There was ample proof last night, as at Stamford Bridge in the last round, as to why the Premiership teams’ primacy in Europe has been exaggerated.
Despite the final result, Barcelona made a mockery of the comparisons between their style and Arsenal’s. One team has substance, the other a much-trumpeted philosophy that too often founders against the strongest sides. So it was again.
Arsene Wenger’s fatal flaw has been cruelly exposed this season. A man with admirably romantic ideals, he blindly commits to attack and pays little respect to the tactical side of the game that is often decisive at the highest level.
Arsenal played like a team that had expected to have a lot of the ball- an unforgivable folly against Barcelona- and seemed unaware of how to regain it. Barca, by contrast, pressed hungrily on those rare occasions that they were not in possession.
Overall, the impression one takes from their failure in the marquee encounters this season is that Arsenal are underdogs without a plan to suit that status. They want to be as good as Barcelona but lack the resources to surround Fabregas with players of the same quality.
When it has mattered most, they have looked feeble, dogged by an inferiority complex that only big results will dispel. When a side comes up against superior opposition, the path to victory must be shaped by pragmatism, but Wenger’s autocracy allows no such influence.
Inter Milan or Manchester United could yet find the formula to defeat this wonderful Barcelona team. Arsenal’s fortuitous comeback here ought to provide those two teams more assurance than it does Arsenal themselves, ahead of what could be a long night chasing shadows at the Nou Camp.
Odhran Harrison is the editor of Moral Courage