Pinch me

Arsenal beat Barcelona

I roll over onto my other shoulder, the words bouncing around inside my head.

Arsenal beat Barcelona.

For a second I’m in that space between dream and reality where time ceases to matter and reality can be warped at will. The BBC World Report is getting the reaction from protests in Bahrain. Bahrain? That must be something I made up, it can’t be true that every state in the Middle East is having protests and police action quelling the protesters, right?

Arsenal beat Barcelona.

They’re back. The words that initially shocked me from the dream that I was having about sports cars or… what was it that I was on about? Was I there? Was I on the pitch as Robin van Persie blasted a left footed shot past Victor Valdes?

The smell of the freshly watered grass seemed real. The beads of sweat on my lip tasted salty. But I couldn’t have been there for that, my Rational Brain is starting to wake up, you’re too old, too fat, too… un-athletic to run with greatness. And make no mistake, says Rational Brain to Dream Brain, that was greatness.

Arsenal beat Barcelona

Van Persie short sided Valdes. Made him think he was going to cross it and short sided him. I didn’t care. I screamed in joy and then reached up and tried to pull down the sky.

Messi did something similar in the opening moves of the game. Played through between Koscielny and Djourou, the Argentinian sped past Djourou, waited what seemed an eternity for Szczesny to make up his mind and once the Pole went to ground, chipped him. The ball went wide as Kozzer chased.

I turned to Nasri next to me, except he’s not Nasri — he’s a blonde fellow, drinking a Heineken, wearing a Nasri shirt — and we both make the “whew” face at each other. That would have been a shame to let Barcelona take the lead there, after we’d been so perfect up until that point.

Those first 10 minutes of the game Arsenal did exactly what everyone told them to do. They let Abidal bring the ball up the pitch but as soon as the first pass went to Xavi or Maxwell, they attacked. Arsenal had some chances off that pressing game as well and when van Persie tried to short-side Valdes and was parried away Barcelona looked shaken.

It had to be a fiction though, right? A dream? Because that shot would be foreshadowing and only a well written play or a well composed dream would have foreshadowing.

Arsenal beat Barcelona.

It’s easy to confuse the reality from the dream, says Rational Brain. I roll over onto my other shoulder, bury my face into the pillow and nudge it a bit, just trying to shut Rational Brain up and get back to the dream that I’m on the pitch. But it’s too late, he’s up and chirping away at me now.

It’s easy to confuse the two, because beating Barcelona is like a dream, he says, it’s the whole simile and metaphor confusion: one thing is like something, the other is something. Got it?

Wait, that’s not right replies, Dream Brain. You’re telling me that I’m being irrational and you don’t even know that a simile is a type of metaphor?

And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?

Shakespeare, said Dream Brain, as he slipped away with Cesario, Olivia, Orsino and Viola babbling about love triangles and metaphors. Leaving me with an all too irrational Rational Brain.

Arsenal beat Barcelona

You were at Doyle’s, remember? The guy from some place in London that you’ve never heard of bought you a beer, he’s a reader, what’s his name? I can’t remember, but his beer coincided with Arshavin coming on for Song, Nasri going to holding midfielder along side Wilshere, and within moments Arsenal were two goals to the good and Alex was wringing your neck screaming THAT’S HOW I CELEBRATE!!! as Arshavin ran off with his shirt over his head.

Ah yes, too right. But surely that second goal wasn’t real. Nasri, playing a ball 35 yards across the 18 yard box to Arshavin, who first time’s the ball side footed around two defenders all the while Valdes is left looking like a statue staring at grief?

And this, this Szczesny goal celebration didn’t happen did it?

Yes, it did actually. Poor guy, it’s The Keeper’s Lament: they are always alone when their team scores and always around when the opposition scores.

Arsenal beat Barcelona

Koscielny and Djourou look like they are growing with every game. They have formed some sort of telepathic link such that when one attacks the ball the other stands back. Everyone in the back line is moving in synch, well, except that one time when Clichy played Pedro on and in the ensuing confusion Messi was wrongly called for offside.

Surely with six match officials (two on touch, two on goal, one in the middle, and one signaling time) they would get every call right? Or at least not give the benefit of the doubt to Arsenal. I mean that had to be a dream, right?

Arsenal beat Barcelona

The phrase is taking on a life of its own, becoming sort of insistent. We took more shots than Barcelona, we had more shots on goal, it’s saying to me. Yes, but surely they had more possession? 60-40 but it doesn’t matter, Arsenal scored more goals. You know that, you’re an Arsenal fan. How many times have Arsenal been beaten when they dominated possession? How many times have Arsenal allowed just one or two shots on goal and the opposition won? Don’t you remember Braga?

Surely we didn’t play like Braga. No, Arsenal were better than that. Barcelona were brilliant, probably the best you’ve ever seen a team play.

They completed 629 passes to Arsenal’s 299, Rational Brain chips in.

Barcelona had just one corner and never once played a free kick toward Arsenal’s goal. Once they went up 1-0 they were content to pick at Arsenal and wait for the right moment to score. They were exactly like the Arsenal who got beat at, oh where was it that we did that, sat at 1-0 up and let the opposition come back into the game?

Dream Brain quickly diverts the conversation, it never happened, don’t think negative thoughts, think of Jack Wilshere!

Arsenal beat Barcelona

Ohh Jacky. What a kid. It’s hard not to put too much pressure on him but the best players, the guys like Cesc, don’t crumble under the weight of expectation. They thrive. Remember Cesc’s game against Patrick Vieira? Dream Brain is diverting us well and Rational Brain, me, and Arsenal Beat Barcelona are all sitting quiet.

Everyone was calling for calm before the game, don’t expect too much they said, he’s going up against one of the greats. What did Cesc do that day? Stood tall against one of the greatest players to ever wear an Arsenal shirt. Scored a goal in that game against Juventus, he did. That was another dream game, Pires made a tackle… on Vieira… which set up that goal. Can’t recall any other time that Pires made a tackle.

Get back to Jack! We say in unison. How was Jackie?

He led Arsenal in passing, says Rational Brain, facing Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets he was massive. He’s just a kid too, though I’m sure he’d argue with me on that. As mightily as Song struggled to get a grip on the referee, and as much as we thought it would be Wilshere who lost his cool, he was only called for one foul all game. Did I mention that he played against Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets?

Man of the match, we all say.

Oh so, you’re admitting that the game happened?

Yes. Robin short sided a great goal keeper, Arshavin came back from the dead to score an audacious goal, the defense held the best team in the world to one goal, Szczesny celebrated like a proper Gooner, and Jack Wilshere — a precocious Arsenal academy player who joined the club at aged 9 — was man of the match.

That actually happened.

Arsenal beat Barcelona.

51 thoughts on “Pinch me

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  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Steven

    Still just an Academy now eh, dear Evra?Nothing shuts the mouths of your detractors like RESULTS(like this) and puts them to OPEN SHAME! And we are just getting started!Keep this team together for 2 more seasons and we’ll take a shot at that Barcelona record of six trophies in one year!

  3. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ArseChicago

    I’m going to bring my earlier comment forward to here:

    Many props to Tim. Tim, hopefully you point everyone back to your Pt 2 blog (February 15). Your 2 keys to the game? Jack/Song keeping Xavi in check (Xavi was very quiet yesterday and Jack was brilliant) and the second being us taking advantage of the counter. W/ respect to the latter you envisioned a Jack to Cesc to Theo to RvP, but it was pretty damn close. Jack to Cesc (are you kidding me with that perfect pass?) to Nasri w/ RvP flying in to distract Abidal finally the pass to Arshavin. You, my friend, were spot on in terms of your analysis going into this game.

    Already have watched the goal 3 times this morning on the DVR. How awesome is the call from the announcer? “Arshavvvvvvvvvviiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn”! Goosebumps.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    This is BS. Puts a target on Song’s back.

    Another Guardian piece that is an ‘ode’ to Wilshere fails to properly credit Arsenal’s role in Wilshere’s development. Then to top it off, that piece then wonders if Barcelona would come in for Wilshere rather than Fabregas. 4 words to the Guardian and Barcelona: over, my, dead, body.

    I’m glad that someone in the England setup (Lampard)recognizes that Wilshere in a holding role is like keeping a Ferrari in park.

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Albie

    I am absolutely ecstatic about the win last night. Like Tim took a while to sort out the whole dream/reality sequence this morning. Did anyone else out there notice the humor in the two-man “mini” wall Barca put in front of Cesc for the free kick? It was Messi and Pedro a couple of truly imposing figures for a wall wasn’t it? Wikki lists both of them at 5’7″ (1.69 m).

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Aloysius Gunawan

    Haha..the blonde Nasri is awesome..
    But I still think that the disallowed Messi’s goal was a correct call. Messi was offside when the ball bounced from Wojciech Szczesny and hit Pedro again. I think the ball did hit Pedro again.

    Another thing is that people have been calling RvP’s goal as Maicon. As if it has been patented. But RvP’s was more difficult situation-wise and technique-wise. Slightly.

  7. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966

    I know exactly how you feel Tim – I was still getting over the euphoria of the equaliser when bang, bang, bang and Valdes is rocking back on his heels, like a cowboy gunned down in a Sam Peckinpah movie, and we are ahead. I was in a dream like state, a befuddled “huh, what’s happened ?!”
    The perfect build up to your trip over here in just over a week’s time for the C Cup final.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1FabGooner

    Can someone please explain whether Messi was offside or not. Got into a huge argument with a buddy of mine.

    I still say that the ball came of pedro AFTER Sczesny had saved it and went to Messi in an offside position.


  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1JV Mauer

    If the future spine of Arsenal is represented by Jack “The Lad”, Kozzer, and Szczesny, then I think we’re going to be in for a wonderful decade, at least. Fantastic result! With any luck, this should give us the confidence we need to finish up all three domestic competitions without fail. The Neu Camp’s going to be tough, no doubt, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

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  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Scruzgooner

    Exactly right, Tim. I fell asleep last night with that and “ArsHAVIIINNN!” running through my brain. I will watch that goal any time I need a lift, it was so freaking good.

    Special mention for Kozzer. He did a great job shepherding Messi, hardly put a foot wrong all night.

  12. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    Things I left out of the dream sequence:

    Robin van Persie’s very “Dutch” tackle late in the game.

    Comparing Barcelona to a bunch of Cabbages (Los Cules).

    Arsenal wanted Barcelona before this match.

    Nasri’s return.

    The fact that I predicted the 4-2-3-1 and the pressing and the fast counters.

    What else?

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966

        @Josip, They were even urging the team on just before half time when we were 1 nil down, and cheering as they went off at half time.
        I know someone who went and she said she shouted herself hoarse last night, people missed the last train home while they getting pissed in the Holloway Road – screw the hang overs!

  13. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    Marvelous write-up Tim. It really did feel like a dream and even when I woke up this morning, there was a time of blur when I still wasn’t sure if we had actually beaten Barca.

    I haven’t been an Arsenal supporter for that long.. but long enough to have seen the Invincibles and last night’s victory was my biggest victory as an Arsenal fan. I think by beating Barcelona for the first time in Europe, this team has done one over the Invincibles. So much for us trying to be like Barca. After Arshavin scored, the commentator screamed “Arsenal has scored a Barcelona goal”. That statement seemed utterly false to me. That counter attack goal was vintage Arsenal, vintage Wenger.

    For the away leg, my expectations are the same as the first one – none. I only want the team to compete as they did yesterday and see where we end up at the end of the day.

    So, first Chelsea and then Barca. If you are beating teams like that at home, then it’s safe to say you have arrived. I only have two more wishes that I hope can come true this year – 1) win a trophy, any trophy, even the carling cup will do and 2)beat Utd at the Emirates. Both are highly achievable if we show the heart we did last night.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1DF

      @nycgunner, “I think by beating Barcelona for the first time in Europe, this team has done one over the Invincibles.” Sorry, I cannot agree. Beating Real Madrid at Bernabeu is bigger than beating Barca at the Emirates, because Real Madrid at that time is the biggest team, and that goal by Henry is a big big personal goal–I cannot envisage even Nasri able to score a goal like that. Great pace, great skill and facing the best goalkeeper then–Casillas, not Valdez.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

        @DF, Well that’s a matter of perspective isn’t it? When we beat the Galacticos in 2006, they were already a team in decline. Their last championship in La Liga prior to when we beat them was 2003. I think a Copa del Ray was all they had won between 2003 and 2006. Barca on the other hand is widely regarded as the best team ever and is coming off two very successful seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way trying to put down the win over that Madrid team – but based on the form of the two teams, and all the sh*t we have taken form them in the past, beating this Barca team is just a little bit sweeter in my mouth.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dooley

    so I wore my Arshavin 7amkickoff t-shirt for the first time in a year yesterday. I don’t want to take ALL of the credit for that comeback, but it’s pretty obvious my outfit was integral to our success.

    also, I literally ran around my house shouting and jumping when he scored. felt so good. until I tackled a chair on accident. that was a bit of a bummer.


  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    I officially regret anything bad I had to say about Koscielny at the beginning of the season, when he made a couple of mistakes resulting in those goals and cards.
    I am watching the game again and again I’m overly impressed by the way he intercepted and defended. And the fact that he has this typical Arsenal humility about him makes me like the guy even more. He is just working hard, and if he keeps up like this, with Vermaelen coming back and Djorou playing like he is, next season we may have one the best defense in the league.

  16. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1London Calling & Overseas

    A LITTLE DITTY: Would you F* ing believe it?

    Part One Modified

    We had a Pole in goal on his Champions League debut
    We had the loved up back duo of Kos & Djourou
    We had the road runner Clichy, with only one Song
    We had Little Nas; our own Marseille star
    We had Stuart Little, curling one in
    We had two British Lions of Jack & Theo
    We had Le Capitan the lad from Cataluña
    We had Robin van Persie, our own Fortuna
    We had Bendtner, with height and
    Eboue at right back, but
    Can you f*** believe it,
    Arsenal beat Barcelona

  17. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1London Calling & Overseas

    The Second Generation – Beget

    The Invincibles team we loved you then, and we love you still
    But on 16 February 2011 a new dawn was fulfilled
    The Second Generation was beget, the new Churchillians
    The crux of Never Ever Surrender until the final whistle shrills
    The absorption of the passing game of endless endeavours
    The Second Generation have announced to the world
    A group of footballers has finally grown from little Boys to Men

  18. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1London Calling & Overseas

    Tim: I see you: Excellent blog, Genuine felt. As you say, Pinch Me.

    Imagine if you will a small village in the Caribbean, with a population of 316, young old and in-between age. One third of that populous was watching Arsenal v Barcelona in a palm tree covered barn house yesterday afternoon. The Arsenal supporters of that populous took a half day from work. We made barbequed food with a supporting cast of ginger wine, local fruit juices, rum, brandy, beer and water. I was wearing my “home shirt” of red and white, I had my Arsenal Cap on my head. I was prepared and I told everyone, just watch! We will win; Arsenal WILL win 2-1

    During the first half; my small group of village friends and neighbours shouted, leapt into the air at every opportunity when Arsenal came within 30 yard of Barcelona front line. I remained silent. Their goal was a good one; we messed up at the back. However, the Arsenal team missed two clear gifted chances. Barcelona played very well, but we kept our nerve.

    The second half, after a large glass of Jack Daniels at the interval, I thought okay that’s it, Stop playing around fellas; show them what WE can do. You know what; we played our game in the second half and from one nil down WE won two one.

    The first goal, by RVP, was a beautiful clever goal. The villager’s howler was heard acres away, their shrilling sound supported by tin can drums and plastic trumpets; their movement wavering to almost madness. Loved it!

    The second goal was almost “orgasmic”, we just shrilled like little children, jumping, leaping, and I must confess to a “little tear” that dripped from my eyes. By the end of the game, the moon was full, the sky was clear, there were thousands of stars in the clear Caribbean sky, and everyone in the village was happy. Arsenal had beaten Barcelona, and you know what I did not want to be anywhere else in the world, except where I was, with my village family & friends and neighbours to celebrate with genuine exuberance. We had a mini beach party until late. These moments will be my lasting memory on the night Arsenal beat Barcelona, the Best Team In The World.

    P.S. THE Emirates was rocking last night, we must keep it that noise up every two weeks…. it was great to hear and see.


      1. Vote -1 Vote +1London Calling & Overseas

        @Charybdis1966, Ta, yes it was special. Have you heard Alan Green from BBC Radio Five Live commentary after the second goal? It’s marvellous. Have a good night. Maybe Sunday after the Orient game.

  19. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Notoverthehill

    Looking at sovsport,ru and, the buzz word is Arshavin! The 3 goals are shown from good angles, Messi certainly hit-the-after-burners before the pass!

    Looking at El Punt, it seems that there should have been a penalty against Djourou, in the first half. I cannot see anything that Djourou did too suggest this. Djourou and Koscielny were compared to sIamese twins!! Certainly the Barça tried to spring the offside trap often enough! I thought the CBs were excellent.

    THIS was a game for the Final! Barça tactic is simply possession means conservation of energy. It is obvious that Barça have to ease up in the seond half. According to Pep, Barça were far superior to the last game between the pair at the Emirates.

    We have Stoke and Birmingham, both clodhoppers that Barça do not have in their league. Arsene needs these two for the Camp Nou! Sorry if that is party pooping????

  20. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Notoverthehill

    Sorry, I omitted the 2 – Djourou and Kos!! The 4th choice is much too slow from his time in England, BUT he must have played against Messi etc., when with Seville.

  21. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Simon Says

    Terrfific write up Tim.

    Yankee Gunner on twitter linked me to a big barca blog’s review of the game last night and i couldn’t help but laugh. And Arsenal fans though we had some doom and gloomers… this guy absolutely eviscerated their team and performance.

    Rated Pep a 2, Messi and Pedro a 1. a fricken 1!

    It was nice to see they actually credited us for having a great performance and playing “their style of game” better than the did.

  22. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1DF

    Let us see. Barca will have Bilbao (H) and then Mallorca and Valencia away next week, then Zaragosa, which should be a walk over on Mar 6, then 2 days later Arsenal.
    Arsenal will have Lorient, Stoke and C Cup final with Birmingham, then Sunderland…–S/B/S are all kicking teams. But we play Sunderland 1 day earlier, which means nothing, because we have to go over to Barcelona.
    So it all depends how exhausting these games are for Arsenal. It also depends on what protection English referees will give the team.

    Judging from the British media’s reaction,
    they don’t share the ecstasy of Arsenal fans; but the good thing is, they have to stop praising the
    spuds and ‘arry.

    Barca is now having a dip in form. Iniesta, Pedro are not in the game yesternight; David Villa having 1 shot at goal. If things continue this way, we do stand a chance.

    WE have to guess who Wenger will leave out this weekend–Nasri, of course. Wilshere, I hope. He is in danger of suffering a burnout. Kos or JD, each resting for half a game, please.

    Hopefully Chamakh, Bendtner Arshavin and Walcott will do the job for us against Orient, not needing RvP…

    I am still waiting for Cesc to hit top form.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Josip

      @DF, The rotation is going to be interesting to see who gets a rest over the next couple games. Clichy will get a rest, he was cramping at the end of the game, probably Wilshere too, and all three of the front 3 likely.

  23. Vote -1 Vote +1James Gunn

    The guy from London – that was me, and yes the name on the back of my 08-10 away jersey is my real last name. Gooner since ’75. From Teddington … about 20 minutes from Heathrow. Glad to have met you, Tim and you’re welcome for the beer – that’s how we Brits do it – next round’s yours. Cheers! James

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