Arsenal face European champions Barcelona on Tuesday night, so we sat down with renowned website Total Barca to get the inside track on the Spanish Giants.
1. So, Arsenal v Barcelona again, who do you think will come out on top? (On Tuesday and over the tie?)
Well to be frank, I feel quite confident Barça will win the tie. The first game however at Emirates Stadium is always a complicated one. Arsenal are a team that plays wonderful football and games like these get the best out of their players. So I expect a close game in London, but Luis Enrique’s men have a knack for ending ties in the first leg, so I’d be foolish to make a prediction on this one. All in all, I doubt Arsenal will be able to win the tie in Camp Nou.
2. Which Arsenal striker would you least like to face? Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott or Danny Welbeck?
Well, given the big names in Barça’s attack line, none of these three seem frightening to say the least. However, while Theo Walcott is the better player of the three, it’s actually Olivier Giroud whom I’d rather not face. Say what you will about the man, I personally do not enjoy watching him; but he does have a strong will to prove his doubters wrong – and what better game to demonstrate that with ex-Arsenal target Luis Suarez at the other end of the pitch?
3. If you had to let one of MSN go, who would it be? (And how much do you think we’d have to pay?!)
Letting one of them go? You’re killing me! It’s quite difficult to choose between them, they’re all spectacular. If I would give one up however, it would be Neymar. Even though I love the Brazilian, but Suarez has shown a side to his game that was so desperately needed in Barcelona, and selling Messi shouldn’t even be an argument.
4. We were pretty chilled when you bought Thomas Vermaelen, in retrospect do you think £15m was too much, has he been a disappointment?
Well, I wouldn’t say he was a disappointment, but I’d forever refuse to call it a bargain. Perhaps we overpaid for what he delivered so far, but the Belgian had suffered a whole year out on the sidelines and that’s why I wouldn’t necessarily judge him this soon.
5. You’ve beaten us a few times over two legs in recent years, and been widely regarded as the best team in the world on those occasions, but is this your strongest overall team we’ve faced, or just the strongest forward line?
Depends on what you mean by strength. To me, Pep’s Barça was more about dominating while Luis Enrique’s Barça’s more about lethalness. Pep’s Barça lacked the proper goalgetters to suit his system, but Luis Enrique’s Barça lacks almost no control of the game. We’re just not as obsessed with possession as we used to.
6. Javier Mascherano was in the press this week crediting a tackle on Nicklas Bendtner with saving his Barça career. That probably sums up how close some of our ties have been. Which of the recent meetings do you think you were the closest to losing?
The comeback in 2011, with Robin van Persie’s red card, was probably the closest recent encounter between the two teams. If not that, then definitely the final in 2006.
7. What worries you about the game (or at least evokes mild discomfort)?
Counter-attacks. Arsenal possess some of the quickest footballers on the planet, if our fullbacks are not on alert then we will get punished.
8. What would you say your achilles heel is?
Nothing. For the first time in a while, I feel like Barça is fully complete with no weaknesses. Some may doubt (Marc-André) ter Stegen, but those some would be dumb to do so.
9. Messi’s record against Petr Čech is somewhat miserable. Do you think that changes how he plays on Tuesday, weighs on his mind?
We’re talking about a man who’s won five Ballon d’Ors and countless of titles, I’m pretty sure nothing weighs on his mind (maybe a World Cup final). However, people need to understand that Messi’s so much more than scoring, he can run the game from down deep and let Neymar and Suárez do the scoring, or he can even take it as a challenge and end up scoring. But I doubt that that record would effect his performance.
10. Obviously one of the headlines this week is how you sold us Alexis, any regrets? How would he stack up to your forwards?
I loved Alexis, such a wonderful talent. It did upset me once we sold him, but when the news that your club just broke the bank for Luis Suarez come out only days after, that sadness was quickly fixed.
11. If you could take any Arsenal player, which would it be? (Who should we be wary of you tapping up this summer!)
Héctor Bellerín. While I don’t expect us to pursue him this summer, I do see him as the one rightful heir to Dani Alves.
12. Yes, having come through La Masia, there’s always speculation about Héctor Bellerín moving back to Spain. How big are the expectations that he will return at some stage?
He has the weight of a legend like Dani Alves to carry. It’s a massive expectation, and fullbacks must be top-notch in Barça’s system. I do see a future Barça with both Catalan fullbacks, Jordi Alba and Bellerín, but I give it 2-3 years.
13. Tuesday will see Arsene Wenger face a fourth Barça manager, do you think it’s better to chop and change like Barça do or have the continuity that Arsenal have enjoyed the last 20 years?
It’s quite complicated, Arsene Wenger is a type of manager that belongs to a dying breed. Perhaps it’s good for Arsenal to keep the stability when investments such as the Emirates stadium is going on, but for elite clubs like Barça fighting for trebles every season, change will always be beneficial.