Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Ballharambee: Wilshere and the Future of Arsenal
By Bagga Wilks
The Arsenal vs Barcelona clash on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 will be remembered as one of the more tactical games of the 2010-2011 season and certainly the most thrilling of the European Championship League this season. Arsenal certainly went into the match with a slight inferiority complex. Last season, their paths did cross and the first leg at the Emirates, London ended in a 2-2 draw. In the first encounter, the Barcelona coach, Guardiola stated that in the first half, it was the best 45 minutes of football he had ever seen Barcelona play.
Barcelona is recognized as the team that plays the most attractive football in the world and the best team in the world. Messi is recognized as the best player in the world and mid-fielders Iniesta and Xavi, two of the better mid-field players in the game. These players are ably assisted by full-back Dani Alves and Maxwell. David Villa is a great striker and coach Guardiola has sculptured a team that starves opponents of the ball and capable of attacking with great ferocity.
Even though Arsenal eked out a 2-2 draw in the first leg last season, in the return at Barcelona, Messi went on a rampage and scored four goals. In the second leg, Arsenal was outclassed.
This year, Arsenal fans were understandably somewhat apprehensive and the Barcelona brigade may have been mildly overconfident. The Arsenal coach felt that Arsenal was in better shape to lock horns with their rival this time around. Arsenal had the better of play for the first 10 minutes and then Barcelona found their passing groove and the Arsenal defense was not prepared for the waves of assault Arsenal two central defenders, Djourou and Koscielng, were caught square and flat-footed. One of these forays ended up with a Barcelona goal and another goal was disallowed. The first half ended with Arsenal in shock and in awe of Barcelona.
The second half of Arsenal’s defense made adjustments and cut down the passing lanes. Arsenal in mounting their own attacks exposed the vulnerability of Barcelona’s back four. Wilshere, playing in mid-field showed why he is considered Arsenal’s future and England’s hope. At the age of 19, Wilshere plays with great maturity and incredible dexterity. He receives the ball and spins and turns as deftly as anyone in the game.
The offensive aggregation of Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, Nasri and Van Persie is second to none. Arshavin replaced Song in the second half. Barcelona’s passing and control of the game went into a state of disarray. Van Persie thundered a ball at an impossible angle pass Valdes, the Barcelona goalkeeper and a few minutes later, Nasri completed a devastating run with a square ball to Arshavin who confidently struck it past the Barcelona goalkeeper.
In the second leg, Arsenal will march into the lion’s den in March to determine if the momentum of the second half can carry over into the Barcelona’s stadium. One can never discount the magic of Messi but the Arsenal players have shed their inferiority complex and psychologically, they will have the confidence that they have the firepower to pulverize Barcelona’s back four.
Cesc Fabregas, who made the Arsenal management aware that he is interested in returning to Barcelona at the beginning of this season, will obviously be convinced now that the thoroughbreds in Barcelona might have run their best races in yesteryear, and the great team in the making is Arsenal. He is the indispensable architect if Arsenal is to achieve greatness in the immediate future. Wilshere has benefited from playing with Fabregas but it will not be long before Fabregas will benefit from playing with Wilshere. Those talents will be on display in the pending second leg in Barcelona.