The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 began this week, with both Barcelona and Arsenal digging themselves into a very deep hole for the second legs at home. Barcelona were defeated 4-0 at Paris Saint-Germain, while Bayern Munich dominated the Gunners in a 5-1 victory.
Why Champions League Results for Barcelona and Arsenal Feel Extremely Different
Each side must be able to overcome a four-goal aggregate advantage next month in the deciding match. With an objective view, Arsenal came out in slightly better shape thanks to Alexis Sanchez scoring a goal in the first half at the Allianz Arena.
However, few pundits or supporters in North London would take such a positive perspective after Wednesday evening’s match.
Effort and desire within the match
Both Arsenal and the Blaugrana were alarmingly sluggish in their respective matches, both in the attack and in their defensive discipline. Along with inspired performances from PSG and Bayern Munich, the encounters quickly turned in favour of the hosts.
But it was the manner in which the Gunners conceded the goals that made the loss feel even more emphatic than the events at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday. The match was 1-1 at half-time, but quickly unravelled for Arsenal amidst a blurry sequence of poor play and quality from Bayern Munich.
The fifth goal for the Bundesliga title-holders was particularly telling, as lost possession from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced an easy finish for Thomas Muller. While Barcelona were certainly not at their best in the French capital, the downward spiral within the match itself is concerning for Arsenal moving forward.
Four goals is a mountain to climb in the Champions League knockout rounds, but the attacking front-line of Barcelona should give optimistic supporters hope for the second leg in March.
Manger Luis Enrique can count on Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar at the top of the line-up to put immense pressure on the Paris Saint-Germain defence.
The same may not be able to be said for Arsenal. Alexis Sanchez has been in good form in the Premier League, but will need assistance in the final third to bring goals in the deciding match. Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi all did little to encourage confidence about a massive result at the Emirates Stadium against the Bavarians.
Both Barcelona and Arsenal have a difficult task in front of them, and could each find themselves eliminated from the competition. However, what they are capable of and who they are playing makes an important difference with an eye toward the Champions League quarter-final round.
Bayern Munich are one of the most talented squads on the planet, and rarely find themselves defeated by such a wide margin. Paris Saint-Germain are a quality side as well, but may find themselves overwhelmed by the moment and the talent at Barcelona.
A familiar foe and a familiar feeling struck Arsenal on Wednesday, while Barcelona were surprisingly hit by a club more prepared than they were on Tuesday. Both sides are facing elimination, but the Gunners have managed to hit rock-bottom in a more severe way.