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Arsenal-Barcelona match dispels long-held myths

The beauty of sport is that eventually all of the talking ends and the players sort the right from the wrong. Seldom has a single game exposed so many commonly held opinions to be blatant falsehoods, as did Arsenal against Barcelona Wednesday night.

Below are the most popular beliefs that did not stand up to reality.• Ibrahimovic Never Shows Up on the Biggest Stage
Every time the big Swede takes on English competition, the press dusts off this old cliche. It is true that he had failed to score against English sides before, but until now he had never played for a genuine contender to the European crown. He also played against English teams at a period in time when they dominated Europe.

His record of winning every domestic league he competed in for six seasons running never seemed to matter. Neither did the emphatic goal that sunk Real Madrid in his first Clásico. Now that he has scored a brace against an English team, perhaps he will be accepted as a quality player.

•Foreign Teams Struggle With the Pace of Premiership Play Perhaps the biggest cliche in all of European football is the superior “pace” of English football. English teams are certainly very physical, and run around quite a bit, but describing the way they play as “high paced” is misleading.

Barcelona ran just as much as Arsenal according to UEFA player tracking. They also ran the Premiership title contenders ragged by moving the ball faster than they were used to. The pace at which Barcelona move the ball is as high as anywhere the world, and that is much more important than how much players run without the ball.
•There Is a Conspiracy Of UEFA Referees To Favor Barcelona

For years the paranoid have assaulted the ears of everyone else with stories of a conspiracy within European football that goes all the way to the top. Some claimed Blatter was responsible, others Platini. Often, the bias was motivated by a hatred of the English, or at the very least, a desire to avoid an all-English final. Chelsea are mostly responsible for this trend, but on the evidence from Wednesday it is hard to claim that Barcelona received any help at all.

In one of his rare incursions into the Arsenal box Leonel Messi burst past Clichy and was clearly taken down from behind by the French defender. While it was a clear foul, most neutral viewers would admit it wasn’t the kind of foul usually given as a penalty. Later in the game, Carles Puyol put his body between Cesc Fabregas and the ball and received a kick in the back of his thigh.

The highly-rated Massimo Busacca whistled for a penalty and sent the Barca captain marching. Looking at the two incidents together, it is very hard to argue that Barca are the recipients of any favoritism at all.
•There Is a Conspiracy Of Spanish Referees To Favor Barcelona

Led by the Madrid-based tabloid AS, Spanish commentators have taken to describing the “Villarato,” a vague term for a conspiratorial apparatus led by Spanish FA president Jose Maria Villar.

According to the story, Villar has been influencing referees to gift points to Barcelona ever since Florentino Perez had the temerity to vote for another candidate, in 2003. That personal slight cost Real Madrid the embarrassment of seven years of undeserved trophies going to their arch-rivals. Talk about holding a grudge.

Yet if Barcelona were only able to win on account of favors from Spanish referees, how do you explain their excellent performances in Europe? The first half display against Arsenal is one for the ages. Surely Villar can’t be the reason they pass and move so well, can he?


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.