Now the shock is over … The Prem has what it takes to overcome La Liga’s football lesson

It’s one of football’s great debates: which league is better, The Premiership or La Liga? Last night, Barcelona unveiled their footballing masterpiece to the watching world and presented a good case for Spain’s top league. It was the paragon of professional football, a display so enthralling to watch that even the most twisted and bitter Arsenal fan would turn and say, bravo.
Take the whole package on what both leagues have to offer, and the Premiership will win the argument. The English fans hold an overbearing obsession that can’t be rivalled by anybody, their league’s history is rich and runs deep, and having Paul Merson as a top sportscaster, well, then you know it must be good.
In terms of actual football though, last night Barcelona showed why Spain does reign. While Arsenal are doing the donkey work and getting muddy knees at Stoke, Barcelona are most likely stroking the ball around with another Spanish team who’s idea of playing the game is similar to theirs, just not as good. The outcome is seeing the Catalan giants completely outplay Arsenal.
Think back to when England were humbled by Spain in February 2009. It might only have been a friendly, but England couldn’t get near the ball as Spain held lengthy spells of possession. At the Emirates, Xavi, Leo Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co. repeated a similar master-class, with an added incentive to crush their opponents in what was obviously a much more important game.
The Premiership makes men out of boys and turns players into strong machines. That is the sort of practice Arsenal get on a weekly basis domestically, but what good is it in Europe when the closest you can get to Barcelona is a quick whiff of the shampoo Messi uses before he’s off and creating chances.
The sad thing is, that Arsenal proclaim the sort of football Barcelona played last night. They advertise it, they defend it and they hail it, but in the end, they were not ready to be practiced upon what they preach, and because of the inferior level of technical speed in the Premiership compared to La Liga, simply weren’t prepared for it. From the first minutes Barcelona had cast their spell on Arsenal.
Standing there in the pub, arching my neck back and staring at the screen with an open mouth, I was under the hex too. The game had promised virtuosity and it duly delivered, and sometimes as a fan it’s refreshing to definately know when you’ve been second best, and at the same comprehend that football triumphed. Better than that, the ultimate feeling is supporting the team who took part, and not supporting Chelsea who sit out.
For both of Ibrahimovic’s goals, the Gunners stood and watched drop-jawed, caught in the same footballing trance as me. By that point they clearly didn’t know what to do; sit deep and soak up space, or press high and force Barca into making mistakes? That’s fine, but Pep Guardiola’s team could shuffle the ball around in Marlon King’s prison cell and it wouldn’t touch the sides. Press them and they can beat you with a dribble.
We know that of Barcelona and how it emerges out of La Liga, so it’s no wonder Spain are the current European champions. What they didn’t know about though, was the inimitable spirit of the Premiership, that old never-say-die attitude that has been Arsenal’s get out of jail free card many times this season.
Clearly they didn’t know about Theo Walcott’s pace too, either that or Maxwell had forgotten Thierry Henry’s warning. Walcott is the epitome of Arsenal. There is always the chance of a heroic performance with any of the players, the problem is, it’s just hard to know when and where it’s going to come, a headache for Wenger and a likely reason why the youngster was benched.
Thankfully for the Frenchman, Walcott’s big game came at a major checkpoint in the outcome of this season. Through his goal celebration and mature post-match interview, it appeared Walcott had changed into a man. His biggest critics Chris Waddle and Stan Collymoore must have been scratching their heads. Fabio Capello meanwhile must have been scratching his notepad with the pen that could draft Walcott into his World Cup plans.
That is over two months away though, and immediate plans turn to Wolves on Saturday. Wenger can expect another migraine when he tries to pick his side without William Gallas, Andrey Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas, all crooked for long periods, Cesc out for at least six weeks.

 Still, a quick booster of that great Premiership attitude to remind the Arsenal lads before they head for Barcelona, that every now and again in football the most talented team doesn’t always win. The shock of those first twenty minutes has gone and the team must be buzzing having resuscitated the tie. Sometimes, regardless of injuries and doubters, the belief that it can be done is what leads to success. That is why my money is on the Premiership over La Liga come Tuesday night.
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