We got wet yesterday. This much I know. The rest is subject to my memory being a bit rubbish, but you cant take it from me – standing 6000 feet above sea level at the very top of the Camp Nou (even with the ponchos, thanks Elliot!) we got wet.
Not like the Barcelona fans. At one point they put up an attendance thing and they tried to tell us that over 76,000 people were at the game, but the weather and the foregone conclusion that was this game meant that this was an empty seat extravaganza. Stick that up your blue chip sponsored hoop, UEFA. People didn’t bother their holes to come to a game, because there was a bit of rain.
We had ponchos. We looked absolutely ridiculous, but we were there. Getting soaked for the Arsenal. The Arsenal that saw Mathieu Flamini in midfield and Alex Iwobi starting against Barcelona. Was that Arsene Wenger picking a team to beat Barcelona or a team with Everton in mind? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know – we got wet. After that I may forget things that seem important to you, I’m just telling you what I remember.
We started quite well. Passed it about. Ozil had a shot. Then they cut us open like hot butter and Lionel Messi was denied the opening goal by a David Ospina save.
“How the hell did he save that?!”, I asked. Nobody had any answer. Superb stuff from our keeper. Then they were offside and scored. At least that’s what it looked like to us. I haven’t even seen any highlights or replays, but that’s what it looked like from 7000 feet in the air. Tidy finish, but there was an offside in the build-up. Maybe there wasn’t. But there was.
Still, you can’t expect to get anything from the officials away from home in Europe. Especially not against the most wanked over team in history. You definitely won’t get a penalty when Danny Welbeck is shouldered in the back in the area as he’s going up for a header. And you don’t get a penalty when Iwobi goes down in the box. Even if he did trip himself up, it makes no difference. Mascherano could have mounted him like a randy steer and the referee wouldn’t have given a decision our way.
Flamini and Gabriel got booked; Alexis headed wide when he should have hit the target; Coquelin came on for Flamini who looked to have twanged his Flamstring; and then it was half-time. We went downstairs into the crumbling ruins of football’s Acropolis to have a wee, and then came back up to see our Coq doing some vigorous half-time stretching.
A few minutes into the second half, Mohamed Elneny got his first Arsenal goal with a lovely finish from an Alexis pass. From 8000 feet in the sky we all celebrated. It was a lovely goal, and while there was no real feeling that it was on, we had a good time made more enjoyable that the referee had no found no way to disallow it, the big bollix.
I’m sure as he was back in his hotel room surrounded by gold and strumpets he felt bad, but there was really nothing he could do because it was a very sweet goal indeed. The few Barcelona fans who had bothered to turn up probably weren’t that impressed, but we liked it.
Then they scored again. I’m pretty sure the pre-game planning said ‘Don’t leave Luis Suarez on his own in the box’ but we did and he shinned one into the top corner because of that. Danny Welbeck hit the bar, before we brought on Giroud, and he had a half-chance after an Alexis free kick which I videoed just in case it was a moment but it wasn’t quite as much of a moment as we would have liked.
Late on we fannied about with it and then Messi scored a third goal to add some gloss which the three or four remaining Barcelona fans enjoyed, but for us it made little difference because we were already beaten and thoroughly soaking wet at 9000 feet above sea level. The Barcelona fan left in the stadium celebrated what was a super finish.
Then we tried to get out of the stadium. Given that the home support had long gone, the way we were held back in the pissing rain then funneled through one tiny stairwell and down a ramp was pretty grotty. On the way out the Mossos d’Esquadra with their faces covered their machine guns at their sides made sure we headed for the metro, and when we got there – all at the same time – there was a non-moving queue.
We decided against it, took a tram the wrong way, got bypassed by a bus which was full, eventually took another tram back the way we came and beyond, and then managed to grab a cab back to arrive into the centre at the same time as the people who had stayed in that queue. Undoubtedly when the sun shines the Camp Nou is a fantastic place to watch football, but last night its limitations as a stadium were exposed badly and they have no way of effectively dealing with more than the couple of hundred away fans they’re used to.
It was borderline dangerous really, but that doesn’t matter because Gazprom Messi Sponsors Neymar Suarez UEFA Glory Bastards.
When we finally got back into town, after midnight local time, we went to the Black Sheep and drank some beers, and didn’t really talk about football at all. I don’t even know what to say about football now. All I can tell you is that last night was a reminder of what’s great about this game that we’re not very good at – the company, the fans, the laughs, the gallows humour, the togetherness, and the being so damp you wonder if somebody’s done a wee down your back.
It was fun. Like not the best fun ever, but still fun. I thought we gave a decent account of ourselves on the night. I liked watching Elneny do his stuff in midfield, Ospina was good, and much as I admire Mesut Ozil as a footballer, his scarpering down the tunnel the minute the final whistle went when all the other Arsenal players gave at least a perfunctory wave to the travelling, and very very wet, fans was noticed.
Now we have to get ourselves ready for a trip to Everton on Saturday and all that that entails. How knackered are we going to be? What kind of impact will this defeat have on morale?
We’ll see. It’s not a game to be taken lightly though. As much as yesterday’s was one nobody had any great expectations about, there was still a sense that this team is playing well below the level it should. Not even the three Barcelona fans who bothered to turn up yesterday could crow about their win, and we’ve still got some football to play this season.
It’s difficult but then it’s only ever easy when you have the three best forwards in the world and a coven of referees at your disposal. I’m heading back to Dublin later tonight, and I will have to try and cobble together some kind of Arsecast for you.
Until then, yours – still with sort of wet feet – Arseblog.