Tuesday evening will see FC Barcelona visit the Emirates Stadium on the longest unbeaten run in the history of the club, but Arsène Wenger told the media on Monday that the Spanish giants are flawed.
“Our world is not perfect. No team is perfect,” said the Arsenal boss, before adding a caveat. “They are not far from it, Barcelona, I must say.”
They almost appeared to be perfect when they last played here, but Arsenal twice stood in their way in London. 2010 saw the teams draw 2-2, and Arsenal won a last 16 encounter the following season before heading out in the away leg.
Since then much has changed, with Pep Guardiola departing and a number of players moving on. The blows of losing Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez were absorbed by signing superstar forwards Neymar and Luis Suárez, who scored in last season’s Champions League final and helped Luis Enrique win the treble in his first season as manager.
“Certainly offensively they have top strikers,” Wenger confessed. “They look like they are less possession (based) than when we played them last time because they had a player in midfield like Xavi who had in every single game over 100 passes and he allowed them to always have possession.
“At the moment I think they have a team who can score at any moment, even when they are dominated they are still very dangerous.
“They have less possession but they are maybe quicker in transition.”
That’s what makes them so dangerous. No matter what the situation, even when playing quickly, Guardiola’s side look to formulate an attack before executing it. This current Barça team, however, flies forward at break neck speed whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Getting the ball on Tuesday won’t be as much of an issue for Arsenal as it was in 2010 and 2011, but being aware of what Barcelona could do if you play just one sloppy pass really could influence our players. Striking the balance between being careful and taking risks is tough, but something the Gunners will have to master to have any success against the visitors.