Arsenal take on Barcelona in Champions League round of 16 tie later tonight with odds massively stacked against the Gunners. Barcelona are playing their best football in recent seasons, and it seems impossible to contain the terrific trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
So how do Arsenal even begin to think of getting pass a Barcelona side, who do not know what is it like to be beaten? We take a look at five things Arsenal must do to beat Barcelona.
Cut Barcelona’s supply line – Ivan Rakitic
While Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are getting all the plaudits for scoring goal, it is Ivan Rakitic who pulls the strings from midfield to supply crucial balls for his attackers. Francis Coquelin will be the man responsible to mark Rakitic and ensure that the Serbian is not allowed to dominate the game like he has done in recent weeks.
Work hard off the ball
For a team like Arsenal, who like to have more of the possession will have to play in a different way tonight. Barcelona like to have more than 60% of the ball regardless of the team they play against. That is where Gunners need to do an impeccable job off the ball if they want to stand any chance of victory tonight.
Go long and attack second balls
Gunners won 8 out of their 10 aerial duels vs Leicester and with players like Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in their side, Arsenal need to win the first ball and bring runners in to the game. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey need to feed on the second balls and make something of it to ensure a positive result at Emirates.
Ramsey and Coquelin to have best game of the career
The only way Arsenal can hope to win this one is if their midfield duo Coquelin and Ramsey have a strong game tonight. In particular Ramsey needs to step up and be counted for. One thing the Welshman would need to do tonight – ‘cut off his attacking instincts’.
Ramsey’s defensive performance would allow Coquelin to go fearless in his tackles and ensure Barcelona do not dominate the game from midfield. Another aspect Ramsey-Coquelin duo will be asked to do is to find perfect balls to their forward running teammates.
Draw inspiration from Bayern game and rely on Counter-Attack
Two months back, Arsenal were given no chance to beat Bayern Munich in the group stages. The end results was a 2-0 win from Arsenal and it was the biggest reason for their survival in the competition.
Tonight’s game should not be any different than the Bayern game. Gunners need to stick to their counter-attacking style and hit Barcelona hard with the pace Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez. They have Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck as the surprise weapons, which needs to be used with caution.
Image credit: getty