Two down, two to go – why Wenger needs to start looking back

By Avenell Dave

Are you proud to be an Arsenal fan this morning?

Are you disheartened, frustrated, angry with what went on in Barcelona last night?

I can tell you that I am on both counts. Arsenal defended for their lives and repelled all that Barca could throw at them until the madness of the referee spoilt the game.

Barca dominated the play and Pep Guardiola was correct when he said that we hardly strung three passes together.

But we have shown in games against the Catalonians that we get stronger as matches go on and we were starting to see more of the ball and getting some space as the second half wore on.

After the debacle of the referee against Sunderland and then last night, you have to wonder what we have done to have all this bad luck.

The referee last night has never officiated in a game where the Spanish side have lost (30 games, 27 wins and 3 draws) and the way he dished out cautions to our players and not to Barca’s in the first half was nothing short of a disgrace. We all know that RvP’s red card was the most cretinous decision in the history of football and hopefully the referee will realise he made a mistake, but don’t hold your breath for an apology.

I don’t honestly know what can be done about the woeful standard of refereeing this season. RedNose Fergie refuses to speak to the media because his comments have landed him in trouble, which is not the way to go about it, but the fact is, too many decisions are being adjudged incorrectly. It stinks.

As Inter Milan showed last season, it’s not how many passes you make that counts, it is whether you take your chances and whether the big decisions are given correctly by the officials.

I have no idea of the statistics but I suspect that Arsenal have the highest completed passing record in the entire country this season and yet, while we have done well domestically, we have won nothing.

Those of you who remember Parma in 1994 may recall that their star-studded side, while not a patch on Barca’s current team, battered us, but we held on for the win and lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup. To say that Barca dominated us and therefore we would still have lost the game when it was 1-1 and the sides were even is purely speculative.

What is more frustrating is that at one point Lionel Messi put the ball in the net after the whistle had been blown but was not even spoken to, while Eric Abidal grabbed RvP around the throat and similarly gained no admonition from the official.

Arsene Wenger always says that after a game is over, it is no longer relevant to look back – we must look forward.

But that denies the fact that we have to learn lessons and there were some trends that he needs to address – and fast.

Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky were nigh-on anonymous last night and have shown throughout the past two or three seasons that they don’t have what it takes to change games or influence them positively.

It would have been much better to have started with Andrey Arshavin or at least bring him on earlier, despite his defensive deficiencies. At least he would have given them something to worry about.

When Cesc Fabregas pulled his hamstring again after 15 minutes, he should have come off, which would have given us a more effective outlet (I suspect Samir Nasri would have dropped back with AA23 moving into attack). As it was, we carried him and he may now face an extended period on the sidelines.

Even though we have an international week coming up, I suspect Wenger will play the second string against M*nure and that will make it even more of a challenge to win the FA Cup game on Saturday.

Wenger needs to realise it’s madness to play injured players, however important they may be to the team.

And he needs to remind the players that, whatever happens on Saturday, there’s still a Premier league title to play for and whatever the media and the naysayers think about our season being over, it’s still up for grabs now!