Arsene Wenger accepted Arsenal were “95 per cent” out of the Champions League after losing 2-0 in the home leg of their round of 16 tie with Barcelona.
The impressive Lionel Messi finished a fine counter-attack started by Neymar and Luis Suarez to give Barca the lead in the 71st minute, before winning and scoring the 84th-minute penalty which leaves Arsenal on the brink of elimination.
A combination of wasted goalscoring chances and defensive lapses felt familiar to those which ended Arsenal’s Champions League campaign at the same stage last season against Monaco.
However, despite the temptation to rotate his team given their pursuit of the Premier League title, determination to retain the FA Cup and belief they are effectively out of Europe, Wenger is determined to field a strong team in the second leg at the Camp Nou.
“Barcelona are certainly through, 95 per cent, but we want to go there and play,” the Frenchman said.
“We are Arsenal Football Club and we will not go there to just have no chance.
“It’s a bit disappointing to give them the goals that we did, especially the first goal. I feel we were extremely guilty and have no excuses for that goal.
“They are better than us, everybody knows that, but we could have won the game if we kept the discipline until the end. Once again, like against Monaco, exactly the same thing happened. We were caught in exactly the same way.
“We had two or three opportunities to stop the first goal which we didn’t do because I don’t think we had the right response to the situation that our players faced.
“We were impatient in the build-up, we lost balls that we usually don’t and that’s not because Barcelona forced us to do it, but just because we were not precise enough in our passing.
“We had an unbelievable chance in the first half. The way we finished our chances is a problem because I felt we missed something in the final third.
“Our failure is that the chance was there to beat them, that is the biggest regret I have. Sometimes you can lose against a team and you can do nothing about it – but there was room to beat them.”
Luis Enrique on Barcelona win
Towards the conclusion of the second half, Barca defender Gerard Pique spoke to Luis Enrique before fouling Danny Welbeck and earning a yellow card which will rule him out of the return fixture.
Barca’s manager dismissed suggestions the booking was in any way ordered or tactical, and praised his team’s patient first-half performance for the way it tired Arsenal and led to them securing victory during the second.
“It wasn’t deliberate,” Luis Enrique said. “Gerard Pique, if you saw the fault (foul), he had to do it, it wasn’t deliberate at all.
“Everyone who knows about football knows you need a first half like this in order to have a second like the one we had. Arsenal are very good at helping each other collectively and we needed a lot of possession of the ball.
“My players individually performed perfectly. But there is nothing decided yet, we will have to perform very well in the (second leg).”