Not playing Olivier Giroud against Barcelona was a wasted opportunity for Arsenal

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Arsenal are far from the first - nor the last - to put in a solid performance at the Camp Nou only to be brushed aside by an outstanding Barcelona side, but manager Arsene Wenger should view the clash as a missed opportunity.

Olivier Giroud, the Gunners' top scorer this season, was left on the bench and introduced as late as the 73rd minute. The Frenchman made very little impact as a result, but considering Arsenal's lack of commitments in other competitions, it's hard to understand why he wasn't started.

It's a talking point to have frustrated football fans for quite some time: fielding a weakened side to rest players for other key fixtures - but what other important games remain for the Gunners?


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They were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend, the Capital One Cup has come and gone and their Premier League title bid appears all but over unless they genuinely believe they can recover the 11-point deficit with nine games remaining.

Therefore, when it came to facing the great Barcelona and their fearsome trio, 'MSN', Arsenal should have fielded their strongest side possible.

It's great to see Wenger giving 19-year-old Nigeria international Alex Iwobi his opportunity, but on a night when the Gunners were handed a plethora of goalscoring opportunities, it was tough to watch the ball continually sail wide knowing there were options on the bench capable of finding the back of the net.

For all of Barca's attacking prowess, they never seemed overly comfortable at the back and allowed Arsenal to carve numerous chances that could - and should - have been put away.

The Catalans defend from the front by outscoring their opponents, yet Arsenal somewhat contained Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar for large periods of the game and should have taken advantage of their own openings.

As impossible a task it might sound, had Giroud started, Arsenal might have scored one or two of the chances they created and won the game. Mohamed Elneny emphatically took his in the 51st minute with an excellent curling strike, but Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Iwobi were all guilty of squandering goalscoring opportunities.

Ultimately, Wenger's decision to leave Giroud on the bench - even despite his poor recent form - may have cost Arsenal. A goal for the Frenchman would have come as a welcome boost of confidence too.

He'll be fresh to face Everton this weekend, of course, but a return to goalscoring form would only see the Gunners close the gap at the top to eight points with as many games remaining.

If, by some miracle, Arsenal do win the Premier League, then the decision to rest Giroud against Barcelona will be seen as a masterstroke, but even the club's fans have come to concede that the title is out of their reach.

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