The night after the inevitable occurred and I know this phrase is used a lot, but I genuinely have the most mixed of feelings about the game as a whole, so much so that I don’t know whether I’m deflated or slightly pleased.

Let’s put this into context: we were never in a bazillion years winning this game. Barcelona are near invincible at home and they’re surely the best team on the planet. They break with lightning speed and when you have three of the world’s top five players in your attacking trio, you’re going to score a lot of goals. Against an Arsenal side who have now won one in eight and are looking shakier than a slice of lime jelly on top of a washing machine defensively, we were never going to hold out, so conceding three goals should be expected.

In addition, this Barcelona team have conceded 20 goals in their last 38 matches, so they are also tough to break down defensively. Up against an Arsenal team whose failings in attack are becoming painfully familiar, this result was sure to come, as much as night follows day.

Yet there were patches in which I was pleased in our build up and chance creation. I saw a bit more movement about some of the Arsenal players and with a more mobile front line of Iwobi, Welbeck and Alexis, we created enough chances to score goals. Welbeck missed a couple, Alexis had a really good chance with a header and a free kick saved well by Ter Stegen and even Özil came close with a couple of efforts. 

I’ll be honest with you, I thought we might get a hammering by five or six goals, so the fact we’ve come away from a game we’d never win without an absolute spanking is a good thing.

And yet, the same issues with the team remain, I’m afraid. Over two legs we have played the best team in the world and:

  • Gifted them a goal through a high line in the first leg
  • Finished the game off in the first leg for them through a poor Mertesacker touch and stupid Flamini foul leading to a penalty
  • Gifted them an opening goal through some shoddy Gabriel defending
  • Completely fudged a clearance for their third goal last night

So that’s four completely preventable goals we’ve conceded against the best front line we’ve possibly ever seen in history. They haven’t even had to craft a series of world-beating goals.

Gabriel looked shaky last night and whilst I thought he could be a natural successor to Mertesacker, I’m starting to have my doubts, because he doesn’t look like he has enough composure in his game. Think about the last few games he’s played in. Now think about the last few games Chambers has played in. Who would you say has looked more assured? For me it’s Chambers, so I do wonder if he deserves a chance ahead of the Brazilian. Certainly on current form I would say so.

The full backs too had a tough evening, especially Bellerin who was targeted all evening, but there are mitigating circumstances for that. With the team trailing by two goals from the first leg, the need to overload the wide areas and try to get in beyond Alba and Alves was obvious, which left space all evening for Barcelona to exploit. So I wouldn’t particularly dig them out for any space that was left when they ventured forward.

The midfield selection was bizarre. I know Coquelin has been poor and I thought he was again dire last night (I counted four times that he passed straight to a Barca player), but he is still fitter, faster and more mobile than Flamini, so why the elder Frenchman started is beyond me. Unless Arsène was making a statement to Le Coq that his poor form would be punished.

I guess it mattered not, because Flamini came off with an injury before halftime, so regardless of what the motivation was we’ll be seeing more of him between now and the end of the season. His partner however, looks to be growing game-by-game and his goal last night was an example of how Arsenal can string together good moves with end product, when they aren’t looking around at each other bemused because they’ve fallen behind again.

Up top I thought Alexis had a better game than in recent weeks, but the bar has been pretty low in all fairness, so as long as he didn’t lose the ball running in to players every five minutes it would be a step up. His finishing is still an issue though. It feels like he needs some kind of jolt to spark him in to life. Right now he looks like a confidence shorn player, but in a way that you wouldn’t notice, because it manifests itself in him trying harder or just overcoming passes or attempts on goal.

As for Welbeck and Iwobi, I thought both showed a lot of promise throughout, even if Welbeck’s finishing once again became subject of social media discussion. He gets in to such fantastic positions and looks like such a composed playe. Until he gets in to a decent shooting position. That’s kind of a big thing for a centre forward. Who knows, maybe he just needs a run of games up top between now and the end of the season, to prove that he can be prolific. To be fair to him, he hasn’t had that since he was on loan at Sunderland, so maybe it just takes someone to have some faith? With Giroud’s goals completely dried up, it’s not as if you’re taking goals out of the team by replacing him with Welbeck, but by making Danny the focal point at least you’re getting a mobile striker who will stretch defences for other players to move in to. 

I really hope Welbeck is fit enough to start against Everton. If he is he surely is first option to start.

I tell you who isn’t though, Theo Walcott, who once again looked done as an attacking player. Dribbling in to Barca players, snatching at a couple of shots, I have no idea why Joel Campbell isn’t preferred to him. Campbell offers so much more. But given we made Walcott captain for sentimental reasons recently, I can only conclude that it was because of his birthday that he got any game time at all. 

So where do we find ourselves now? It’s hard to tell if the team will be moping this morning, or whether they’ll take some encouragement from the positive side, which I hope they do. Personally, I’m still very nervous because despite the fact that there were positives, we still have issues at both ends of the pitch. Defensively we look so so fragile and up top we miss chance after chance. If we miss the same chances against Everton then our season is done. It might already be done to be honest, but we’re clinging on to title hopes for dear life.

In 48 hours we’ll be at Goodison. That’s where we’ll find out how this team can respond.