Friday, March 19, 2010

Arsenal get Barca in one for the purists

This quarter final will be one for the purists and the neutral, as Arsenal drew Barcelona. I think I can speak for many Arsenal supporters when I say Barca and Man United were the 2 I wanted to avoid. While I look forward to the chance for revenge from 2 years ago, the thought of Lionel Messi against Sol Campbell scares the hell out of me.

Arsenal and Barcelona play very similar passing games, obviously, pressing games and formations. Both are regularly described as a 4-3-3, and while Arsenal's was, both, independently have switched from a 4-3-3 to what is more like a 4-2-4 type. Arsenal's 4-2-4 is better described as a 4-2-1-3, with Cesc Fabregas playing just off the main striker in a ponta da lanca role. Barcelona's 4-2-4 type formation is different. As pointed out in some excellent articles on Zonal Marking, Barcelona's 4-2-4, which is their plan B, comes from pushing Andres Iniesta higher up on the left wing, and moving Pedro over to the right, and pushing Messi inside. Thierry Henry plays as the centre forward, but drops off like a false nine.

Both formations allow for a playmaker behind the forward line, as Fabregas is given license to roam at Arsenal, while at Barcelona, with Pedro and Messi both on the right, Messi can roam in a similar position to Fabregas.

Defensive solidity will be the key for Arsenal; both sides are very good going forward, but Barcelona have only conceded 16 goals in La Liga this season while Arsenal have conceded 33 in the Premier League. If Barcelona score, they're more likely to hold on to a league than Arsenal, which is why keeping a clean sheet at home is crucial. If we don't concede at home, even in a 0-0, it would be more pressure for Barcelona because they know even a draw would see us through. So, for Arsenal there can be no defensive mishaps, otherwise the Champions League is surely over for another year.

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