Football

Gunners to erase bad Barca memories

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Arsene Wenger wants his Arsenal side to erase the distressing memories of last season and play without fear against Barcelona in their Champions League clash at the Emirates on Wednesday.

The Arsenal manager believes his team have learned from the beating handed out by the Spanish champions. The Gunners drew the first leg of their quarter final 2-2 but were totally outplayed by a Barcelona side, especially in a one-sided first half as they played out a 4-1 result with Lionel Messi scoring all four goals.

Wenger said: "I can't deny we showed them too much respect last season, especially in the first half of the first game."

That is something of an understatement. At times in that first match - in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice for the Spaniards with the Gunners replying through Theo Walcott and a Cesc Fabregas penalty - Arsenal appeared to be frozen with fear.

They could not handle a side playing the same fluent passing and moving game they adopt week in and week out in the Premier League.

Wenger, however, is not daunted by the prospect of again facing a Barcelona side, who have already defeated main rivals Real Madrid 5-0 this season in La Liga.

The Frenchman recognises Barca's quality but he also believes his own side have come of age.

"It's a disadvantage for them to play us as well," said Wenger. "We know from last season's games that what is most important is to play at our level. Barcelona are maybe better this season than last season but so are we. That will make the game even more interesting."

The problem for Wenger is bridging the gap in class and experience between two teams who play a similar style. Barcelona's passing patterns in the centre of the pitch, where Xavi and Andres Iniesta are supreme, are the result of years of fine-tuning.

Central defenders Gerard Pique, who has a tendency to dive into tackles, and Carles Puyol frequently swap sides during a match. Meanwhile full-back Daniel Alves forms a potent attacking force on the right while left-back Eric Abidal tends to be more conservative as the team keep sides guessing.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Arsenal
European News
Football
Gerard Pique
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Theo Walcott
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