Friday 24 November 2017

Barca stars slam Arsenal's lack of 'joy and ambition'

Pete Jenson and Sam Wallace

BARCELONA last night condemned Arsenal for playing without "joy and ambition" in Tuesday's Champions League defeat at the Nou Camp and told Robin van Persie that the only injustice surrounding his dismissal was that it did not come sooner.

Xavi led the criticism of a team so often lauded as Barca's footballing cousins but last night accused of producing the same anti-football in the Nou Camp as Jose Mourinho's Internazionale last year.

"It surprised us that they did not play with more joy, more attacking flair," Xavi said. "They had a one-goal advantage and they set themselves up to protect it. The result was not a real reflection of the tie over two legs -- we dominated both games."

Former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano added: "It would have been unjust if they had gone through without having a single shot on goal. We won 3-1 but it could have been four or five.

"It seems as far as some people are concerned Barca never win because of football; it's always because of the referee."

Arsene Wenger's fury with the referee is likely to cost him after both he and Samir Nasri were yesterday charged by Uefa for using "inappropriate language" towards Massimo Busacca as tempers flared at the final whistle.

Barca's Dani Alves said Van Persie's red card was deserved. "He had already lost it in the first half with me. Things got very heated and in the second half the referee was just applying the rules," he said. "If he

blows the whistle and you still shoot then it is a card. He had to go.

"Even when Van Persie was on the pitch they had not tested our goalkeeper. Blaming the sending-off is an excuse. We were the only team creating chances."

Barca coach Pep Guardiola had said after the win: "Arsenal did not string three passes together," and his midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta accused Arsenal of letting football down with their performance.

Iniesta said: "They were defending with six players. Their plan was to play everyone at the back and yet they have the players to play a different kind of football."

Xavi added: "Over the two games the only thing that let us down was our finishing, everything else was spectacular. Arsenal hardly had a shot.

"(The sending-off) helped us dominate the game even more. But we were practically the same when it was 11 v 11."


Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets, pressed into emergency service at centre-back on Tuesday because of injuries, claimed that far from helping the home side, the referee favoured Arsenal.

"If we start analysing the referee then we should be the ones complaining," he said. "There was a penalty on Messi and there was also what Van Persie did to Alves. If anything should disappoint Arsenal, it is not the ref but how little ambition they showed. Why did they come here only to defend?"

No one was more distraught at the manner of Arsenal's exit than Cesc Fabregas. Both he and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who dislocated his finger, will miss this weekend's FA Cup tie with Manchester United.

"Fifteen minutes into the second half I felt a pinch at the back of the leg and I knew the game was over for me," Fabregas said.

Substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said that fatigue had a lot to do with Arsenal's defeat.

"Even at 3-1 we only needed one goal," he said. "But we were tired. Barcelona bossed us and we had players that were not able to run any more.

"And down to 10 men, well, it was double the effort. Barcelona are the best in the world and that's football." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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