Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger heaped praise on opponents Barcelona after the Gunners exited the Champions League on Wednesday, despite a spirited performance at the Camp Nou.
Overcoming the first-leg deficit was always going to be mission impossible for Arsenal, but Wenger’s men gave a fairly good account of themselves at the Nou Camp, before the virtuosity of Barcelona’s attacking trio put the tie to bed.
Neymar opened the scoring on Wednesday after being put through on goal by a clever Luis Suárez pass, but the away side momentarily shocked the packed stadium into silence through Mohamed Elneny’s superb effort from outside the box.
However, a stunning volley from Suárez and a vintage chip over the keeper from Lionel Messi ended the Gunners’ resistance. The Arsenal manager was happy with his side’s performance, but acknowledged that his opponents were one of a kind.
“I think the performance and the quality of our game was good,” the Frenchman is quoted as saying by the Guardian. “I’m disappointed with the result; we played against a team with the best strikers I’ve seen. The three together are exceptional. They can create chances from nothing. “
“As well, Barcelona going forward, the accuracy of their passing, especially Messi, is exceptional. Over 90 minutes he didn’t miss one first touch. At some point in sport you have to admire art. They have two or three players who transform normal life into art and I respect that.”
The defeat meant that Arsenal have now exited Europe’s premier club competition at the first knock-out round stage six times in a row. Their defeats have come against: Bayern Munich (twice), Barcelona (twice), AC Milan and AS Monaco.
The Gunners now take on Everton at Goodison Park in the early kick-off on Saturday, with the English Premier League being the only tournament that Wenger’s men are still competing in.
Wenger’s defence of Champions League record unconvincing
When asked about the North London club’s dismal Champions League record of late, Wenger pointed out that his side had had the misfortune of coming up against some of Europe’s best teams at the Round of 16 stage — the notable exception being AS Monaco.
However, it has often been the Gunners’ poor group stage performance that has led to them being drawn against the continent’s super-clubs. In 2010-2011, for instance, Arsenal finished behind Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage, and ended up drawing Barcelona in the first knock-out round. In 2012-2013, the Gunners finished behind Schalke, and drew Bayern Munich. The following year, they finished behind another German team in Borussia Dortmund, and again had the misfortune of facing the Bavarian giants at the round of 16 stage.
When Arsenal did manage to top the group — in 2011-2012 — they were inexplicably beaten 4-0 by AC Milan in the first leg of their knock-out round, and despite a 3-0 win in the second leg, it proved to be too little, too late. Arsenal simply have nobody to blame but themselves for their disastrous record in the Champions League.