Arsene Wenger was critical of the lack of concentration and precision that his side showed in the second half, as Arsenal fell to a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Emirates.
Arsenal had a solid first half against the European champions, keeping Barcelona out and creating some opportunities to score, but familiar issues returned in the second half, allowing Lionel Messi to decide the game in favour of the Catalans.
In his post-match press conference, Arsene Wenger said (via arsenal.com), “Of course I’m disappointed because we put a lot of energy into this game. I felt that we lost at the moment that we looked more capable of winning the game, and we also lost it in a way which we could not afford to give them.”
Petr Cech was superb in the first 45 minutes, as were the likes of Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey. But their spirit seemed to fizzle out in the second half — more so after Messi’s opener in the 71st minute, which had an incredible build-up involving Luis Suarez and Neymar.
“It’s a bit disappointing to give them the goals that we did, especially the first goal. I feel that we were extremely guilty and have no excuses for that goal,” the Gunners’ manager added.
Wenger feels that his players weren’t as composed in the second half
While Barcelona fans rejoiced Messi’s first goal against Petr Cech, Arsene Wenger was not amused by his side’s second half performance, which has put Arsenal on the brink of an exit from the Champions League at the Round of 16 stage once again.
“We had an unbelievable chance in the first half,” Wenger said. “The way we finished our chances today is a problem because I felt that we missed something in the final third. It’s a shame that the players have not got any satisfaction tonight because energy-wise we put absolutely everything in.”
The 66-year-old felt that his Arsenal side repeated the mistakes they made against AS Monaco last season, when they lost to the Ligue 1 side 3-1 at home, and were eventually bundled out of the Champions League despite a second leg away victory.
“It’s just that the first pass is not right, the first position is not right, you lose the ball when you don’t want to lose it and then suddenly you’re out of position and they take advantage of that,” continued Wenger. “They were just caught by the pace of the game. It was an unexpected wrong pass or unexpected position of the first play.”
The Gunners now face the nearly impossible task of overturning a 2-0 deficit when they visit the Nou Camp in three weeks’ time.