Arsène Wenger

No ‘anti-Messi’ plan

Arsene Wenger

View photo


Everybody at the club is looking forward to playing Barcelona at the Camp Nou - we are a bit excited.

We have to finish the job we started in London because you only get one opportunity to qualify, and we are full of hope.

However, we have to be concerned because Barcelona caused us enough trouble at home, so we can expect it to be even more difficult on their turf.

How well we are able to handle wave after wave of their attacks and express ourselves when we win possession will decide this tie. We will need a bit of luck, a lot of courage and, most of all, to be bold.

If we are able to end the match with the score the same as when we started it then that would be fine by me!

Lionel Messi is a player who is so hard to work out because he plays as a forward but he is not often in that position on the pitch. He gave us a lot of trouble before the game because he helps give Barca a numerical advantage in midfield. Your defenders have to come up to follow him but that creates a gap at the back - either that or they stay back and you are outnumbered in the middle. So, you have always to solve this mathematical problem.

In the first leg we attempted to block him when he was running with the ball but mostly we tried to disrupt the rhythm of the whole team getting our lines closer and trying to intercept their passes.

That was very tough because David Villa gives them an additional strength. He lets them play and focuses on his runs behind the defence. His timing is excellent. He is always close to being offside and, as we try to play higher with our back four, we were sometimes exposed.

Messi is able to dribble at high speed and deliver in an instant a pass that you can't forecast. The timing from his pass is very hard to guess, so the defenders are always caught in two minds: "Should we come up or stay back?"  It is too complicated to read his passes.

Anyway, this season Messi has already managed to score 40 goals and create around half as many again and we are only in February, so if there is such a thing as an 'anti-Messi plan', someone else would have found it by now.

Every player can play a big role and make the difference in a match such as this, when you have to give everything, but you must remain calm.

We must retain faith in our values. We have to keep confident in sticking to our usual game and, above all, express our willingness to play. Without that, we won't play well.

I think it is important that people know you are not forced to play negatively against Barca and you can also beat them whilst playing yourself.

Last year, Cesc Fabregas didn't play the second leg in Barcelona because he broke his fibula late on in the first leg. This time I think he is going to play and I would prefer to have him there with us anyway. At half-time in the first leg, when we were 1-0 down, he spoke to the players in the dressing room, telling them to keep believing.

It would be surprising if Pep Guardiola could not be at the game because of his hurt back. Nowadays you can often be out of hospital the evening after having the surgery.

To be honest I would rather it were a Barcelona player who could not be there than Guardiola! I think he will be there, and we will face Barca at their best.

View comments (0)