It’s OK, Arsenal fans. Your team won’t be beaten to a pulp by Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar because Arsene Wenger has devised a plan to neutralise Barcelona’s fearsome three.
That is according to Gunners defender Gabriel, who says the manager has come up with the “formula” to stop the ‘MSN’ partnership, which has combined to score 91 goals this season.
Arsenal take on the Catalan club in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 bout and few have given the north London team much of a chance to progress to the quarter-finals.
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But Gabriel, who is set to miss the game through a hamstring injury, has admitted Arsenal have a masterplan to stop Messi and co.
The Brazilian said, as per The Sun: “I know the formula to stop Messi, Neymar and Suarez. But it is locked under seven keys!
“I cannot reveal the formula. If I reveal it, I risk all the strategy the team has worked on. But it won’t be easy to stop them.”
Many are predicting Arsenal to sit back and hope to strike on the counter-attack, a plausible idea given the pace of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott on the wings.
But in order for that plan to work, they will have to prevent Barcelona from breaching their defensive line. And with Messi, Suarez and Neymar in such hot form, that will be easier said than done.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, who also represented the Spanish giants, highlighted the fact that Barcelona have talent all over the field, not just in attack.
The Frenchman wrote in his column for The Sun on Sunday: “You can’t try to man mark Leo and you can’t put two or three defenders on him because that just leaves more room for Suarez, Neymar, [Andres] Iniesta and [Arda] Turan to rip you apart.
“You have to stop Barcelona as a team. And for that to become possible, you need to have a perfect day and get very lucky.”
Indeed. Henry tweeted on Tuesday his desire to see Arsenal “make history” by beating their opponents and revealed the way in which they can get that done.
Defend as a unit
He continued in his column: “They have to accept they will probably only have 30 per cent possession and must be so efficient when they do get the ball. They need everyone to put a shift in. 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 their 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.
"They must make sure this tie is still alive when they go to the Nou Camp for the second leg next month, so even a 0-0 draw would be a reasonable result."
If Arsenal do record a shock win, Wenger should put his blueprint up for sale. There will be no shortage of suitors.
What is the formula to stopping Lionel Messi? Leave a comment below!
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