Arsenal suffered a 2-0 defeat in London Tuesday evening at the hands of an in-form Barcelona during the first leg of the Champions League round of 16. This was not a surprise result for most, although having watched how the game played out, things did not need to go the way they did for the Gunners.
Unsurprisingly, Barcelona dominated possession throughout the match, but this did not prevent Arsenal from having an array of good chances in the attacking third.
Arsene Wenger's side were quick on the counter and utilised the pace on the wings to attack down the flanks, creating a number of potential chances - most notably a close range shot from Aaron Ramsey which was directed straight into the hands of Marc-André ter Stegen.
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Despite these chances, Arsenal failed to find the back of the net -- no thanks to Olivier Giroud who missed a catalogue of chances and gave up a fantastic scoring opportunity with a wayward pass, failing to find Theo Walcott who was making an emphatic run into the box.
Subsequently, the French striker was subbed off late into the second half, giving way to Danny Welbeck with hopes that he could score a late goal in similar fashion to his last-minute header against Leicester City. No such luck.
Even though Giroud has scored a respectable number of goals this Premier League season, the Frenchman has been criticised for his rather wasteful nature. This has become even more evident this season with attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil setting him up time and time again, only to see the chance wasted by the front man.
Another Gunners player who was scrutinised after the defeat was defender Per Mertesacker. The German centre-back was partly responsible for Barcelona's second goal, failing to clear his lines inside their own penalty box, allowing a penalty to be conceded which was converted by Lionel Messi.
Mertesacker has been known to crumble under the pressure of important games, with this match appearing to be no different. The 31-year-old was benched during Germany's World Cup campaign, likely related to his inability to handle high-intensity matches.
Another criticism of the German player has been his lack of pace. Usually, he makes up for it with some good positioning, however, with the game becoming faster and faster as it has in recent years, many will come to question if his lack of speed will prove to be a bigger issue in years to come.
Both Giroud and Mertesacker have demonstrated some serious class from time to time, but most Gunners fans would agree they would prefer to have a consistent striker up front and a more solid defender in the back four.
Whether Wenger chooses to address this issue in the next transfer window however, is up for speculation.
Do you think that Giroud and Mertesacker should be replaced? Let us know in the comments below...
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