Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Starving Messi Is the Key for Hungry Gunners; If Arsene Wenger's Side Work Together as a Team Tomorrow Then They Can Stop the Brilliant Barca Playmaker from Running the Show; EXCLUSIVE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Starving Messi Is the Key for Hungry Gunners; If Arsene Wenger's Side Work Together as a Team Tomorrow Then They Can Stop the Brilliant Barca Playmaker from Running the Show; EXCLUSIVE

Article excerpt

Byline: Nigel Winterburn Former Arsenal defender

FACING the might of Barcelona tomorrow night is a huge challenge for everyone associated with Arsenal and this team will want to prove they can beat the very best.

One cause for concern is that in the other two really big games they have had at home this season, against Manchester United and Chelsea, the performances have been disappointing and they have lost quite convincingly. They can't afford to be like that again.

Those defeats are quite some time ago, though, and I have been impressed with the way the team have bounced back since then.

They have matured greatly over the course of the season. The squad learned some harsh lessons from the two defeats and I love the way they have responded to Aaron Ramsey's terrible injury.

If Arsenal can play with the same pace and power that they showed in the previous round against Porto then I'm confident they will cause Barcelona plenty of problems.

Of course, there is one big hurdle to overcome, albeit in a small frame, and that is the difficult task of stopping the seemingly unstoppable Lionel Messi.

It is an understatement to say he is in great form at the moment but I think Arsenal can limit his impact without resorting to the defensive tactics Chelsea used in the Champions League semi-final last year.

While much of the responsibility is bound to be on Gael Clichy at left-back, three other players will have a crucial role in helping him, none more so than Andrey Arshavin.

The Russian is obviously more known for his creative rather than defensive skills but if Clichy's communication is good, then he can play a major part in starving Messi of possession.

When I was at Arsenal, I played with Marc Overmars in front of me and he was a winger in the same mould as Arshavin. It was not a case of asking Overmars to track back and make tackles but putting him in a position where he could intercept passes and block off angles to the player I was marking.

There will be times in open play when a move breaks down and Clichy will have to deal with Messi one-on-one, yet on the other occasions he will have time to organise and use Arshavin in the same way.

It doesn't matter if you're the best player in the world, if you can't get the ball then you can't play.

Clichy should also be able to rely on the support of Alex Song, who will probably be the holding midfielder as well as whoever plays to the left of Cesc Fabregas in the middle, which could be Abou Diaby.

But the Frenchman will have to do a lot of the work himself. Messi loves to cut inside and the Argentine likes to do 'give and go's' quite a lot.

As long as Clichy doesn't follow the ball and just tracks the run of Messi, he should be able to deal with it. He's quick enough.

He's got to be concentrated, not dive in and make it too easy. …

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