Arsene Wenger was left to rue his sides poor finishing again after another mixed performance yielded little return from their Champions League exit (5-1 agg) at the hands of reigning champions Barcelona.
For decent periods of the fixture Arsenal looked promising and attacked with plenty of vim and vigor but failed to muster end product – such has been the narrative for most of this calendar year.
Alexis Sanchez, Mohamed Elneny and Danny Welbeck missed good opportunities to reduce the deficit and help the Gunners back into the tie after a disappointing 2-0 loss at Emirates a fortnight ago.
As they so often do, Barcelona netted quickly, efficiently pouncing on a misplaced pass from Laurent Koscielny inside Arsenal’s half with Neymar Jr providing the finish to extend their aggregate lead to three.
Elneny responded from outside the box in what was a very impressive performance from the Egypt interational, scoring his first Arsenal goal after an Alexis cutback, and Welbeck moments latter had a chance to bring the Gunners within touching distance of squaring up the tie but Javier Mascherano blocked diligently.
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A stunning finish from Luis Suarez and Leo Messi finished off the tie later on, proving how easily the Catalans can counter and finish off opponents.
Wenger reflected on his side’s performance and Luis Enrique’s expert team:
“It was a team performance and the quality was good. I’m disappointed with the result but we played against a team with the best strikers I have seen play together. It is exceptional, they can make chances from nothing,” he told reporters (via Arsenal.com)
“We could not take our chances to [find] a second goal that would put us in a strong position tonight but after they scored and it was 2-1, our belief was less than when it was 1-1. We had chances and Barcelona are an exceptional side.”
Wenger was asked if he felt any regrets after what seemed like a potential opportunity to make life difficult for Barcelona at both 0-1 and 1-1, in which he responded:
“We could have taken the dangerous situations we created.”
“Barcelona, going forward in the final third with the quality of passing and creativity, Messi was absolutely exceptional. He went for 90 minutes and came out of the game without missing a first touch, no matter where the ball came from.
“Barcelona have two or three players who can transform normal life into art.”
Arsenal, for all they worked, only have themselves to blame at the end of the day after some poor finishing and continued our inability to take chances during crucial periods of matches. Profligacy continues but the Gunners can take some merit in their performance where they really took the match to Barcelona and certainly caused them some problems.
Iwobi and Elneny were particularly energetic with Mesut Ozil doing his best to pull the strings but at times looked isolated in attack as Barcelona swarmed him. With a massive match on the horizon against Everton this Saturday, hopefully Wednesday night’s loss is not too damaging mentally and physically as we enter a crucial period in the Premier League title race.