Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are Barcelona becoming Arsenal?

The concept seems preposterous, especially coming from a Barcelona supporter. Yet after watching Arsenal's display at Stamford Bridge followed by Barcelona's draw at home to Mallorca, you could not help but notice some cringing similarities between the flag bearers of beautiful football. And whereas during the past few seasons you could characterize the North London side as a Barcelona "B team" of sorts - an identical style of play but just a class below the Catalan giants - the first six matches of the La Liga season have revealed that the "A team" may not warrant the pleasure of such a title.

Excessive passing, wasted opportunities, soft defending, conceding midfield possession, lack of desire and thrust, failing to finish off opponents. No, I am not bashing the Gooners but rather Barcelona. Each and every limitation has plagued the Spanish side all season. Over the weekend, Messi bagged another picturesque goal twenty minutes into the match, and it looked as though Mallorca would be put to the sword. But thirteen shots later, none of which finding the back of the net, Mallorca found an opening and equalized from a set piece.

Then the unthinkable happened. Barcelona looked timid and nervous in the face of adversity. The ball did not move as quickly and smoothly along the floor as it once did. Mallorca out-muscled and pressured Iniesta, Keita and Mascherano off the ball to gain an advantage in midfield and create chances of their own. When Barcelona did get the ball back, they passed and passed and passed, and got as far as their opponent's 18. They lacked creativity and ingenuity. Sound familiar Arsenal fans?

Injuries and depth also add kindle to this argument.  Eighty-one minutes into the match, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced Wilshere. At nineteen years old, it was only his 2nd appearance for the club as he entered such a massive derby.  Sixty-six minutes in, Thiago (19) replaced Seydou Keita to make his 4th ever appearance with the Barcelona's first team.  Twelve minutes later, Nolito replaced an injured Pedro to make his first debut with the club after a career on the B squad. These are the answers?!

Were it the Carling Cup or Copa Del Rey, you would understand such decisions by the manager. But this is Chelsea. This is a sub-par, debt laden Mallorca bossing the champs on their own turf. Fans expect quality in the ranks when the starters are injured, and these kids were all the teams could muster. Unfortunately, reality dictates that these teenagers, as gifted and promising as they may be, cannot replace seasoned professionals on teams fighting for trophies.

Barcelona sit in 4th position behind Valencia, Villareal, and Real Madrid. Arsenal sit 4th behind Chelsea, City, and United. Both have conceded more than the teams in front of them (Arsenal is tied with United at 9). Barcelona has scored less than any team in front of them. Even worse, they have dropped all their points at home and have been outscored in the process.

I am beginning to wonder if Arsenal should still aspire to match the level of Barcelona, because at the moment, you will be hard pressed to find a reason how that would be an improvement.

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