Preview: Arsenal face arduous Dortmund task


Well well well Dortmund, we meet again. We come face to face with Jurgen Klopp’s cheeky smile, your yellow and black kits that zip around the pitch like enraged yellow-jackets, and the oh so famous Die gelbe Wand (the Yellow Wall).  We may know each other quite well from recent clashes in the past three or four years, but I certainly did not want to come to grips with you yet again.

Arsenal travel to North Rhine-Westphalia for a visit to the brilliant Westfalenstadion to take on Klopp and his Die schwarzgelben.  If the task was not already tricky enough, we’ll have to do it with an increasing injury crisis at the back; against a team like Dortmund, this is the last thing we needed.

The four men facing you in this picture could hold the key to success or failure tonight for Arsenal (image courtesy of Arsenal’s official Facebook page)

The recent news of Mathieu Debuchy’s injury being likely to keep him out a minimum of two months, yesterday spawned another sucker punch to the gut, when it was revealed that Nacho Monreal would not feature due to a back injury (though he should be fit for the weekend) – it got even worse when it broke that Calum Chambers’ inclusion in the XI tonight would not be a guarantee as he is suffering from tonsillitis (you’ve got to be kidding me, honestly), and is listed as 50/50 and subject to a late fitness test.  This leave us in a difficult spot.

But wait, there is hope!  Dortmund have injury concerns of their own, as Marco Reus is a long term casualty, and Klopp will also be without the services of captain Mats Hummels, who pulled out of contention yesterday.  Added to that list is Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Nuri Sahin and Oliver Kirch are also unavailable for selection.  On paper Dortmund are more crocked than we are, but they’re still a massive threat to us on the counter, especially given our selection issues.

"What to expect from Dortmund today– Reliance on quick and penetrative counter-attacks– Creating chances from set-pieces– Creating chances via the run of play through the middle of the park– Creating a ton of scoring chances in our final third– Defensively willing to sit back and soak up the pressure"

The positives for Arsenal

  • Alexis Sanchez is hitting form at the right time, and having scored in each of his last three appearances for us, he has seemed to settle far more quickly than first anticipated.
  • Jack Wilshere has also found form, and though Aaron Ramsey had poor performance against City, Ramsey has a habit of showing up on European nights – if they both show up tonight, they could run riot against Sebastian Kehl, who has certainly lost a few steps, and will not be afforded of protection of Gundogan.
  • Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are both fit and ready to resume their effective partnership in the center of defense.  Considering Dortmund are a side that struggle in the air, and are no without Hummels, we should be able to deal with defending set-pieces far more easily, but there is an increased likelihood we may also capitalize on our own.

The positives for Dortmund

  •  Despite being bereft of Herr Reus and dzentelmen Blaszczykowski, Klopp can still call upon Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa with great confidence; all three players have pace, are creative and are direct, a potential nightmare for the Arsenal back-line tonight that usually uses a high line.
  • With a tactical system that usually see’s them occupy the middle of the park, that could aid them in shutting down Arsenal’s possession build-up style that we are obsessed with using regardless of who we are up against – with the vast majority of our players preferring to come centrally, Dortmund could make it difficult for us.
  • Defensive depth – even though Mats Hummels will not feature, Dortmund still have the highly rated Matthias Ginter (arguably their best player this season till this point), Neven Subotic and Sokratis to choose from for their central defensive pairing.

"Projected starting XI’sDortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller;  Erik Durm, Sokratis, Matthias Ginter, Lukasz Piszczek; Sebastian Kehl, Milos Jojic; Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Adrian RamosArsenal (4-1-4-1): Wojceich Szczesny; Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers/Hector Bellerin; Mikel Arteta; Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez; Danny WelbeckKey’s to winning for Arsenal– Making sure Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace does not get exposed against a Dortmund side that is littered with quick and direct players.– Making sure the high defensive line does not get routinely caught too far up the pitch.– Getting Mesut Ozil on the ball as much as possible in areas where he has space to create.– Playing Danny Welbeck through on goal as much as possible, rather than relying too heavily on slow possession build up, thus negating his power and pace– Allowing Alexis Sanchez the freedom to roam and be direct with his running at the defense.Key’s to winning for Dortmund– Winning the central midfield battle and shutting down both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere – making sure they are unable to make late runs into the area.– Exploiting the sometimes lax positional awareness that has a habit of plaguing Arsenal’s center defenders.– Targeting Per Mertesacker on set-pieces as well as through balls during the run of play.– Ensuring that their chances on the counter are taken well; Dortmund have a habit of letting leads slip, so every goal for them tonight will certainly count.– Making sure that Milos Jojic sufficiently covers the aging legs of Sebastian Kehl in the middle of the park."

Match Prediction

For me, this really will all hinge on two factors; 1. If Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have influential evenings, and 2. if Calum Chambers plays.  Ozil and Sanchez are, without question, Arsenal’s two most creative and talismanic players (yes, even more so than Ramsey and Wilshere).  While Sanchez has hit the ground running, Ozil has struggled to find his form in the early days of the campaign.  If both are on form tonight, Arsenal could be in for a brilliant performance.  As for Chambers, should he miss out due to tonsillitis, it likely means that Hector Bellerin will deputize.  While he has all the pace in the world and is quite good going forward, he has yet to feature in such an important match, and in the pressure cooker that is the Westfalenstadion no less, or against in-form players of the calibre that exist at Dortmund.

The Germans, despite being without a few key figures in their first-team, do not have many weaknesses apart from struggling to hold leads; ironic that Arsenal excel at pulling back from losing positions.  I want to think that we’ll be able to pull out a result tonight, but Dortmund will remember that they won the group ahead of us last year, and few managers know us better in recent years than Klopp.  For me, a 2-1 loss, but it’ll be the only loss of the group stage.