Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal: a strong challenge in an imposing atmosphere

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Integration is the name of the game as Arséne Wenger looks to blend his new signings with a host of returning players and the rest of his squad for the first Champions League game of the season.

What a tough game it will be: away at Borussia Dortmund, the team with the best home support in world football, the current German champions and a team stacked with offensive and defensive quality.

Rather excitingly Gervinho will be available after serving his three-game domestic ban, as will Alex Song. Gervinho will add an unpredictable element to a side that struggled for creativity in our 1-0 victory over Swansea, Song will add some much-needed quality in the middle of the pitch.

Given the injury to Aaron Ramsey the midfield picks itself — Song will return alongside Emmanuel Frimpong and new boy Mikel Arteta, who performed astutely on his debut — while a frontline trio of Gervinho, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott looks likely.

The real question marks over Wenger’s starting team lay at the back: will Kieran Gibbs, who looked nervy against Swansea’s pace on Saturday, be replaced by André Santos? It looks a decent bet, given that our other new defensive signing, Per Mertesacker, had a strong debut and knows the German game well.

While the performance against Swansea left a lot to be desired, the result was exactly what was required. A win to get over the horrors of the 8-2 and get the new boys (and the old ones too) moving together in the right direction. The clean sheet was an added bonus and although there will surely be stumbles ahead, a Champions League tie against Dortmund offers another opportunity to shuffle forwards.

As I am based in Berlin, I was exercising the thought of going along to the legendary Westfalenstadion to cheer on our boys with the Arsenal Germany Supporters’ club. As it turned out, finances and the logistics of getting there and back made it impossible, but the game will still make for intriguing viewing across the city.

I’m excited about this one. The Champions League always offers an escape from the oft-dreary nature of the Premier League marathon and with our opponents posing a strong challenge in what will undoubtedly be an extremely imposing atmosphere it is set to be a thrilling night of football.


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27 thoughts on “Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal: a strong challenge in an imposing atmosphere

  1. A win here would do extraordinary things for the team’s confidence. I really hope we can get that win. I agree with the team, although for some reason, I have a feeling Arshavin might get a start. Just a feeling. And I think Santos should come on, I really don’t think Gibbs is cut out for this sort of challenge, not yet at least.

    Anyway, the guys shouldn’t play with the handbrake on, they should go all out. They shouldn’t get complacent about the CL matches either because that’s what landed us a tie against Barca last time far too early on.

    It’ll be good to concede a small number, because being reasonable, I don’t think we’ll be able to keep a clean sheet, no matter how awesome it would be if we did. If the guys kept that in mind, plus the fact that Dortmund have to come over to the Emirates facing our crowd, then it’ll allow them to play freely and superbly, the Arsenal way.

    Can’t wait. Come on you Gunners!

  2. I agree with Jay.D about what a win could do for us, but I will be quite happy with a draw as well. A clean sheet will be amazing as Dortmund are packed with talent in their final third. Gotze will dominate the right flank unless Gibbs/Santos put an extraordinary performance. Kagawa will be controlled if Song & Frimpong give him enough attention, and Lucas Barrios is out so Dortmund have to make do with Lewandowski, who is not having the best of seasons as of now. If we can close their attacking midfielders well enough (a tough job indeed) we can keep the clean sheet.
    Our biggest problem is their defence, one of the most steady back lines in Europe, right up there with the Barcelona’s and Madrid’s of the world. They lost two of their five league games this season which isn’t a very good start for a side that dominated the Bundesliga just four months ago, and haven’t gone through many changes in the summer. But still, the twin towers of Subotic and Hummels, probably the best defensive central duo in Europe last year, with the very consistent Schmeltzer (their first choice right back is injured), their back four will be very hard to penetrate.

    We do have Gervinho back and Song to help the defensive line with Kagawa. Though we must have our left winger doing fantastic backing work to help Gibbs or Santos with marking and dealing with Gotze. I’m not sure if everyone’s favourite lazy Russian is up for the task. He did have a good game against Swansea but he’s not in top form currently and I’m not sure if he’s the right choice for this game.

    I’d start with:
    Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos
    Arteta Benayoun
    Walcott RVP Gervinho

    I don’t know if it would be wise to open with Walcott. He seems to be in his best around the 70 minute mark, when defenders are tired and he can sneak behind them and get the through ball like he did with Udinese and numerous times last season. However I think right now he’s on a better form run than Arshavin so I’d start him with Gervinho on the left for this game. Alternatively we can start with Benayoun and Gervinho on the flanks and have both Song and Frimpong at DM with Arteta playing single CM/AM, but I’m afraid that Frimpong is too much of a liability right now, he’s not stable and he makes stupid decisions, goes too much up in the field and we can’t count on him not making a single mistake for 90 minutes. This is Champions League away, not Swansea at home, and Kagawa or Gotze aren’t likely to miss pure sitters like Graham on Saturday.
    Also, in this formation there won’t be enough pressure on the two defensive midfielders Dortmund usually plays, and they will close Arteta down easily when he comes forward. We need to pressure them down and try to sneak an early goal, in order to have a chance to take all three points. It won’t be easy but I feel it is possible, and if Pat Rice can manage his substitutions well we can prevail.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    “Borussia Dortmund, the team with the best home support in world football”
    Is there a short explanation for this statement? I don’t doubt you for a minute, but with my total ignorance of all things Bundesliga, I am curious if you could elaborate.

    If Gervinho, RVP and Walcott are in front of Arteta, his creative flair matched to those choice options could well carry the day for us. I’d want to see lots of Arshavin off the bench as well. Come on Arsenal.

  4. @ 1NilToTheArsenal: Their stadium holds 81,000 fans (The largest in Germany), and their average attendance at over 77 000 a game, the highest in Europe.

  5. Hi Andrew, hi all!

    I would very much like to see arshavin playing behind RVP tonight. I believe he would be dangerous in this position against such an opponent. What do you think?

    Here’s “my” starting 11:

    Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
    Song Arteta
    Walcott arshavin Gervinho

    That would be a pretty strong team if you think about it! Come on you gunners! 🙂

  6. Bang on Andy, its an exciting game in prospect…..Im looking more to the performance rather than the result, I just dont think weve started yet and I cant see us winning, what I would be delighted with though would be some resolution and resolve whether we go down or grab a point, I just want to see if we have improved as regards bottle and character….a win would be really encouraging, though, like iv said we havnt really found our feet thus far.
    Hoping to maybe get another glimpse of Benayoun and hopefully Dos Santo.
    Arteta and Mertesacker performances are key.

  7. @Per,
    Spot on about Arshavin, in my opinion he could do with a fresh challenge and a central move maybe just the tonic to bring more out of him. He played there against us in a recent Euro Qualifier and pulled all the strings, he was excellent and had it not been for the outstanding Richard Dunne we would have been beat well.
    Sagna Per Kos Dos Santos
    Walcott Arteta Gervinho
    Plenty of CL experience there, mixed in with the counter attacking pace of Gervinho and the boy Theo.
    Maybe a win wouldnt be so far out of reach.

  8. I fear the defence is still arsenal achilles heel. young chesny is suspect with his positioning as exposed by rooney and others. Gibbs is not good enough for cl. kos and song are not quality players and more than often give away too many free-kicks. So all will depend on how sagna and merteseker carry this leaky defence. Hope for the best and if arsenal manage 0-0 or lose 1-0 it will be a good result for a team down in dumps after swallowed by manu and beaten by liverpool at home.

  9. Howdy Drew Howdy all,
    Thanks mucho for the pre-game post I’m already nervous in the service.
    Interesting video. These guys seem to think they’re the keenest thing since sliced bread, the regular cat’s meow.
    I guess we’ll just have to see about that.
    Looking forward to seeing Dos Santos (which does not mean “two Saints” as in Spanish but “from God” in Portuguese ) Quem Fala: Doh Santosh. proper pronuciation.
    Enough for the diction let’s get on with the action. We will have to be quick,smart and tough.
    Come on you Gunners!!!

  10. I’d have signed up for the draw before hand, but I was licking my chops after Szcz made that stop between his legs. Crap, what a hit that guy made- that one will be on the UCL highlight reel for the season.

    Bad luck after a good game, though after the way gave away games at the end last year, I’d have liked for them to see this one out.

    RvP is the man, and I liked how he got rid of the armband when he came off instead of giving it to Chamakh again. Koscielny still has an unbelievable knack for looking brilliant one moment, then completely lost the next. We’ll miss vermaelen with our busy schedule. Theo got the assist but I felt was a ghost for most of the game. I thought he had a chance to outrun their big center backs. Cheap Joke: An englishman hasn’t bombed in the Ruhr like that since 1945?

    The confidence has to be building though. So i’ll take the point in the group and run with it

  11. Say what you want! That draw was sore to the eye to watch,dortmund haven’t played since the last 90`s in uefa and we regular campaigners played like amateurs like it’s our first time,we didn’t deserve 3 points,why would management want to defend that one goal lead when we have a shakey defends,u can say it’s a good point,but wants happens when arsenal play at home and can’t even attack( arteta was invisible when attacking) n defending,I have taken the reasons for poor perform in consideration but just don’t add up,dortmund have concede and playing on home ground they are under pressure and we just sit back and allow them to control the flow of game.where the logic in that?

  12. We traveled to our toughest CL group match on the back of what has been a very shakey start to the season and got a draw. I didn’t say that it was pleasing to the eye or that we didn’t hang on desperately for it but it was a good result for us.
    Asking for more at this stage especially considering the events of the last 6 months is extra egg in you beer. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we darn near won the thing.

  13. I’m happy with the draw.

    Prior to the game I had the mindset of being content with a point, so content I shall be. Especially considering Dortmund did enough to win the game.

    Song was tenacious in the middle, his best game in a while. Arteta built on his strong debut against Swansea and Gervinho was lively as always – very unlucky not to get a goal too.

    Speaking of goals, how about Robin’s!? Great hussle to win the wall, a brilliant pass from Walcott and a suitable finish to match.

    Bring on Blackburn.

  14. 1 nil to the Arsenal indeed. Could have been. Should have been. But it was not to be. Dortmund played well and really poured it on in the final 20 minutes. I was impressed by their defender Subotic – a real beast, that guy – we should try for him in January.
    Thank goodness for RvP and his sublime touch once again.

  15. screw all the people who said arsenal were lucky in this one. they played well and were worth a goal i thought. how was the equalizer not lucky? i’d put money on that dude not replicating that shot if given 40 chances. sure they put plenty of pressure on us, but don’t tell me we were lucky to come away with a draw. RVPs goal was not luck either, as i’ve read in a few places. he made the interception and had beautiful composure with his RIGHT foot to put it away. i’m hoping this team is out to prove everybody wrong. this is one more stepping stone in the right direction. COYG!

  16. A good game to watch.Their goal was indeed lucky but until now i feel Fabregas is irreplaceable. I saw the reason why Wenger wanted to buy Goetz. We had no player in mid field to hold on to the ball for a few seconds and neither run with it in midfield at all. I for once thought Banayoun was a liability but he recovered well in the last stages of the game.What did Chamak come to do on the pitch. We must get worried that in any case Persie got injured no arsenal forward at the moment can rise to the occassion like persie. He has now changed his composure infront of goal and has any one realised the way he takes his time for precision. I liked all his efforts last night.Whats up with the South Korean striker possibly he is descent enough and can save us from Chamakh. All in all Dortmund gave us a breath taking game. Most of their players are short but fit for purpose.I hope we get a better holding midfielder i the near future to partner wilshere.

  17. I must concede, I had no ticket and I fell asleep at 20:20 h or so, I woke up and saw the final extra 4 minutes, but I just watched a record of the match (thanks to those people in web), and I must say, a fair result 😉 :mrgreen:

  18. If your guys are happy with the draw,then no one should complain when we come out of the group 2nd best and have to play barc\madrid\city. I have got to say having mertesacker there is a real confident boost especially with rovers next week.

  19. A more than decent result, but more encouragingly, signs of some kind of rhythm developing between some the Arsenal players. The first half was shaky, even though we got the goal (hurrah RVP!!) but we consolidated well in the second, and seemed more comfortable. Yes we still gave the ball away at times, and relied on Song’s excellence a few times, but even Koscielny did well after his shaky start. Benayoun was running all over the pitch, and Gervinho was very unlucky to slip/trip when clean through on goal. The only worry is if Arteta can last 90 minutes. In both matches so far he has looked tired towards the end and has given the ball away.

    You could tell that this Dortmund team is good, and full of belief. Plus they have an understanding among their players, something we lack at this point. Rebuilding a team will always be a slow process. I think we’re still lacking some creativity but perhaps that will come with more game time. All in all a good, committed performance, largely a good defensive display (after a shaky start), and a fair result. A draw away to the German Champions is not a bad result at all. Something to keep building on. I’m feeling content with the draw and look forward to the next match. Hopefully some injured players will return as well.

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