Arsenal are beaten by Barcelona again: What needs to change?
By Adam Bate
Last Updated: 24/02/16 5:19pm
Arsenal's 2-0 defeat to Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday puts Arsene Wenger's team on the brink of a sixth successive last-16 exit from the Champions League.
While there is no shame in falling to the European champions - and, in particular, a Lionel Messi double - the repetitive nature of the disappointment is a source of frustration for fans.
So what needs to change for the Gunners to break the cycle in a positive way? Here, we take a look at 10 steps that would surely make their task easier…
Win the league
Given that Arsenal have reached a Champions League final more recently than they have won the Premier League title, this isn't the easiest issue to address but it would aid their hopes of making progression in the competition more straightforward. The Gunners could not have been drawn against Bayern Munich in Group F had they been champions.
Sort the seeding
Clearly, Arsenal's problems now begin before the draw. While there are dangerous sides in every pot, as long as Wenger's men come up short domestically, they run the risk of drawing champions from elsewhere on the continent. The Gunners got Bayern but they could also have faced Barcelona in the group stage.
Beat the rest too
No matter which of Europe's big guns that Arsenal must face, they'll continue to have problems if they fail to overcome the lesser lights as well. Defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos left them up against it this season, while surrendering a three-goal lead at home to Anderlecht cost Arsenal top spot in the previous campaign. Is it a concentration problem?
Win the group
After all, it's not just Bayern that have bested Arsenal in the group stage. Borussia Dortmund (twice) and Schalke have also edged them out in recent seasons. Their early sloppiness has consequences as Arsenal must then take on a group winner. Barca and Bayern might have accounted for four of the six last-16 exits between them, but they could've been avoided.
Even so, it's worth acknowledging that things could still have been rather easier. Arsenal had a one-in-five chance of facing Barcelona in the round of 16 but there were other possibilities. They were equally likely to face either Wolfsburg or Zenit St Petersburg, ties in which they would have been favourites rather than underdogs.
Learn from mistakes
Of course, Arsenal were much fancied to progress when they were fortunate enough to draw Monaco last season. It did not go well as the Gunners' naivety was punished on the counter-attack. It's become a theme. "Once again, like against Monaco it is exactly the same," said Wenger after the defeat to Barcelona. "We are caught in exactly the same way."
Be ruthless in attack
After the game, Wenger said: "The way we finished our chances is a problem today. I felt in the final third at the moment we are missing something." If that's news to the manager, it might be less surprising for supporters who've long wondered whether Olivier Giroud has the quality to deliver when it matters most. Those concerns came to the fore once more.
Sign true quality
It might not have been a night in which Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were able to shine but the club's two most expensive signings in their history have both been unqualified successes since their arrival at Arsenal. Wenger might loathe constant calls for new signings but - as shown by one-time target Luis Suarez on Tuesday - these men make the difference.
Raise the standards
The men who made the difference for Arsenal did so in the wrong way. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain squandered a good opportunity, Per Mertesacker miscontrolled in the build up to the penalty and the only shock at Mathieu Flamini's subsequent indiscretion was that it came so soon after his arrival. Weaknesses will be exposed by the best.
Change the mentality
Ultimately, the familiarity of the disappointment is likely to temper the anger among Arsenal supporters at their impending exit. But the fear is that the players could feel the same way. As expectations of Arsenal competing in the latter stages of the Champions League fade, the demand to do so disappears too. It's a mentality that must change.
Same old story for Arsenal?
Arsenal's 2-0 home defeat means the Gunners are facing a sixth round-of-16 exit in a row.