Per Mertesacker decisive on who should be blamed for failing to beat Barcelona

Per Mertesacker says it would have been a different game had the Gunners' forwards taken any of their chances before Lionel Messi's opener.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has told the Telegraph that the side's attacking players failing to take any of their chances, rather than bad defending, was the reason that the Gunners succumbed to defeat against Barcelona.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud both failed to convert big opportunities for the hosts at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday before Lionel Messi struck twice late on to secure a 20 last-16 first-leg victory for the La Liga leaders.

That defeat leaves Arsenal on the brink of being dumped out of the Champions League by Barca at the first knockout stage for the third time in seven years.

Mertesacker admitted that he and his teammates tried their best to cope with the Catalans' blistering attack, but insisted that the hosts had to score to keep the pressure on the visitors.

He told the Telegraph: "We had to score at one point – that was the key to why we lost in the end. You have to score at one stage against Barcelona to keep the pressure up on them.

"They had a lot of possession but I think we defended so well over 70, 80 minutes. In our best period we conceded. We were doubted a lot but you can't say that we have defended badly. We tried so hard to cover each other.

"We could see they were vulnerable at times. When you keep going for such a long time and keep up with a good team you have to score and that was a disappointing moment for everyone and we couldn’t get over it."

Arsenal must now turn their attentions to a defining period in the Premier League title race before the second leg at the Nou Camp on 12 March.

Arsene Wenger's side travel to Old Trafford on Sunday to renew their longstanding rivalry with Manchester United, before hosting Swansea City in midweek and making the short journey across North London to face arch-rivals Tottenham.


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