Barcelona 2 Arsenal 1 – Match Report and Player Ratings

This was the last game of our preseason and we fielded a strong side comprising Leno, Chambers, AMN, Sokratis, Monreal, Willock, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Rapinoe, Aubameyang and Nelson. I expect to see a side with similar players for our opening game of the season. Every time I see Mesut and Mkitaryan in our lineup together I am so frustrated, we just can’t have two guys in the squad offering nothing to the team at the same time.

First Half

Barcelona got us underway. But it was arsenal having a good few minutes with Aubameyang being fouled early on, then Nelson feeding Aubameyang whose shot  went off for a corner. There was a tricky moment when Xhaka misplaced his pass giving the ball to Griezemann but he couldn’t capitalize.

Ozil finally got into the game and made a forward pass to Aubameyang who left the defender for dead with a gorgeous spin move and hammered it into the net making it 1 nil. That goal was totally against the run of play and Arsenal take the lead into the half.

Second Half

In the second half we made some substitutions bringing Guendouzi and Kolasinac on for Nelson and Monreal. At that point I wasn’t sure which formation Arsenal was playing.

Barcelona upped their pressing game making it hard for us to come out of our own half. Willock made and outstanding block to keep the score 1 nil. Xhaka decided he didn’t want to deal with the ball and gave it to Chambers who was quickly closed down and Arsenal were lucky again not to have conceded.

But then the inevitable happened AMN lost concentration yet again and passed the ball into his own net, how did he not see Leno wasn’t in goal? It was another case of a player not wanting to deal with the ball but simply just wanting to get rid of it 1-1.

Saka who came on late in the second half injected some energy into our attack and whipped a great ball into Aubameyang, but he couldn’t get on the end of it. Saka actually did more in that move than Mkitaryan did for the entire game. Substitutions were made and I am sure everyone saw Mustafi was coming on and just knew we were going to lose. Three minutes later Suarez had the ball in the back of the net 2-1 to win the Gamper Trophy.


Mkhitaryan and Ozil should never play together in my opinion they are too similar and offer nothing majority of the time they play. Mkhiryan kept leaving AMN exposed. On one occasion it seemed like he was trying to get out of the way for AMN to deal with the player and on another occasion Mkhitaryan literally just had to step over to block the advancing player but instead he made AMN run over to do the marking of the man he should have been covering.

AMN also leaves too much space. He is always tucking inside Chambers, I’m not sure if that how Emery wants him to defend. To me he  always has to expend extra energy to mark a player who is coming down the wings, especially since he wasn’t getting any help.

I would have liked Mesut to show his class in the second half. He should drop back to receive the ball when we are being pressed and create something with it. I am unsure as to why we were not pressing Barcelona, was it because Emery believed they are good at holding the ball and we would be out passed? but If our ultimate goal is to be a pressing side then we should do it regardless of the team we face.


Leno 5 – at fault for equaliser

Chambers 5 – partially to blame for winning goal

Sokratis 6 – solid game

AMN 5 – Didn’t look good for the goal and made some silly mistake

Monreal 5 – didn’t offer anything today

Xhaka 4.5 – is he really the best captain option we have

Wiilock 7.5 – another outstanding game … MOTM

Rapinoe 6 – would like to see him control the game when we are under pressure

Mkitaryan 4 – did nothing

Aubameyang 7 –  great goal, would also like to see him hold the ball up when under pressure

Nelson 6 – great showing, clearly Mkhitaryan should have been taken off instead of him



Saka  7 –  looked great as usually and think he should be given more time, impressed me more than Nelson

Ceballos 6 –  didn’t really notice him





37 Responses to Barcelona 2 Arsenal 1 – Match Report and Player Ratings

  1. LB says:

    Thanks Fred

    A very ‘tell it as it really was’ report.

  2. LB says:

    I think there are two ends of the AM-N stick that are being picked up at the same time.

    Is AM-N a natural RB? Well, he certainly isn’t selling himself as one that’s for sure.

    Is AM-N sloppy? After last night’s performance along with many other lapses in concentration it has to be said: if the cap fits.

    Should AM-N be deployed in the midfield? In my not so humble opinion, he is light years away from that.

    Has AM-N got a future at THOF? An unequivocal yes from me.

    Ooh, just thought of this.

    Should we blood younger players seemingly more suited to playing RB? This surely is not practical at this point in the preseason; there simply isn’t time. Last night was obviously a warm up to the Newcastle game, with Hector injured AM-N, while not perfect, is the best we have available and so play RB he will have to do.

  3. LBG says:

    Thanks Fred
    Shame Petit thinks he is such a knowledgeable individual regarding everyone else’s failings!! You went to play for the Chavs. Shut up for once!

  4. allezkev says:

    Another great report by our correspondent from the Islands, very much to the point, nice one Fred…

    I only saw brief highlights and they were mostly of Arsenal defending, but our goal was top top quality.

    We have 3 or 4 players who bring minimal effect to our team, who cannot deal with things when put under pressure, who regularly disappear when the going gets tough, who I suspect the club want to move on, but for whatever reasons we can’t shift them, so Emery has to use them and has to try to squeeze a bit more out of them.
    It’s all he can do…

    They will eventually leave and we’ll being able to move on and develop, but the youngsters give me a great feeling of anticipation about what they can achieve and that’s what is driving my enthusiasm for the forthcoming campaign…

  5. allezkev says:

    In the brief 10 minutes that I saw, I saw Willock showing the huge potential that that young lad has in spades, I know it’s unrealistic atm but he actually plays like the captain, give him a year and he may well be?

    He’s calm under pressure, he reads the game like a player 5 years older and defends as if it means something to him.
    I saw some good things from Reiss, that boy has a lot going for him and I hope that Emery will trust him enough to give him the opportunities he needs to supersede Mkhitarayan.

    To me, Mkhitarayan is playing as if he’s already winding down his career, he is a player who most Arsenal fans, I suspect, will quickly forget about when he eventually departs.

  6. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Fred. Not seen the game yet. Will wait till it pops up on free sports, but I can only comment based on reading between the lines of the comments of those that saw it.

    Again it sounds like that central spine of the team, from CD through defensive midfield, wasn’t tight enough or good enough. Although you are talking about 2 separate positions you can almost look at them as being linked in providing our central defensive resilience. It seems the resilience is rather absent, and Emery needs to desperately sort this out.

    Again it seems like Ozil went missing but again I wonder if the team formation and the players he was partnered with didn’t quite suit him. I am anticipating a massive step up in performance levels this season once he is playing behind the worlds greatest front 3, or else we really will have to sadly conclude he is a busted flush despite his sublime ability.

    The AMN reports worry me, and they worry me with regard to his longer term future at THOF, both in terms of how he is playing right now at FB and where he fits in if he is more suited to a different position or role.

    Looking at him in the FB role I really like AMN, and when he first stepped in at FB (on the left side I believe initially) he played really well. He actually played better then than he seems to be doing now and his positioning and 1-1 defending looked excellent, so much so that I actually commented at the time that he wouldn’t be beaten for pace and that he quietly stole the ball from opposition attackers. I even mentioned he looked a superior 1-1 defender than Bellerin.

    What has happened that he now seems to have more mistakes and sloppiness in him than before? I can only hope it is just a bit of pre-season rustiness and that he is just getting this out of his system at the right time.

    Looking at him in a different role I struggle to see where his long term future lies in a different position that we don’t already have better options in and better options coming through with our youngsters.

    I note LB’s opinion that he would not be ready to operate in the central midfield areas, and that assessment likely has merit but also possibly should give cause for concern. He is just turning 22 and could be considered a senior young player now with way more first team exposure than other young players. How long can we put down basic errors to his age that further development will eradicate.

    Is he an option in one of the CM roles? For that I look at LB’s comment. He has the athleticism to be great in one of the CM roles, but I am not sure about his reading of the game. I always see those players as having to have a superior 360 degree awareness of where all other players are, but I do wonder if he lacks that and is more a reactive player than controlling one.

    Wilshere, Cazorla and Fabregas had that great awareness of where everyone was around them so positioning and making the right decisions were easier for them.

    Can AMN become the great holding midfielder at the base we are still lacking? Can he become more a box to box player or attacking CM? I ask whether he looks a better prospect for those roles than Willock, Smith Rowe and Iwobi and I am far from certain that he will be above them in the CM pecking order over the next couple of years.

  7. LBG says:

    Agree with your assessment of A M-N at present and am disappointed that being forced to play in a right sided defensive or wing back position has stunted his development. Agree he would be challenged by Willock and Smith-Rowe for central midfield role currently. He will never be a deep holding midfield player and my additional concern is his wider perspective/vision of the game seems to be limited. He is a “reflex”player in my opinion perhaps without the “brain” required at top level.

  8. Goonerresponse says:

    This is incredibly negative review.
    – Xhaka was generally tidy.
    – Ozil had a decent first half.
    – ANM should have done better, but in reality, had a great first half. Terrible own goal, but Leno partially to blame.
    – Nelson showed class.
    – Guendouzi felt too frantic. NOTHING got passed
    – Moneal, the speedy and tricky dembele was always ushered to the corner – you can’t complain about that – he also picked the pocket of barca players in their own half.
    -Mkhi was pretty annoymous.
    – Cebellos – HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE HIM? He showed for the ball consistently. Held on to it. Was ploughed through a few times by barca players. Spread the ball well. What were you actually watching?

  9. Goonerresponse says:

    Thats “NOTHING got passed Monreal….”

  10. Rasp says:

    Hi Goonerresponse … and welcome.

    We are an open site that invites supporters to write articles … as you can see from the list in the sidebar, we’ve had quite a few!

    The views of the post reflect the opinion of the author on any given day, the site does not have an agenda or bias.

    I haven’t seen the game yet, but I’ve read other reviews that praise Ceballos.

    This is music to my ears because I have high hopes for him. I don’t suppose he can be another Santi Cazorla, but I’m hoping he will constantly show for the ball and have the sole intention of getting it forward quickly.

  11. RC78 says:

    I saw the highlights and the first half seemed quite good and the second half quite poor. I think Willock and Auba were our stand outs and the rest were OK to less than average. Miky was disappointing and so was Xhaka

  12. Rasp says:

    Xhaka needs to start reproducing the determination he exudes in interviews on the pitch. He’s often quick to fire off a fighting quote after a loss … ignoring the fact that he was one of those culpable for that loss.

    I really hope he isn’t made captain, but I fear he will. I’d rather give it to Laca. I know defenders and midfielders make the best captains, but Laca has more fight in his little toe than Xhaka.

  13. fred1266 says:

    I think AMN is still way better than iwobi by far and would prefer to see him in an advance position than iwobi

  14. fred1266 says:

    LBG what u think AMN as the Ramsey role or even taking mesut spot I think he would offer more as from the game he is great at attacking and although not good at defending as a defender but am sure he will be more aggressive in winning the ball back high up the pitch something ozil lacks

  15. fred1266 says:

    Goonerresponse u do know football is a game of to half so they have to be judged on the 2 halves

    And to be fair Barcelona didn’t play all that great first half

  16. allezkev says:

    Good to see Tyreece John Jules signing a new contract.

  17. Mike M says:

    Morning all. Honest assessment Fred. If that’s the way you see it, call it like that. Obviously you might get some who disagree and then we have a discussion. I watched a recording of the whole game. Making assessments of our individual players will be based on our team performance and with that comes the tactical decisions we make during the game. It’s important to acknowledge that because it definitely was a game of two halves as the old cliche goes. In the first we controlled the game. I have to say I thought everyone played well except Xhaka. You can judge him by comparison to Ozil, Miki or Willock but I judge him as an experienced international midfield captain of AFC and he was/is not good enough. One pass the gave away was just pathetic and I know Nelson did the exact same thing but one is a kid, the other our “experienced defensive midfield lynchpin”. Truly unacceptable. I hate being negative but this guy has the potential to single handedly scupper our season. Which leads me to Emery. What is he seeing that I don’t? I’m open to comments/criticism here because I don’t get it. In addition, he did it again in the 2nd half, moved Ozil out to defend our right and this time, Miki on the left. Why? Fred is absolutely correct they offer nothing together – Defensively. I thought both were good in the first half, Ozil’s pass for the goal was outstanding, no one else saw that it was on. Miki did ok but lacked end product. But in the 2nd, based on what they were asked to do, sure they were poor. What’s going on?
    Anyways. rant over. Willock was exceptional, AMN was exposed and the goal shows a worrying trend of lapses in concentration but overall he is our best option until Bellerin comes back. Monreal was good as were Chambers and Sok. Auba looks sharp and scored a fabulous goal. Nelson shows lots of promise and I like him.Leno is a great keeper and was unlucky on the goal as was AMN. Hard to make too much of that but it seems we continue to find new and interesting was to lose games. as fot the subs, Martinelli looks very lively and exciting. I thought Ceballos showed lots of class and clever touches but I was just praying a Barca player wouldn’t break his leg. Seemed like they were trying to. He’s going to be fun to watch. Saka also looks good and Kola was ok. I thought Guendouzi was very good(much better than Xhaka!!).Torreira didn’t have time to make and impression but in the interest of balance and fairness, the Barca player who found Suarez for the winner had an awful lot of time to pick the pass in the final third of the field.
    Roll on Geordies Excited but not expecting too much right now based on this pre season. Looks like we’ll play lots of pretty football but not get results.!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. LBG says:

    It was at the head of a midfield diamond that a I always thought would be AM-N’s best position. He is quick, so goes past slower opposition, has a trick/can dribble and, I agree, is more suited to the closing down “up front” role than pure defending. So for once Fred ( joke) agree with almost every word from your fingers!!
    Problem is as already outlined, I believe he has been “corrupted by insistence on playing him well out of of position AND, by being influenced by the careless/ care less attitude of some of the known waste of spaces around him. Hope he can be rejuvenated this season.

  19. Rasp says:

    Hi Mike … morning … afternoon here!

    I share your feelings about Xhaka. It’s not that everything he does is bad, more that he seldom does anything particularly good.

    We all love it when he scores from 30 yards twice a season, but other than that he is not inspiring to watch, and I suspect he’s not inspiring to his teammates

    He’s not a midfield general … nor does he conduct the orchestra … he sometimes behaves more like the bloke rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic … how’s that for a trio of lame analogies 🙂

  20. Mike M says:

    @ Rasp. Guess my post is gone but to re-iterate, I don’t understand what UE sees when he watches Xhaka and I wonder if anyone can help me with that !!!!

  21. Rasp says:

    @ Mike .. your post has gone? … did you send one?

    We have a post for tomorrow, but if you’d like to write an appraisal of GX be my guest!

  22. Mike M says:

    Not post, comment. I wrote one about the game in general.

  23. Rasp says:

    Sorry Mike, your comment was deleted in error … I’ve reinstated it.

    Mind you, it would be a good basis for a post if you feel inclined?

  24. Mike M says:

    @ Rasp. how about one on UE. I don’t know if you remember but early in the summer I said my assessment of UE would be based on what he does with Xhaka. I think his use of Xhaka and pre season decisions raise some interesting (and worrying !!!) questions so maybe I can write a bit on that? Let me know.

  25. fred1266 says:

  26. fred1266 says:

  27. Rasp says:

    Great idea Mike, was that an offer to pen a post or just a general suggestion?

  28. Mike M says:

    I’ll write what’s on my mind and send it to you tomorrow !!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Rasp says:

    Thanks Mike.

  30. Sue says:

    Jenko going to Forest??? If that goes through, we could have one very sad Fred on our hands!!

  31. Mike M says:

    And me!!! Jenko is a real Gooner !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Sue says:

    He’s been with us for what seems like an eternity, Mike, living the dream!

  33. Mike M says:

    Yep. I remember his first goal for us. I think like the 4th in a 4-0 win. By his reaction you’d have thought it was the winner in the CL Final !!!! Truly happy to play for us, wears his heart on his sleeve. If only he was a bit better technically. there are quite a few in our squad that could learn a lot from is attitude.

  34. Aaron says:

    Actually I am offended- no Mustafi rating???

    AMN, needs help on that side, and having Miki in front means no real pace or defensive instincts. The problem began when Emery changed out the players and everything went to nothingness in regards to shape or possession futbol.

    Actually thought Ceballos was playing well before Barca tried to injure the guy.

    Just leave Mustafi out, and go with others, that includes Medley, Nacho or another youngster on the left. I did not include Mavro as the guy is serially crocked, am talking about people that can play defense, are defenders or heaven forbid the Arsenal actually buy someone, until Holding and Bel can try and get their spots back. Yes, I said earn, not just automatic, have to prove in practice that they are up for it.

    Same goes for Xhaka, just leave the guy on the bench or play him against teams that do not press.

  35. fred1266 says:

    Jenkinson ent going a place,

    But still life so unfair if that happens mustafi stays and jenkinson goes madness

  36. fred1266 says:

    Mike the guy has arsenal sheets on the bed how there they get rid of a guy like that

  37. Rasp says:

    Morning all …

    … New post ….

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