Former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson says a Gunners victory against Barcelona in the Champions League would be “shock of the season”, which is hardly the most positive of outlooks from one of your own.
Wilson’s view, however, is one that is shared across the football community. Ladbrokes make the north Londoners 15/4 to topple the Catalonia giants at the Emirates, with Luis Enrique’s men 13/20 to prevail.
The Spanish side will arrive in England having last tasted defeat in October. Claiming victory will be an extremely tough ask for Arsene Wenger’s men, but here’s three ways they can do it.
Petr Cech dons his Superman cape
The former Chelsea stopper’s performances between the sticks have propelled Arsenal from Premier League outsiders to genuine contenders. If they are to make a similar leap in Europe then Cech is likely to play a key role.
Only three men have made more saves in the top flight than the Arsenal number one and all of them play for teams outside the top four. Clearly, the headgear-wearing keeper is vital to the Gunners’ success.
Arsenal press high up the pitch early on
One of the differences to Arsenal in this campaign is Wenger’s greater willingness to shift his tactical gameplan to suit the situation.
His side displayed two different strategies in beating Manchester United 3-0 at home in the league, to shocking Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich two games later in Europe. It would have previously been unheard of under the Frenchman.
In the first victory, Arsenal came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt. They pressed the Red Devils high up the pitch and didn’t allow their opponents to gain any rhythm. Against the might of Barcelona, it’s imperative the Gunners set a similar pace early on.
Don’t leave Per Mertesacker isolated
While pushing up on the Barca backline and closing the space will be key, protecting the German centre half against an attacking trio of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi’s class is of equal importance.
To do that, Arsenal must remain disciplined in their team tactics. They must press as one and, similarly, retreat as one in order to keep Barcelona at bay.
If they fail in that mission it will leave the defence, and Mertesacker in particular, fearfully isolated.
The German is not known as the sprightliest of defenders and needs support around him in order to avoid a tough night at the office.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.