WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES

Barcelona cruise past Arsenal to cement status as world's best

Barcelona were at their effervescent best as they put four past Arsenal in their Champions League opener at the Johan Cruyff stadium on Tuesday.
Champions League
Opinion: Passing with no purpose - Xavi’s Barca already have a goals problem
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The Catalan club cemented their 2020-21 treble with a 4-0 win against Chelsea in last season's showpiece final and reaffirmed their status as favourites for this year's tournament with a 4-1 win against WSL pacesetters Arsenal.
The Gunners had opened their season with four wins from four in the league, scoring 16 goals and conceding just two - that run included wins against Chelsea and Manchester City. However, the London club were on the back foot from the off against Barcelona, who themselves were five from five in the Primera División.
Matchday 1 of the reformatted Champions League pitted - on paper at least - two of Europe's best sides against one another, but the Spanish outfit were in the ascendancy throughout and it could - and should - have been more. Barcelona captain and scorer of her side's second, Alexia Putellas, missed a stoppage time penalty to put added gloss on an already polished performance that also saw former Arsenal player Asisat Oshoala, Mariona Caldentey and Lieke Martens on the scoresheet.
The result was a far cry from Barcelona's first European outing - a 7-0 aggregate humbling by, you guessed it, Arsenal - back in 2012, and impressively reasserted their credentials as the best side in Europe and favourites to add a second Champions League crown to an ever-expanding trophy cabinet.
The loss brought an end to the Gunners' 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions dating back to February. They will face Hoffenheim on October 14 while Barcelona will take on Koge of Denmark.

Depay comes out swinging for Barcelona

On a completely separate note, the other Barcelona are a shambles. They sit ninth in Liga, some five points off the pace. They are rock bottom of a Champions League Group E that also contains Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv.
It is, The Warm-Up posits, incumbent on the manager, Ronald Koeman, to re-set the narrative enveloping the club and to push back against it. Yet, every time he opens his mouth the club barrels further into despair and discontent.
With his manager either unwilling or unable to re-set the agenda, Netherlands striker Memphis Depay appears to have taken on said mantel as cajoler-in-chief and positively bristled when asked whether he regretted moving to the Camp Nou.
"How could you ask that?" Depay said to ESPN Netherlands.
It's Barcelona. I don't think you understand how big this club is and what it means for a player if you move to a club like this. I would never regret it.
"Despite results, I'm really happy at the club," he continued.
"It's been a difficult time [for the team]. I don't want to talk about that much, but people are acting like the season is already over. There are so many games to play. Everything is still open. But as a player you feel responsible and you take responsibility. You care. Every player takes responsibility at Barca. That's normal for a club like Barcelona."
That right there is fighting talk. The sort of rearguard talk Koeman should be invoking every time he talks to the media. Instead it is very much woe is me.

Pjanic sticks the boot in on Koeman

Given his acrimonious exit from the club, it is well known that Miralem Pjanic has little time for Koeman.
And so, when the opportunity arose to stick the boot into Koeman - and Barcelona's horrendous start to the season represents presentation of an opportunity to do so - Pjanic duly stuck it in.
“[Barcelona] are going through difficult times," Pjanic told beIN SPORTS in a fairly restrained start.
"The results are not going as the fans want, which puts pressure on the players," he continued in, again, a fair assessment of the club's travails.
Maybe a good leader is needed to get the team back on its feet. Barcelona will return to the past, but it will take some time.
Ouch.
“Barca are always one of the four or five biggest clubs in the world and they will go back to the old days."

Pjanic and Koeman won't be on each others' Christmas card list

Image credit: Getty Images

Luis Enrique is definitely not reading this

Luis Enrique does not like the press. And has no qualms about telling the press this very fact. And ahead of his side's Nations League semi-final against Italy, the Spain manager once again let the press - via Marca - know that he has no time for them. Here he is:
I don't read the press because I think I know more about football than most and because I have more information than you do. There isn't an opinion that I can read that might interest me.
There you have it. He is not reading this.

HAT-TIP

A good get here from the ever-informative Off The Ball, who spoke with Callum Robinson regarding vaccinations, or lack thereof.
I just haven't [had the vaccination]. I just haven't done it. I think - as I said to your man here - it's your personal choice, and erm... my choice at this moment in time I haven't been vaccinated.I wouldn't force it on people to do it, or not. It's your choice, and your body and...
Robinson had has Covid-19 twice by the way.

RETRO CORNER

On the day in 2001, David Beckham continued his journey from pariah to national hero by scoring the goal that would send England to the 2002 World Cup.

COMING UP

It is only the Nations League semi-final opener between Italy and Spain. Everyone bar - presumably Luis Enrique - will read about that here tomorrow with Andi Thomas.
Champions League
Barca's last-16 hopes in the balance after Benfica stalemate
23/11/2021 AT 19:00
Liga
Depay penalty gives Barcelona first win under Xavi against Espanyol
20/11/2021 AT 19:36