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The tactics we can use against Barcelona, and what to wish for if it don’t work.

By Bulldog Drummond

We’ve said it before, but it is worth saying again.   Look at the Spanish league table.   The top four go into the Champs League, 5th and 6th go into Europa.

And what do you know – Sevilla in fifth are closer to relegation than they are to catching Barcelona.

Which tells you all you need to know – the Spanish league, with its still unbalanced TV deals and sponsorship streams, is an utterly warped three team league in the way that the Premier League is not.   Yes, the PL has its rich clubs, but it has Arsenal, Tottenham, Man C, Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool, all of whom have the pretensions, if not the track record, of getting and staying in the top four.  Six contenders, and we often get another side suddenly poking their noses in – Leicester this year, Everton recently.  You just don’t have the competition in Spain.

Thus in Spain there are no bets to be had on who will be in the top three.  We know before kick off.

# Team Pl W D L F A G.D. Pts
1 Barcelona 25 20 3 2 67 20 47 63
2 Atletico Madrid 25 17 4 4 35 11 24 55
3 Real Madrid 25 16 6 3 71 24 47 54
4 Villarreal 25 14 7 4 30 18 12 49
5 Sevilla 25 11 8 6 36 26 10 41
6 Celta Vigo 25 11 5 9 38 44 -6 38

The club may have been involved in the exploitation of children in a way that even the normally laissez-faire Fifa found distasteful.  Their playing staff may include a group of tax criminals.   But they win games.

Occasionally they draw 0-0, but mostly they win.

Of course the two clubs’ paths have been quite different since 2006 when we played each other in the final.   As Mr Wenger so clearly said, “The  difference is that Barcelona have spent much more money than we have, it’s as simple as that.  In 2006, it was already the case. They already had stars on the way up. And they bought Neymar. We could not have bought Neymar. Maybe today we can.”

He was of course too much of a gent to say that they have bent and broken the rules along the way, so there is that as well.   But £71m for Neymar, Luis Suarez for £75m.  Arsenal spent £390m on a stadium.

And so Barcelona have not lost since 3 October.   They score goals by the zillion – well 23 goals in the last seven games.

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So no chance?  That’s not right, for there’s always a chance.  The superstars are such superstars that they refuse to be dropped or rotated – it might harm their income and sponsorship deals. They had their winter break and now they play play play – 50% more games than Arsenal since the break and without any noticeable rotation.

Partly that’s because they never get injured which could be because of the protection they get from referees.  (My, we could have some fun doing ref reviews in the Spanish League!)

Against which, we could go for the 0-0 and nick the away goal in the return – that would be rather nice.  Certainly against Bayern Munich the game plan changed.  Maybe again.  But as Mr Wenger said, “In these big games, with the first tie at home, we can’t be stupid. Many times we’ve won away and conceded at home. We have to find a good balance.”

We know Mr W doesn’t like the away goals rule, for as he says, all it does is encourage home team defensiveness.  But he also said, “I cannot go into a game and think I will just play for a zero-zero. I don’t believe you can say you are a big club and just want to defend.

Thierry Henry said Arsenal would “probably only have 30 per cent possession and must be so efficient when they do get the ball.  They need everyone to put a shift in.   The whole team must defend more as a unit and the wingers must tuck in and play more in their own half.”

So defend, compact in the middle, simple passes, wait, wait, find space, counter attack like mad.   That should do it.


The line up is fairly obvious as I suggested in the last post…


Bellerin Mert Kos Monreal

Coquelin Ramsey

Theo or the Ox  Ozil  Alexis


To be honest, I am not expecting us to go through, and I’d sooner see our return to trophies continue with the domestic double this season.   Let’s enjoy the occasion, hope for the unexpected but if we don’t then make sure we win all the league and FA Cup matches between now and the end of the season.


  • 23 February 1913: Tottenham supported by Clapton Orient called for a meeting of the League Management Committee to prohibit Arsenal’s move north.  However the League reiterated their statement of 1910 that nothing in the rule book controlled where a club played its home games.
  • 23 February 1965: Joe Baker scored Arsenal’s 100th league goal against Tottenham in this 3-1 victory in front of 48,367.  Baker also got a second goal and Radford the other.

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20 comments to The tactics we can use against Barcelona, and what to wish for if it don’t work.

  • porter

    They need everyone to put a shift in. The whole team must defend more as a unit and the wingers must tuck in and play more in their own half.”

    Would suggest that Campbell is more suited than Theo or the Ox.

  • Wolfgang

    Wenger must change his usual attack at all costs.That
    would give Barca the room and time to smash goals past Cech.Having not been beaten for along time,its about time they get beaten by Arsenal. Why not.
    Sooner or later someone has to beat them.If Wenger wants to show he is among the top coaches,he shd play on the counter. By that he must go direct . Instead of side passing and retaining possession,let Welbeck/Walcott and Sanchez run with the ball.Make use of the through ball like some epl teams do.

  • Usama Zaka


    You have given me a fantastic idea. Ref reviews of big European clubs. Of course if we were to do that for every match, we would need at least 20 Walters, 20 Andrews, 20 Me, and around 2 Tonys ( I mention 2 Tonys because the second would be needed to handle the AAA versions of other clubs, haha 😀 )

    At this moment its just an idea. The idea is that ref reviews will be conducted of certain matches of big European clubs, for example

    Barca v R.Madrid
    R.Madrid v Atletico Madrid
    Barca v Atletico Madrid

    Bayern Munich v Dortmund
    Dortmund v Schalke

    Inter v Juventus
    Milan v Inter
    Juventus v Milan

    And so so. Also these reviews will be very difficult to conduct during an ongoing Arsenal season, because not everyone has the free time in the world. Walter, Tony and Andrew are busy people, including me (a little busy, not too much)

    The European reviews will be able to provide a lot of comparative refereeing analysis. For now lets just hope Arsenal play well and win against the utter corrupt of a club. Even if we dont, then the should team chin up and keep moving forward.

  • Pete

    Usama – would love to see comparative refereeing analysis of top continental vs top English referees. I would also love to see injury comparisons between PL and top European leagues.

    As for the team, preview has Theo or Ox wide right, Wolfgang suggests Campbell – but I would go for Welbeck. Should get 60 minutes out of him – but can then adjust depending on match situation?

  • Andy Mack

    Because La Liga is so unbalanced, the players don’t need to put the same effort in all games. If a league 1 team plays any PL team in the cup then they usually play out of their skin but we all know that if they played 2+ games every year, year after year, then they wouldn’t put in the same effort. That’s what happens in La Liga.
    Teams like :as Palmas, Levante, Gijon, Getafe etc etc really can’t consistently compete with the top 2 (plus whichever is the ‘form team from Ahletico, Sevilla or Valencia) and as soon as they let 1 in it’s game over as the refs won’t allow the big teams to lose without having it specially agreed by La Liga.

  • Andy Mack

    Pete, I would be ‘with you’ on DW but as him and OG are the 2 attackers with height, I’d be inclined not to have them both start ‘just in case’. Although the idea of having Theo, DW and Alexis rotating up front during a game would be interesting…

  • serge

    I don’t see this being different than in any of the other games we’ve played against them in recent times. Barca will have 70% possession and we will sit and hope to regain/steal the ball and break fast. We always get chances, but must put at least one away to give us some hope for the return leg. I would hate it to be match over by the time we go out there, and please no humiliating massive defeat.

  • proudkev


    You said: “If Wenger wants to show he is among the top coaches,he shd play on the counter. By that he must go direct . Instead of side passing and retaining possession,let Welbeck/Walcott and Sanchez run with the ball.Make use of the through ball like some epl teams do”.

    Hmm, Wenger is already a top, top coach I am sure he can handle the tactics!

    I take your point, we could pose problems on the break for Barca.

    However, defending too deep may be dangerous because once you hand the initiative to that Barcelona front line you are asking for trouble. You need a balance which wont be easy but I’m sure that is what we will see. We certainly have the players to break quickly against them and their weakness is defensively. Sanchez, Theo, Ox and Welbeck can stretch Barca and you may see Bellerin bombing forward too. Need Coquelin and perhaps Elneny forming a defensive shield to protect the back 4. But we can’t sit too deep or we wont be able to get out, they’ll just retain the ball.

    Unfortunately, the Champions League is a tough competition with teams like Bayern, Barca and Real Madrid dominating thanks to their superior resources and physically undemanding leagues. If you have Realistic expectations this is going to be a very tough game to win. However, we have the Manager and the team that can do this. We showed real desire and bottle to get out of the group, after every single person had written us off, so I beleive we can do this.

    What a night though, this is what being a supporter is all about. Anyone who can’t enjoy this should get a life or find another hobby.

    Could be one hell of a game. My heart says 4-1 Arsenal, my head 1-0.

  • JohnW

    I would play Giroud for 6o minutes, then introduce Welbeck at the same time sub Theo and inttroduce The Ox. But either way, I expect a tight match today. May be Suarez will score, but we will score too, then go to the Camp Nou and give them a scare

  • para

    It’s not about defending or attacking. If we defend deep, then we will get worn down quickly and will start making mistakes. If we attack a lot, then posibility of quick counters from Barca.

    The only way to upset Barca, is to keep them penned in. Closing off all ways to the Arsenal goal. Dont give them time on the ball, close them down without tackling them, but making them change direction, this is why Arsenal have to be a UNIT tonight, playing as ONE, midfield sweeping across the field like the tentacles of a giant squid ready to blow ink into Barca’s faces which ever direction they come from. They will get frustrated and make more mistakes.

    Arsenal must be SHARP and all those silly mistakes that comes from misconcentration must be out of the picture tonight.

    Don’t think Arsenal are not ready for Barca. Three times we faced them in CL because the TV want to finaly see a brilliant game of REAL football instead of the antics of the other teams, even those who profess to be Real(see what i did there?) and Arsenal will now have a plan for them this time, mark my words.

    A selection of Arsenal fans should be allowed to come at the end of the game to carry our players off to the changing rooms, they will be really tired because of the immense effort they will put in, and we want them to rest and not exert themselves one minute more after the end whistle blows.

  • jake

    , its as much about a plan as reacting everything needs to be fluid with an equal measure of both just find that balance but remember the child traffickers are equally adept as us at the same game i’m hoping for a fascinating game

  • Menace

    Child traffickers sponsored by UNICEF.. unbelievable.

  • upp

    I don’t see how bashing other leagues makes your team better. There have been many seasons in the past where at a point arsenal in 4th was closer being relegated than to being so I don’t see your point. Bayern according to you play in a one team league yet can comfortably dispatch arsenal 5-1, though they lost at the Emirates but that probably was because arsenal packed the bus. My point is, relocate barca, Madrid and bayern to the epl and they’ll probably still dominate and that’s because they’re serious about being the best and put their money where their mouth is. They don’t say they couldn’t find players to improve their team after a season where they came 3rd

  • John

    Well said upp but there aren’t any players out there that are better than arteta and flamini that is why we didn’t buy them.

  • upp

    And what’s this talk about untold only publishing facts, this article is awash with so much unsubstantiated assumptions. From their stars not agreeing to being rotated, to them not getting injured due to ref protection etc. Sounds like sour grapes

  • upp

    Lol @john. Sorry I forgot Lord wenger knows bestest

  • Menace

    John & upp how much have you got in your piggy banks? Youare whores who want to spend others money when you got f*ck all.

  • Mick

    Go and troll somewhere else.

  • upp

    Thanks @menace, I’m sure you got a truckload. I personally ain’t complaining, but I think it’s hypocrisy to say barca is better because they buy, when you got a stash of cash in the bank and can’t find a player to improve your 3rd placed team.
    Doesn’t untold have a policy on insults? Or calling someone a whore doesn’t count when you’re an akb?

  • Menace

    upp- the term was an adjective rather than an insult. It describes your use of other peoples money.