When Arsenal were taken apart 4-1 by Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, not too many seasoned Barca observers were enormously surprised. They were 4-0 up inside 30 minutes in last year’s Champions League Final against Chelsea. They are without peer in Europe currently. However, Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall concedes that he got the approach wrong in Europe’s most challenging game on Tuesday evening.
Speaking before Sunday’s WSL clash at home to Everton, the Swede said, ” It doesn’t feel good,” he confessed in response to a question from The Athletic’s Art de Roche. “I tried to explain to the players after the game that if you look at the football match as a spectrum, where you are being in total control or totally out of control. Most of the times when you’re playing a really good team you would sit somewhere in between. You would have moments of control in the game, then moments when you are out of control and you need to do your best.
“When you’re doing your best, you’re mastering those moments in such an invasive sport like football is. It is about controlling the ball. You can’t use your hands or protect it. You are constantly under threat of losing the ball or being invaded by the opposition. From a motivational perspective, we all like those games where we need to be at our best and then we will be in control. For example, Aston Villa away they tried to sit very low and compact but the same things keep repeating themselves over and over again so from a control perspective, we are very high.
Putellas makes it 2-0 to Barcelona before half-time ✌️
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“In the Barcelona game it was the complete opposite to that. We were out of control. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re running around and you feel like no matter what we do, we will come late in to the situation. No matter what decision we take, they will play the ball to the space we leave. It makes it really hard and in football you carry that momentum into the next situation. If that’s the feeling you have when playing defensively, you carry that feeling into offence.
“It’s totally different situations but you still have that perspective of being out of control which means you try not to make mistakes and only play safe passes. You keep looking backwards and you don’t see Arsenal players, you see Barcelona players instead. There are many layers to how we do that better in the future.
“One of them is that even when you come in periods of the game where a team is so good at attacking, you can still find methods to gain control in a much better way than we did. The other thing is that we also need to defend better. You can never defend one-by-one against Barcelona. It is all about how you move as a unit. That’s almost like the final level of defending. We’re not there yet but it really gave us a motivation of why we need to keep the standards so high to compete against the best teams.”
Eidevall also admitted culpability with the game plan, confessing that, if anything, he underestimated Barcelona and their ability to deal with Arsenal’s game plan, “When I say we went into a state of shock that’s me as much as the players. I also didn’t expect it to be that way. But I think this is what happens sometimes in football. To be honest, the way they played offensively, I’ll put my hands up and say I didn’t think they were that good.
“It is the best team I have ever played against in men’s or women’s football offensively. Kudos to them on how they could play with so many different threats and how they moved the ball. It was a big motivation for me in order to come up with a plan of how to deal with them much better in the future. It is a really big challenge which I really like! Hopefully I do much, much better next time otherwise it’s not good enough from me.”