recent history, a team that is setting new standards for the whole movement and looks destinate to dominate for another few years. Last night, you could see that Jona Eidevall did his homework and prepared the team to respond (or at least try to) to Barcelona’s intense pressing and clever movement, while in Spain we were simply blown away by their tactics and sharpness.
It would have been naive to expect anything else than a defeat from last night’s encounter but some of the tactical changes made by Jonas Eidevall helped keeping the game closer than it was in Barcelona. As mentioned by the head coach himself during the post-game press conference, we could keep a better shape, we were more organized defensively and more aware of what to expect, compared to the reverse fixture, when we couldn’t get near any Barcelona player. Numbers seem to confirm that, as we “only” conceded 20 shots to the 37 we conceded away from home.
Where we lacked, though, was at the other end of the pitch, as we couldn’t really test them often enough: Beth Mead had a good opportunity towards the end but Paños was quick to react and push the danger away with her foot. While defending against Barcelona is a very complicated mission, attacking is even more difficult because the players are so quick and aggressive in their counter-pressing that you cannot afford to take another second to think, let alone a third or fourth touch on the ball. Again, Jonas Eidevall had a better plan compared to the away game in Catalunya but the team isn’t quite ready yet to implement it: the head coach explained how this extreme aggression leaves spaces in behind that could be exploited, potentially, if the players are quick enough to move the ball from one side to the other. The problem here is that it requires a level of understanding that is close to telepathy, something that players can only achieve playing together over a long time.
Overall, Barcelona once again schooled us about how to play fast, incisive, aggressive football but at least we made things slightly more difficult for them, except for the first goal of the game – which we gave them.
If Barcelona is the benchmark for Arsenal’s ambitions, last night proved that we’re still far away from that but also showed that the coach knows what the right path is. If anything, this morning we wake up a couple of yards closer to the target, compared to last night. This is what improvement looks like: it’s not spectacular but it is there for everyone to see.
Next up is Leicester at home, on Sunday night, the perfect fixture to put the recent misery behind us and get back to winning ways, leaving Chelsea trailing behind. The Foxes lost every league game so far and only scored three goals in eight games, although the y kept it very tight against Everton (0-1) and Brighton (0-1).
I would like to conclude with a big round of applause for the twelve thousands supporters that made it to the Emirates Stadium and stayed behind the team throughout the game, regardless of the scoreline and the mismatch between the two teams on the field; as correctly pointed out by Tim Stillman on Twitter, the last time we played Barcelona at home it was at Meadow Park, in the afternoon, in front of 600 people.
This is improvement, too, far more impactful than anything happening on the pitch.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.