Arsene Wenger doesn’t say a lot of sensible things these days but the Arsenal manager made a profound statement after Barcelona knocked his team out of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t say a lot of sensible things these days but the Arsenal manager made a profound statement after Barcelona knocked his team out of the Champions League on Wednesday. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on target as Barcelona crushed Arsenal 3-1 in the second leg of the last 16 for an aggregate score of 5-1. “You must, in our sport, admire art — and Barcelona have two or three players who transform normal life into art,” Wenger said after getting yet another master class from the Catalan club in Europe’s blue ribbon event.
As a Frenchman, Wenger can talk about art and he couldn’t have captured the excellence of Messi, Suarez and Neymar more succinctly. The goals MSN scored on Wednesday were indeed work of art. Wenger rightly touched upon the subject of first touch. “The quality and accuracy of Barcelona’s passing and creativity in the final third, especially Messi, is exceptional. Over the whole game he didn’t miss one first touch,” the Arsenal manager said.
Neymar’s equaliser epitomised the importance of first touch. After receiving a defence-splitting pass from Suarez just outside the box, the Brazilian got a step ahead of a chasing defender with a sublime first touch, which also enabled him to pick up his spot in goal. Neymar owed the goal more to his first touch than to his finish. There isn’t a great player whose first touch is ordinary. Suarez didn’t even need a second touch when he put Barcelona ahead. The Uruguayan almost punched a hole in the net with a side volley of power and precision. Messi completed the rout of Arsenal, who have long been poor imitators of Barcelona’s passing style, with a magnificent chip. It was goal number 37 for the Argentine in 37 matches for Barca this season and he also has 15 assists to his name. Neymar and Suarez are equally adept at setting up goals. The trio have it in them to help each other without a semblance of ego. That’s what makes Barcelona the unbeatable team that they are now.
Numbers don’t lie. The three players have scored 106 goals this season as Barcelona are in line to retain the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Messi has said there is more to the Spanish champions than three players. He is partially true as Andres Iniesta can walk into any team in the world. Messi must, however, admit that Barcelona’s current forward line is the greatest of all time. No club or international team ever boasted such a lethal trio up front. No other forward line combined silk and steel like Messi and Co. A comparison with any other group is as futile as it is unnecessary.
Suarez, who doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for his skill, has transformed Barcelona into a different beast, a beast whose hunger is insatiable. Let’s all enjoy the spectacle as long as it lasts.