It was Groundhog Day for Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday night, with the Gunners missing chances, conceding a goal on the break and then shooting themselves in the foot as only Arsene Wenger’s men can. However, after visitors Barcelona had gone 2-0 up via a Lionel Messi penalty, BT Sport noticed that Gerard Pique may well have got himself booked on purpose in order to have a clean slate ahead of their now inevitable quarter-finals appearance.
Late on in the game, Pique was filmed having a secret word with Barca boss Luis Enrique before then chopping down Danny Welbeck with a rather obvious foul. That challenge saw the Spanish centre-half pick up a deserved booking which sees him suspended for the return leg with the Gunners, with the tie already looking done and dusted, and then card-free for the quarter-finals…
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) February 23, 2016
Maybe it’s all a load of rubbish but it does look rather suspicious. Anyway, it’s not illegal and is the clever thing to do, isn’t it?
As for the Gunners, despite playing well during the game, misses from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud (among others) were ultimately punished. Messi netted the first on 71 minutes after a swift counter-attack before Per Mertesacker’s dismal clearance allowed the Argentine to drive into the box, with eco-fuel magnate and part-time footballer Mathieu Flamini (after only 47 seconds on the pitch) clumsily chopping him down. Messi then duly converted the resulting spot-kick to all but finish off the tie.
Despite the big-name signings in recent seasons, Arsenal still look a spine short of being a really top side and one doubts that Wenger will ever bring in the requisite A-grade striker, holding midfielder and centre-half. Expect yet another glorious failure in the return leg at the Nou Camp.