in

Barcelona & Arsenal return to the Champions League Quarter Finals 

Both Barcelona and Arsenal won their Round of 16 ties to reach the Quarter Finals of the Champions League after quite a long time. 

Barcelona straight-up dominated Napoli, winning 3-1 in the second leg of their round of 16 tie. Whereas Arsenal had to go all the way to the penalties to book their ticket to the Quarters. 

It’s been a while since both these teams reached this deep into the Champions League, so let’s look at what have they done right and where they stand in terms of the competition.  

A Historical Tuesday Night for Barcelona and Arsenal  

“Arsenal played their last UCL QF in 2010, meanwhile Barcelona will play one after 4 seasons, their biggest drought yet” ~ Muktesh

After 14 long years of exile, Arsenal is finally back in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. They last played in 2010, and now they’ll play again. How big a deal is this for a club like Arsenal? Massive, my friend, absolutely massive!

Barcelona, on the other hand, will play the quarterfinals after a 4-year drought, which is the longest they’ve ever gone without reaching this stage. 

Before this, the maximum they’d miss the quarterfinals was two consecutive seasons – that used to be their bare minimum, the epitome of failure. But now, this 4-year drought is their new low point.

What happened last night was well-deserved, though. People were saying Porto would take it to penalties again and Arsenal would bottle it, but they didn’t bottle it at all. Why? Because they didn’t deserve to bottle it. It’s such a big thing for Arsenal to be back in the quarterfinals after 14 years, you have no idea!

Barcelona Vs Napoli:- 

XAVI:- Credit where it’s due

Considering Barcelona’s transformation over the past two and a half years, it’s evident that no manager could have achieved these results. The challenges were multifaceted: limited resources, player dynamics, and conflicting visions. 

Other potential candidates would likely have faced similar constraints. Other than Xavi no one would have been able to this

When you criticize Xavi, you’ll have to give him credit too, especially for this game with the tools he had available. What a performance it was! Unreal, back-to-back, with injured players and no options on the bench. 

The striking option that was going well this season, Ferran Torres, was injured. Despite all that, he pulled off a quarterfinal qualification – it’s absolutely a big thing, a very big deal!

PAU CUBARSI :- A new teenage superstar

“PAU CUBARSI IS THE BEST SOLUTION TO BARCELONA’S PROBLEM OF A CDM” ~ Muktesh

Last night, Pau Cubarsi shone as a center-back in the Champions League. Barcelona faces challenges due to the absence of a specialized defensive midfielder. This affects how they move the ball forward, switch from defense to attack, and coordinate their midfield. A proficient defensive midfielder plays a crucial role, especially in influencing the team’s direct style of play

Pau Cubarsi excelled as a center-back in the recent Champions League match. 

Even though Ronald Araujo is improving immensely as a ball-playing center-back, Pau Cubarsi is doing it for a living. If there’s pressure coming from somewhere and all three options are marked, he’ll go and ping it into the space behind the pressing player, simple. Counter-attack, bypassing the entire midfield build-up. 

In an extraordinary moment, Fermin signaled for a run, and Cubarsi delivered an audacious pass. The center-back consistently demonstrated remarkable attention, vision, and anticipation, changing flanks and making the right choices throughout the game. 

Despite it being his debut, it was a masterclass performance. Barcelona’s victory against Napoli was well-deserved.

Gutsy Move by Xavi

“What Xavi did yesterday required balls of steel” ~Muktesh

I know people will say, “It was only mighty Napoli,” but individualism is a big thing in football, okay? I know football purists will deny this and say the manager is the biggest factor, and I get it. Napoli’s manager last year is gone, but individuality in football is huge.

Do you think Politano is an easy player to deal with? Why do you think Victor Osimhen, for whom bids of 150-200 million will be coming soon, is so highly rated? Do you think putting a 17-year-old Pau Cubarsi up against him is a sensible decision? No way! 

Xavi should be applauded for showing so much guts by putting a 17-year-old up against Victor Osimhen, who’s 17 years old himself. And Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who’s being offered 80 million bids? Xavi put the 17-year-old Cubarsi on him too. It’s an unreal thing that people won’t appreciate enough from Xavi.

LEWANDOWSKI:- A potential resurgence?

“If you criticize him for his bad performances you have to give him appreciation when he does his job” ~ Muktesh

LEWANDOWSKI, who’s had his fair share of grilling this season, but when he does good, I’ll praise him. When he does bad, I’ll say he’s doing bad. When he’s playing rubbish, I’ll say it. When he’s doing good, I’ll appreciate it, dude.

His awareness, his ability – for example, on Barcelona’s first goal, as soon as an underlapping player was released inside the box, the obvious thing would be to make a run. 

The first thing Lewandowski noticed was who was behind him. Okay, the ball has been put inside, what will I do? You’re showing me a player going in front, so you’ll put the ball inside, and I’ll make a run.

But the first thing he noticed was that there was a player behind him going inside. So he left the ball for Fermin Lopez to score the goal. Perfect from Lewandowski! I know people will say, “No, he’s not here,” but see what he can do at this age. So I’ll praise him when he does well.

The Chaotic Effective Wingers:-

Coming to Raphinha, those in-behind runs, we know he’s a chaotic footballer in wide areas. He’s a bit clumsy, but at the end of the day, he’s the most valuable player for Barcelona after Lamine Yamal.

And Lamine Yamal, what a player, to be honest! I won’t praise him too much after today, or my jinx will be on him. I’m telling you, if something happens to Lamine Yamal tomorrow, it’ll be my jinx. We all know what he can do – dribble past players like it’s nothing, those passes, those cutbacks, too good.

Arsenal Vs Porto:- 

ARTETA:- A proven manager?

“As of now, Arteta has mastered every segment of football apart from winning ” ~ Muktesh

In simple words, no, Arteta is not proven…yet. Arteta has not proven anything yet. Football is all about winning at the end, but the part of football that’s apart from winning, he’s mastered that. Winning comes with time, eventually. It’s like cooking before eating, I guess we can say he is cooking, so let him cook.

Arsenal is doing well. They play good football, have a positive team atmosphere, and have been in the title race for two consecutive Premier League seasons. Now, they’re in the Champions League quarterfinals. What’s next? Well, that’s up to them. But credit goes to their manager.

Arteta took charge with a clear vision. He wanted to change the club’s direction, and he did just that. Despite challenges, he built a project with money, players, and effort. His impact has been felt over the years.

The Arsenal Way:-

“The way you progress the ball defines a club’s playing identity on the field” ~ Muktesh

Progression matters not only off the field but also on it. When you move forward during a match, your style becomes your identity. If this consistent flow continues, even when opponents anticipate your moves, it’s a perfect system.

Imagine Odegaard with the ball. If you close in on him, don’t give him space. Otherwise, he’ll pass to a teammate running toward him. And if that teammate is Trossard, watch out – it’s dangerous for the opponent

You can’t give space to Saka either. If you give him space one-on-one inside, he’s going to beat you. He’ll put in a link-up pass, a through ball into the box – anywhere he can reach the player, he can do it.

Even when opponents know how and when they’ll progress, it’s tough to shut down their channels. Imagine covering an underlapping player, and suddenly the midfielder drops into that space. He’ll swiftly pass the ball to the striker. You can try to intervene, but he’ll react – putting Havertz through & the opponent player in danger.

This is Arsenal’s identity, and it’s not just in the Premier League – we see them week in, week out like this.

Declan Rice, That’s it

“If Arsenal achieves anything huge this season for me it’s coz of Declan Rice” ~ Muktesh

Declan Rice, once again. I’ve been saying from the beginning of the season – if Arsenal wins anything this season, for me, the biggest reason will be Declan Rice. Rice is the reason they’re conceding the least expected goals in Europe. 

He’s the best defensive midfielder in the world right now, trust me. I know many will say Rodri, but he’s playing for Man City, so you’ve got to account for that as well.

What Declan Rice is doing for this team is unreal. This Arsenal team can’t play without Declan Rice. I’ll say it outright – if Declan Rice is out for four games for Arsenal, I can say that the Premier League title is out of reach for them. You bet.

Props to Porto

“Porto despite having an inferior squad tackled this Arsenal site very well” ~ Muktesh

Porto did a great job tackling this Arsenal side. Everything was very difficult for Arsenal. Porto did a great job with that, but in the end, the game became result-oriented, and it came down to mentality. 

If you’re not scoring goals, then you’re not letting goals in. If you’re not even letting the opponent score goals, the game comes down to mentality, and this was the biggest flaw of Arsenal so far – mentality.

They haven’t won the Premier League yet. They struggled in the Europa League and the Champions League. They thought they’d be out of the Champions League. It’s not just about their football skills; it’s about their mindset.

Arteta, as a manager, lacks that winning mentality because he hasn’t won anything yet. But he’s trying to instill it. He wants them to believe they’re good enough, that they can win even on penalties. Maybe this is the start of something new. He’s working on that mindset.

Conclusion:-

Both Barcelona and Arsenal had successful nights in the Champions League on March 12th, 2024. Barcelona dominated their tie against Napoli, winning 3-1 and progressing comfortably to the quarterfinals. 

Arsenal’s victory was more dramatic, coming through a penalty shootout after a tense 1-0 win over Porto. This win marks a significant moment for Arsenal, reaching the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.

What do you think?

Written by Markaroni

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UEFA Champions League Quarter Final draw results and reactions

How Much Do Referees Get Paid in Football?