It seems like a familiar narrative. Arsenal qualify out of the group stages full of hope and then are knocked out at the first real hurdle.
In fact, the last five seasons Arsenal have gone out at the same stage. The last 16. It almost seems like a curse.
Barcelona are table toppers in La Liga and are 9/4 favourites to lift the Champions League. If you feel spoilt for choice on UK betting sites then your best bet is Betway. Betway have Arsenal a super 6/4 to win the Premier League this year, and with the crucial win against Leicester, they just might do it.
Barcelona may be favourites, but with Arsenal possessing the best squad they’ve had since moving to the Emirates, can the Gunners break tradition and cause an upset against the high flying Catalan team?
If Arsenal are to stand a chance they need frustrate them. We’ve seen Arsenal beat Bayern Munich this season but on that night they could barely get the ball off the Germans. Arsenal rode their luck at times but stayed in good shape.
Wenger’s men need to press and starve Barcelona of chances. The problem is, can the Gunners do it for 90 minutes? Wenger cannot afford to let Luis Enrique’s side get into a rhythm. As soon as Arsenal are overrun, the game is over.
However, Wenger’s preparations normally focus on his own team but the Frenchman and his coaching staff need be working tirelessly to find areas to expose. Another embarrassment would not be acceptable.
To stand a chance of disrupting Barca’s deadly trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, Wenger needs to start with two holding midfielders.
They will need to provide coverage for players that will inevitably get sucked into one of the Spanish giant’s slick passing moves. At some point, an Arsenal defender will lose concentration and be out of position, but with two defensive midfielders, the destruction Barcelona will be able to cause, will be minimised.
Either Theo Walcott or Danny Welbeck needs to start alongside former Camp Nou man, Alexis Sanchez. Enrique’s men leave themselves open at times when they flood players forward to attack. With Arsenal likely to concede possession, they have a fantastic chance to hit Barca on the counter-attack.
The pace of Sanchez and either Walcott or Welbeck, can potentially cause problems and hit their open defence. Both Barcelona full backs almost act at wingers at times and if Arsenal’s speed merchants can exploit the vacated space, they may well create dangerous chances.
Arsenal have only ever beaten Barcelona once in their seven meetings, and it is absolutely paramount that the gunners do not roll over when they meet on Tuesday.
Last year, Arsenal lost 1-3 at home to Monaco which left them a mountain to climb in the second leg and were knocked out on away goals after a 0-2 in Monaco. It is important that history does not repeat itself.
They have to take an advantage into the second leg to stand a chance, as Barcelona are unbeaten at home this season and are playing an astonishing level of football.
When playing at their best, Arsenal came beat anyone, as seen with the win over Bayern Munich at home in October. However, they are also capable of a total collapse. In the same fixture away, Arsene’s men lost 5-1. The question is, which Arsenal will turn up?