Following Arsenal’s 2-0 loss at home to reigning European champions Barcelona, manager Arsene Wenger spoke to the media, and expressed his disappointment at the result and expressed how he rues his side’s lack of efficiency with the ball.
The Gunners were given arguably the hardest draw in the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League and for 70 minutes they had played well against a superior Barcelona. The Spanish side had been limited to very few chances and it looked as though the north Londoners were on their way to earning a positive result until one slip up allowed the deadly MSN to make their move and score the opener. Not long afterwards, Mathieu Flamini came on for Francis Coquelin – which was arguably the strangest decision of the match by Wenger – and not a minute later, the Frenchman had given away a penalty which ultimately sealed the Gunners’ fate when Lionel Messi slotted his second of the game.
Speaking afterwards, as reported by the club’s official website, the Frenchman was angry that his side made such a costly mistake leading the Barcelona’s first goal but had yet to speak to his players about the incident.
Of course I’m disappointed because we put a lot of energy into this game. I felt that we lost at the moment that we looked more capable of winning the game, and we also lost it in a way which we could not afford to give them. It’s a bit disappointing to give them the goals that we did, especially the first goal. I feel that we were extremely guilty and have no excuses for that goal.
I haven’t spoken to the players yet.
Wenger argued that despite Barcelona being the superior team, his side were more than capable of claiming a good result for themselves.
We were disciplined defensively but we knew that if we had to keep it at 0-0, we would keep it at 0-0. They are better than us, everybody knows that, but I think we could’ve won the game tonight if we kept the discipline until the end.
Once again, like against Monaco, exactly the same thing happened. We were caught in exactly the same way.
Arsenal missed a couple of good chances throughout the game to earn a win and Wenger was upset that his side weren’t able to adapt to the game in order to score any of their chances.
Barcelona master all aspects of the game. As soon as you’re in a bad position, one or two players can punish you. We had two or three opportunities to stop the first goal which we didn’t do because I don’t think we had the right response to the situation that our players faced.
The 66-year-old acknowledged that the two away goals that Barcelona scored were very tough to take for his team and admitted that his side did not make their own luck after being impatient in their build-up play and wasting several good chances.
Of course. When your players put in the energy that they have put in tonight, it’s very difficult to take because you want the players to be rewarded. We were impatient in the build-up, we lost balls that we usually don’t and that’s not because Barcelona forced us to do it, but just because we were not precise enough in our passing.
We had an unbelievable chance in the first half. The way we finished our chances today is a problem because I felt that we missed something in the final third.
When asked whether he would field a strong side in the away leg against Barcelona, the Frenchman remained cagey by suggesting that although his side will want to put up a fight, but are focused more on their next game.
Barcelona are certainly through, 95 per cent, but we want to go there and play. We are Arsenal Football Club and we will not go there to just have no chance. What we want is to focus on our next game.
It’s a shame that the players have not got any satisfaction tonight because energy-wise we put absolutely everything in.
Unsurprisingly, Wenger admitted that following the defeat, the atmosphere in the dressing room was not pleasant.
When you lose 2-0 at home in the Champions League then you don’t have a happy dressing room.
When asked whether Barcelona are the best team in the world, the Frenchman admitted that they were, but argued that they were exposed enough by his side to have lost the game had events gone differently.
It’s difficult to deny because they are world and European champions. I think they are. Our failure is that the chance was there to beat them tonight, that is the biggest regret I have. Sometimes you can lose against a team and you can do nothing about it, but tonight there was room to beat them.
Despite eventually losing 2-0, Wenger believes that his side had the confidence that they could win the game until late on and it was this belief that caused complacency at the back leading to Barcelona taking the lead.
Of course you’re frustrated when you lose the game and it’s always easy to identify the moment where you made the mistake. I feel that maybe we felt on the pitch that we could win the game and we lost our cautiousness to defend. What we knew was going to be vital for us was not to give them a counter-attack, that’s where they’re at their most dangerous.
When asked whether his side conceded after not following the game plan, Wenger responded by suggesting that his players followed his tactics exactly, but made individual errors which broke apart the plan.
The players didn’t give them a counter-attack on purpose. They want to defend it. It’s just that the first pass is not right, the first position is not right, you lose the ball when you don’t want to lose it and then suddenly you’re out of position and they take advantage of that. It’s not because the players do not want to respect the instructions, they were just caught by the pace of the game. It was an unexpected wrong pass or unexpected position of the first play.
It seemed at one point as though Gerard Pique earned a yellow card on purpose to be unavailable for the next fixture against the Gunners. Wenger did not say one way or the other on the matter and instead pointed out that the Barcelona players always make a point of going down loudly to attract the referee.
I don’t know. They are tricky. When they go down, they shout. They never go down silent. That influences the referee every single time. All of them do it, not one of them goes down without shouting.
For much of the match, Luis Enrique’s men were influencing the referee and his decision although Wenger argued that this wasn’t the deciding factor in his side losing the match.
I have to watch the game again. I didn’t look out for it. It’s like they provoke a reflex for the referee.
Honestly, from the bench I didn’t see it at all. I saw that he went down but did he touch it or not? I don’t know.
I felt so but let’s be honest, we haven’t lost the game because of the referee. We have to look at ourselves and analyse ourselves. Maybe he gave one or two fouls which were not fouls but overall he has had no major influence on the result of the game.
Despite Flamini having a negative impact after coming onto the pitch, Wenger had little to say about the Frenchman.
He warmed up.