Arsene Wenger admits that Arsenal exit the Champions League with regrets, but believes his struggling side performed positively during their last-16 second-leg defeat to Barcelona. The Gunners were not given a hope by most of overturning a 2-0 deficit at a rain-soaked Nou Camp and ending the La Liga champions' formidable 37-match unbeaten streak.
They were far from overawed on the night, however, working hard to create opportunities early on only to fail to register a shot on target as Neymar appeared to put the tie even further out of reach. A terrific strike from Mohamed Elneny then gave the visitors a glimpse of hope before Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi provided a glorious reminder of their quality with two fantastic goals to set the seal on a comprehensive 5-1 aggregate victory.
"I think the performance was good," Wenger told BT Sport after the full-time whistle. "It was a great game between two good teams. We went out with regrets of course but I must say they have exceptional quality up front and you feel that any little mistake you make at the back they can take advantage of it.
"It was a turning point at 1-1. I could feel they were wobbling a little bit. They were insecure and had we scored a second goal, I think we could have created a sensation tonight. But we didn't and any one of the three up front can score an exceptional goal."
Arsenal had what many felt was a genuine penalty appeal waved away by referee Sergei Karasev before the break when Alex Iwobi, making his first start in Europe, ran through only to fall after seemingly having his heels clipped by the pursuing Javier Mascherano. Wenger was unsure on that decision, but praised the officials for their otherwise impressive performance.
"I don't know if he touched him or not," he added. "He didn't go down on purpose. Did he trick himself because he didn't run well or was he touched? I don't know. The referee decides. I think honestly, overall, the referee had a good game."
Wenger caused something of a stir with his team selection in Catalonia, with Arsenal travelling to Everton in the Premier League on 19 March as they look to claw away at the 11-point deficit to leaders Leicester. Many believed that Arsenal were resting players with the difficulty of the task at hand and the likes of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were only introduced late on as replacements for Danny Welbeck and Iwobi. Francis Coquelin was also brought on moments before half-time following an injury to Mathieu Flamini.
On his team selection, the manager said: "When it was 2-1, you know I have problems with Danny Welbeck at the moment to repeat the games. I wanted to protect him."