With our first leg against Barcelona under three weeks away, let’s have a look at how they’re getting on.
Ah, well, they’re pretty great. After winning the treble last season, they are well on course to retain their league title and make it back-to-back Copa Del Rey successes. I guess, right now, we’re standing in the way of them becoming the first team to ever win back-to-back trebles.
Wednesday night saw the absolute demolition of Gary Neville’s Valencia side, who gave us a great demonstration of how not to play at Camp Nou. Neville, who has failed in Spain, lined up with fullbacks on the wing as well as in defence.
Effectively fielding six defenders, it didn’t pay off. Barcelona led 2-0 within 12 minutes. By half-time it was 3-0, Valencia had 10 men and Neymar had missed a penalty.
Neville, who branded Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger “arrogant and naive” while working for Sky earlier this season, was asked if he was going to resign three times in the post match press conference. Maybe he never truly realised how easy it was to analyse on TV with no consequences – your ideas can’t be proven wrong, you can’t show how difficult it is to implement, you never affect any results.
Back to Barcelona, and they look absolutely unstoppable. The midfield, with an ageing Andres Iniesta and now in a post-Xavi era is more direct and less subtle. They’re still incredibly talented though, and it hardly matters what you put behind the front three of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez.
Messi grabbed a hat-trick on Tuesday night. Suárez scored the other four. Figuring out how to stop the three up front is nigh-on impossible, but that’s the task at hand for Arsenal.