Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have given managers nightmares this season, but Arsene Wenger’s confidence remains high as his Arsenal team prepares to face Barcelona in the Champions League last-16.
Despite watching his side fail to overcome Championship side Hull on Saturday, Wenger believes his team have never had a better opportunity of knocking out the Catalan giants.
According to the Frenchman, the Gunners must find a perfect balance between leaving 11 men behind the ball and surprising Barcelona by taking the game to them.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Wenger said, as per the Mirror: “It’s our best chance no matter how big the chance is. We have to take it and have a go at them. I believe in these big games, in the first tie at home, we can’t be stupid.”
The first leg will be played at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. It’s often seen as a negative to host the opening game of a two-legged tie due to the fear of conceding away goals, but the Arsenal boss isn’t deterred.
He continued: “Many times we’ve won away and at home we have conceded. We have to find a good balance between defending and attacking.”
That will be easier said that done. Barcelona cruised through the group stages, winning four of their six games and winning Group E by eight points.
In La Liga, Luis Enrique’s team have lost just two of 25 matches.
Meanwhile, Arsenal required a 3-0 win over Olympiakos in their final group game to advance to the last-16 on goal difference.
The 0-0 draw at home to Hull in the FA Cup won’t have filled Gunners’ fans with too much confidence, either. Instead, they will be looking to their league form as a main source of optimism.
Arsenal are in with their best shot of winning the Premier League for the first time in 12 years, a 2-1 win over Leicester in their last outing putting the Gunners within two points of the Foxes.
Club legend Thierry Henry explained in his column for The Sun how Wenger’s team can overcome Barcelona, the team he joined from the Gunners in 2007.
The former striker, a member of the Arsenal team that lost to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final. said: “They have to accept they will probably only have 30 per cent possession and must be so efficient when they do get the ball. The whole team must defend more as a unit and the wingers must tuck in and play more in their own half.
“You very rarely get the chance to play against Barcelona so you must be prepared to sacrifice parts of your attacking game, home and away.
“Arsenal must be brave on the ball. They need to stay compact, play on the counter and score every time they get in the penalty area.
“They can’t be exposed in the middle and must force Barcelona to run back 60 yards before they get the ball. If you allow them to stay in your half for wave after wave, it becomes almost impossible to defend.”
Wenger should perhaps heed Henry’s advice. He needs all the help he can get.