Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has deflected the blame for the Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat to Barcelona and believes the club's attackers were behind the loss at the Emirates Stadium. Lionel Messi scored twice, the second from the penalty spot, as the defending champions took a stranglehold of the tie.
The Gunners showed plenty of resilience against Luis Enrique's side but were eventually outdone by two late goals, the first coming via a sweeping counter-attack before Messi claimed his second after Mathieu Flamini fouled the Argentine international. Arsene Wenger later questioned his side's defending for the crucial opening goal, which came amid a period of dominance for the home side.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud both spurned presentable chances for Arsenal during the 90 minutes and Mertesacker believes the attack should take some responsibility for the defeat. Only eight teams have previously overturned a two-goal first leg deficit in Europe's premier club competition, but the Germany international wants the blame for the North Londoners' plight evenly distributed.
"You have to score at one stage against Barcelona to keep the pressure up on them," Mertesacker said, according to The Guardian. "They had a lot of possession but we defended well and we had to score at one point – that was the key to why we lost in the end. It was obviously a disappointing ending. I think we defended so well over 70 minutes and then we got punished twice.
"We tried so hard to cover each other [on the first goal] but someone was always a little bit late on that counter-attack. It was a bit naive but when you keep going for such a long time and keep up with a good team, you have to score. That [the opening goal] was a disappointing moment for everyone and we couldn't get over it.
"We need to play better on the break and when we have the ball. We could have created more chances and shared the ball better in the final third. Obviously, we need to score. Then, we could have put pressure on them and they would have to come at us."
Bayern Munich became the latest team to beat the odds and come back from two goals down in the first leg after overcoming FC Porto in last season's competition – a blueprint Arsenal must hope to copy in three weeks. Wenger believes Barcelona are "95%" through to the quarter-finals.
"Barcelona are certainly through, 95%, but we want to go there and play," he said, according to the club's official website. "We are Arsenal and we will not go there to just have no chance. What we want is to focus on our next game. It's a shame that the players have not got any satisfaction tonight because energy-wise we put absolutely everything in."