Wenger's rivals will be fretting now he can focus solely on league

Arsenal's best hope of glory was always the league in a season when Chelsea and United are weaker than usual

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However much he claims otherwise, there are few criticisms of Arsenal that will cut Arsène Wenger quite as much as those from Barcelona this morning. That they were not ambitious or brave enough in their attacking play – that there was no "joy" about them – is usually the charge levelled at more conservative opponents of Arsenal who come to the Emirates and dig in for a result.

Unfortunately, there is no denying the statistics from Tuesday's game which – if we were looking for a parallel in the Premier League – would cast Wenger's team as the small-fry from the lower reaches, a Wolverhampton Wanderers for instance, to Barça's Arsenal.

The 790 passes completed by Barcelona to Arsenal's 214. The fact that Arsenal mustered not a single shot on target to Barça's 10. That Xavi managed 108 passes in all compared to 25 from Jack Wilshere, Arsenal's best individual. Even with the red card for Robin van Persie, this was overwhelming evidence contradicting Wenger's claim that 11 Arsenal men would have triumphed.

As it stands, Arsenal are no less deserving of the nickname "Barça Lite" than they were when Lionel Messi put four past them at the Nou Camp last year. It is used pejoratively but it should not be. Barça Lite should be regarded as a compliment. Arsenal are a lot closer in style to this great team than the rest of the world manages.

In the space of 10 days, Arsenal's dream of all four trophies has been reduced sharply to a more realistic two. The Champions League was always a long shot ever since defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga in the group stage left them such a daunting tie against Barcelona in the last 16 round. As for the Carling Cup final, that was a game affected by the looming prospect of Tuesday's game.

So what now for Arsenal? Having said before the Carling Cup final that he could imagine winning all four trophies, it would appear Wenger has refined that vision to one. He wants to win the Premier League and by the sounds of it, he is prepared to sacrifice the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford to get it.

Cesc Fabregas and Wojciech Szczesny were unlikely to have played in that game even if they had not been injured against Barcelona. Arsenal's next four league games up to the north London derby at Tottenham on 20 April are against West Bromwich (away), Blackburn (home), Blackpool (away) and Liverpool (home). If they are in contention come the Manchester United game on 1 May, no one will be talking about the defeat to Barça.

Arsenal winning the Champions League was always a very distant prospect, given the strength of the two Spanish sides in the competition. That Arsenal have gone out earlier than expected makes it look worse. But in reality this season is about a window of opportunity for Arsenal in the Premier League.

With United so average by their standards, with Chelsea and Manchester City's form so unreliable and with Liverpool 18 points off the top, Arsenal have a chance. Yes, the nature of their defeat to Barcelona looks bad but if it had come in the semi-finals, or even the final, it would have been just as chastening and the extra games would have taken their toll.

Win their remaining league games, including that one against United at the Emirates, and Arsenal will be champions for the fourth time under Wenger. That is a much more realistic prospect than winning the Champions League ever was.

For that reason, it was a surprise Wenger risked a not fully fit Van Persie against Barcelona. It is less surprising that he would never have chosen to risk Fabregas in the FA Cup on Saturday when there is so much at stake in the league. It would be foolish to bet against Sir Alex Ferguson also fielding a weakened team.

Arsenal's title rivals – United, City and Chelsea – will be that bit more anxious now Wenger's side are out of Europe and free to concentrate on the league. They will have had enjoyed seeing Wenger and his team humbled on Tuesday. Then they will have started to fret about what that leaves Arsenal free to do in the title race.

Barça bedlam: How Nou Camp noise has fooled visitors

Robin van Persie is not the only player to have had problems hearing the referee's whistle in the Nou Camp this season. The FC Copenhagen forward Cesar Santin was running clean through on goal in his side's group match with Barcelona last October when he thought he heard the referee blow and stopped in his tracks thinking the off-side flag had been raised.

French referee Stéphane Lannoy had not blown his whistle; the noise had come from Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto. The Portuguese keeper claimed to have been whistling instructions to his defenders but Uefa saw it differently and charged him with improper conduct – deliberately trying to con the opposing striker – and banned him for two games.

The decision by Van Persie to shoot earned him his second yellow and little sympathy in Spain, even from the Madrid press. Marca's headline read: "If you don't shoot it's impossible to beat Barça." And Spain's other pro Real Madrid daily, Diario AS, also passed on the opportunity to side with the Gunners, saying: "Van Persie only had one shot and it got him sent off."

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