Arsene Wenger: 'Barcelona are better than us... but Arsenal could have won if we kept our discipline'

'They are better than us, everybody knows that, but we could have won if we had kept our discipline'

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger, disappointment writ on his face, criticised Barcelona’s players and the Turkish referee after Arsenal’s 2-0 home defeat t the European champions, but most of all he criticised his own players.

“There are no excuses for the first goal,” said the Arsenal manager. “They are better than us, everybody knows that, but we could have won if we had kept our discipline.

Wenger was particularly upset at the way his team left themselves open to conceding from a counter-attack after 70 minutes, which concluded with Lionel Messi opening the scoring. “ It is not a happy dressing room,” he said. “We were caught exactly the same as against Monaco [earlier this season]. We said, ‘if it is 0-0, then we take 0-0’. As soon as you have players in a bad position you can get punished. We had two or three opportunities to to stop first goal, but did not have right response to the situation.

“My biggest regret is I thought there was room to beat them tonight. We lost at a time when we looked more capable of wining, and lost in in a way we knew we could not give them.” 

Referring to a miss by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Wenger added:  “We had an unbelievable chance in the first half, the way we finished our chances is a problem. We were impatient in the build-up. We lost balls we do not usually lose, technically we were not precise enough in our passing.  

“[Barcelona] never go down silence. When they go down they shout, all of them. They provoke a reflex from the referee and he was influenced. There were one or two fouls that were not fouls. But we have not lost the game because of the referee. We have to look at ourselves and analyse ourselves. 

By contrast Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was all smiles. “I like everything about the way we won” he said. “In the first half Arsenal defended with every player in their own half. In the second we pressed higher but we handled the transitions well and that’s why we won.”

Gerard Pique was booked minutes after Barcelona went 2-0 up, which means he is suspended for the second leg - but now has the threat of being suspended in the later rounds lifted. He had a quick conversation with his coach before being booked but Enrique denied the caution, for a wild and unnecessary challenge by the touchline, was deliberate.  “If you have seen the foul he has to do it,” said Enrique.

With the same straight face Enrique added of the tie, which Wenger had said was now 95 per cent in favour of Barcelona: “There is nothing decided yet. We will have to play really well at home to win through to the next round.