Dortmund Preview: Arsenal Must Show English Clubs How It Is Done
English clubs floundered in last night’s European clashes, Manchester City’s air of invincibility shattered by their failure to win in Napoli last night. They are the more likely of the two Mancunian clubs to join Spurs in the Europa League although should United lose in Basel, that competition will receive an unexpected English boost.
Borussia Dortmund arrive at The Emirates for a pivotal clash in this group phase. Defeat combined with a Marseille win would send them out of the competition and no doubt give more impetus to the rumours of an impending £30m bid from Arsenal for Mario Goetze. Despite declarations this past Summer that he was staying in Germany, the English media have suddenly realised that the big names are no longer heading toward the Premier League, their desire for stories in the transfer window weakens their hand for the rest of the season.
Avoiding defeat is key for Arsenal this evening. Do that and qualification is assured if Marseille do not lose. Winning with Marseille failing to do so, seals top spot. Looking at the rest of the groups, that is imperative. Potential opponents in the first knockout phase are significantly weaker than the group winners. Whilst the bravado may say fear no-one, the path of least resistance to silverware is no less satisfying than one where seemingly insurmountable hurdles are overcome.
Arsenal go into this match in far better shape than the first meeting, physically and mentally. The club was still getting to grips with the anguish of the defeat at Old Trafford and new players arriving. This time, the side has a settled look about it with an undefeated run entrenched. Arguably, the draw in Dortmund was as crucial as the win over Swansea in stopping the rot. It does not matter that Dortmund were the better side on that occasion; you expect that when visiting the reigning Bundesliga champions. Does that meeting have any bearing on tonight? None at all other than to know that the visitors possess attacking strengths and defensive weaknesses, a mirror of Arsenal.
The team news is highly encouraging. Only Tomas Rosicky is missing from the weekend’s squad. I am not sure that the return of Abou Diaby is anything to shout about just yet. In Arsène’s own words, Diaby has not played one minute since surgery in June. This is too high profile a match for him to participate, even under extreme circumstances. It is a hope for the future because he is a talented individual; whether that future ever comes on a consistent basis remains to be seen. Even his detractors must be sympathetic to that on a humane level. Surely?
Disruption to the team should be minimal and I doubt that there will be changes to the defence or midfield. Wenger’s choices are limited for the former with injuries to Sagna and Jenkinson needing makeshift right backs in the form of Djourou and Koscielny. The latter could move to the centre if Mertesacker is deemed to need a rest but to me that would be an over-reaction to Saturday. I suppose that would be entirely in keeping with the aftermath of Norwich’s goal at Carrow Road but entirely unnecessary.
The manager was entirely unsurprising in his assertion that Robin van Persie will start. Will both Gervinho and Walcott do so? Gervinho had one of those days on Saturday whilst Walcott sparkled. Was the former suffering a touch of travel sickness? It would be no surprise to see Andrey Arshavin start this evening but changes overall, will be few and far between.
I would expect the line-up for tonight to be:
Szczesny, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos, Ramsey, Song, Arteta, Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
Twelve months ago, a weakened Arsenal team lost in Braga. Wenger will not want a repeat of that so Lukasz Fabianski will remain on the bench. Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, Bob Wilson believes that Wojciech Szczesny is as key to the side as Robin van Persie. Both Wilson and Arsène praised the Pole’s maturity and calm nature. It is usual for striker’s to gain the headlines – or lion’s share of them – an indicator that things at the back are working well. Crucially for a young goalkeeper, Szczesny has experienced heads in front of him. Whilst the callowness of youth manifests few and far between, the defenders this season appear less likely to offer an ‘after you‘ to the ball on as regular a basis as before. That helps Szczesny who is still learning. The talent is exceptional though and not underappreciated.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.