Arsenal 0 Barcelona 2
Messi 71, 83 pen

A familiar Champions League foe and sadly for Arsenal, a familiar Champions League last 16 loss at the hands of Barcelona. Arsenal had held the Champions League holders for 70 minutes and actually had looked good in possession. Minute 71 and Lionel Messi finished a fast paced Barcelona counter attack to give the visitors the lead. It was the first time Messi had breached Petr Cech in goal. Just like London buses in the capital, a second Messi strike was soon in coming, but this time a helping hand from the boot of substitute of Mathieu Flamini felled the Barcelona number 10. Messi got up, dusted himself down to take the spot kick to beat Cech to double his side’s lead. Two away goals and the return leg in the Camp Nou when Arsenal will need an unlikely three unanswered goals to progress, surely points to the Gunners bowing out at a now familiar Champions League juncture.

If the thought of trying to stop Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez wasn’t bad enough, Arsenal knew that they had to turn up with a disciplined game. Arsene Wenger will have impressed on Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and surprise starter Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of the need to track back in defence. Giroud and what has been increasingly evident of a not fully fit Sanchez at least tried to stick to that script, but sadly for Wenger, Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t able to fulfil a role he doesn’t have in his locker in say the same way as Joel Campbell of Danny Welbeck who were both on the bench.

Ironically the best early Arsenal chances fell to Aaron Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain, more of a half chance which the England man wasn’t able to drag from behind him to generate any kind of power, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved well from Giroud’s header.

Suarez was twice and Neymar and Messi were denied by Cech as Arsenal sat back in defence. However, you simply cannot allow players of the stature of Messi, Neymar and Suarez that much time and sit back. There was a distinct lack of pressure on the ball, Francis Coquelin was the exception to that, but he needed backing from his teammates. With Oxlade-Chamberlain absent for defensive duties, Hector Bellerin was exposed and that was all the incentive Barcelona needed to attack.

Suarez hit the post late on and Cech again showed his class to thwart Neymar, for Barcelona, their plan worked to perfection. Welbeck replaced Giroud after 72 minutes amd with Theo Walcott having replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain on 50 minutes, the Gunners went for pace. Ramsey was denied by Ter Stegen after some good work from Welbeck, but the damage had already been done.

Wenger reflected on another poor last 16 Champions League night.

“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. 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,” said Wenger.

With the return leg in Barcelona in three weeks time, Wenger said that he’d play a strong line up in the Camp Nou. Just to get one goal could make it interesting for the Gunners, but given the back drop to this tiie, and as at the Emirates, that may prove to be a tough ask.