On the 6th of April at the Nou Camp, a little magician cast his spell over a spellbound crowd as he scored four goals to send his team through to the quarter finals in the Champions League. Lionel Messi didn’t play as well as he is capable of in the first leg, but was simply majestic in the second. Arsenal at the Nou Camp were severely under-strength, with five first-teamer’s out, can take consolation that one of the best footballing sides have gone through in their place. Arsenal are used to having praise lavished on them for their own brand of goonerlicious football, but this was football from angels, with a truly wonderful little Argentinian at the helm of it all. One of the best teams I personally have ever seen and they deserve every bit of praise they get. For Arsenal, it was a stark reminder at how much they have to improve. Like Fabregas says, “to be the best, you have to play the best”. They came across something special. If anything, that should inspire the Arsenal players to become better players. The gulf is apparent, between the two teams and the leagues as well. In Spain, Barcelona are second in La Liga and could go top with a draw or a win against Real Madrid. These two teams boast more world-class players than all the English teams combined.
This result shows Arsene Wenger was wrong not to strengthen in the January transfer window. Bendtnar is a good player, but he cannot do it on his own. They needed another player of his quality to come on. Eduardo unfortunately, is a victim of thuggery in football, and doesn’t look like he is recovering from the horrendous tackle two years ago. Van Persie has to be counted as a squad player, as he is unreliable. Almunia will be replaced in the summer, because he is not capable of playing at a high level. I propose a contract termination, as I cannot see any team actually paying for the Spaniard. In defense, I think two centre-backs will be needed, with Campbell out the door in the summer and Gallas never being fit for the business end of the season. A lot of work to do in the summer, but it’s still all to play for in the Premier league.
Manchester United went crashing out of the Champions League due to the away goals rule. They started blistering pace and were rewarded handsomely with three goals. Less then a minute later of going three up, the Croatian version of Wayne Rooney had given Bayern hope with an away goal. Ivica Olic is a strong, rugged striker that works the defender and had saved Bayern after them being second best in the first half.
It should be noted that Rafael is a young player, great going forward but is erratic to say the least when it comes to defending. He gets away with a lot of niggly fouls but surely he should not have reacted for his first yellow card. He has been with the squad for two years, and should’ve known better not to pull back Ribery right in front of the referee for the second yellow. As for Fergusons offensive “Typical Germans” response, there was a foul, and it warranted a yellow card. Manchester United have been surrounding the referee for years, and years. It was the correct decision, and all of a sudden the game changed. Fifty minutes on the clock, Rooney had to come off (not a shock he started the game) due to another knock to the ankle. I’ve heard Barcelona being accused of being a one-man team, but Manchester United have to hold their hands up. I suppose Nani is starting to look good, but the passes he receives contribute to that. Bayern grabbed the second, crucial away goal with a typical, effortless volley from Arjen Robben. A goal worthy to send them through such as was the case for Bayern verses Fiorentina. Bayern went through on away goals for the second time this season.
This is the problem. Liverpool didn’t make it past the group stages, with failure to buy in the summer, after selling Xabi Alonso. Chelsea and Arsenal didn’t strengthen either. Manchester United let Tevez and Ronaldo go and all four of these teams failed to recruit last summer. Finances will dominate reasons to why they all opted not to, but I think it was a case of all of them resting on their laurels. When Barcelona handed spankings out to Lyon and Bayern, they spent monumental amounts in recruiting. Players such as Lisandro, Bafetimbi Gomis, Mario Gómez, Arjen Robben all flocked to play for these clubs. They are now both in the semi’s. Like-wise with Barcelona, they spent big on Ibrahimovic to take them to the next level, as did Inter Milan. Real Madrid were the only big spenders to not get their reward, but could end up winning the league against a world-class Barcelona. For the first time since 2003, no English club is in the semi-finals of the Champions league, that has to be a worry, with the rest of Europe looking stronger.