Have Arsenal finally come of age?

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Have Arsenal finally come of age?

They are still the underdogs going into the 8th march second leg at Camp Nou, but Arsene Wenger’s men can keep their heads high after a resilient display at the Emirates last night. Arsene Wenger labelled it a ‘special night’.

Indeed it was special, after being battered for the good part of the first half Arsenal came back strong in the early stages of the second. They showed real belief. This was something new to everyone who was watching the match.

We have seen this Arsenal side shrink under pressure and after going a goal down and outclassed by the far superior opposition in the first 45 minutes, winning the game 2-1 is a credit to this young Arsenal side.

Jack Wilshere deserves a mention here as the 19 year old put on an absolutely stunning display. He certainly outclassed all of the midfielders on the night (only Xavi has as good a game as him – which is not surprisingly one bit).

If Arsenal goes out of the UEFA Champions league on the 8th of March they can still walk with their heads held up high.  This Barcelona team is one of the greatest of all times. They have played at the highest level for a couple of years now.

For Arsenal it was Champions league debut for their goal keeper, Wojciech Szczesny, who produced an assured display. Jack Wilshere and others are far from experienced players to match the Barcelona players. Yet they matched them and showed great mental strength;
the mental strength which could not be associated with the Arsenal team since 2004.

Laurent Koscielny too deserves plenty of applause as he is only playing his second season in top flight football – the first being in France last season. He kept the likes of Messi and Villa in check for large parts for the game. Credit goes to Arsene Wenger
as well, who asked his fullbacks to tuck in a little bit to provide extra support to his two centre backs, as Barcelona had carved open them a couple of times in the first half.

Arsenal should now feel confident going into the second leg. Unlike last time when they were lucky to get a draw at home they played terrific football this time around and may be just deserved their win on the balance of the number of chances created.

This time they also won’t have either Mikael Silvestre or Armand Traore in their defence but in fact it is Barcelona who will be a bit worried about their back line. Gerard Pique picked up a silly yellow card, which now rules him out of the return leg. Carlos
Puyol is also unfit and Guardiola will have some thinking to do if his captain fails to recover in time.

Another positive for Wenger has been the maturity of Theo Walcott. So often criticised for being wasteful and clueless in the final third, the winger gave Maxwell a torrid time all night. He can again be extremely effective on the wide pitch at Camp Nou.

Arsenal knows that they can score against this dream team but every team needs a bit of luck. If Arsenal can get that on the 8th of March then who knows what surprise awaits all of us. It will be yet another special night of football but what
we learned from last night’s performance of the Arsene Wenger’s men was that they have come a long way off in the last 12 months. 

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