With the trauma of tossing away a 3 goal lead against Anderlecht still fresh in the minds, Arsenal go into matchday 5 against runaway group leaders Dortmund in shakey form, having lost their ensuing two Premier League games.
That said, the visitors are actually in worse condition, sitting as they do in the Bundesliga relegation zone and on the back of throwing away a 2-0 lead on Saturday. But in the Champions League, Klopp’s side have been a different beast, sweeping all before them.
Klopp’s high intensity style brings undoubted results, but seems to come at a human cost as the Germans continue to count the cost of injuries in their squad. Thankfully, their hosts know nothing of such concerns……
The Gunners know a result will confirm their progression into the knockout rounds for the 15th season in a row, but anything less than a win and it will only be in 2nd place.
Jurgen Klopp described the game as ‘a holiday’ from his domestic travails and with 13 goals scored and 1 conceded- including an emphatic 2-0 victory over the Gunners on matchday 1, Arsenal will hope to remind their visitors of domestic strife.
Dortmund’s intense counter attacking style seems perfectly equipped to negate Arsenal’s occasional gun ho tendencies. But at the same time, Dortmund tend to tire notably at around the 70 minute mark. If Arsenal are not chasing the game at that stage- and it’s imperative they are not- they might consider themselves as having an excellent chance of victory. If the away side score first, worries might begin to hatch in Arsenal minds as Dortmund enjoy their vacation in North London. If the Gunners can nudge ahead, Borussia may begin to feel very far from home.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists that the criticism he has faced recently has not pierced his armour, ”When you are such a long time in football as I am, you don’t understand any more what crisis means. I must get to the dictionary and look at it well again.
”During the 18 years I have been here I have shown that I can take criticism. Everybody has the right to have an opinion, having said that, we have values at this club,’ the Frenchman added.
‘The first one is when we go through a difficult patch, we show solidarity. That is a very important one.
‘The second one is that, when you have something to say to each other, we say it face to face. We don’t need to go to the newspapers.
‘I don’t take (Usmanov’s comments) personally at all. It is an opinion that I respect, but when you are from this club, you are from this club. You are in or out, you cannot be both.
‘I am long enough in the game to know that when you play well, but lose the game, you get flooded with critics, however, if you play a very bad game, but you win it, everyone says how great you are.
‘It is our job to take a distance with that and see what was right and what was wrong. The rest is part of the game.
”What is important is how close we are together inside the club and how much we can respond to people who question our quality.
‘I personally feel that there is a very strong bond inside the team and the club, and that this team will have a very strong season.
‘I believe in what I do and I especially believe in my players, and in their quality and spirit.
‘I question myself every day and I hope you do that as well.’
Jurgen Klopp says his side are still under pressure to perform in London, even though his side are already through to the knockout phase, ‘We are trying to play football the way we can, even if we’re not in the best form. Everybody has had some problems – Shinji [Kagawa] can play better, but that’s the case for everybody. He has had some good games and also some not so good games, but that is the same for everybody.
‘I don’t know so much about the situation of Arsenal and English football. I don’t know what people think here, I don’t know what they want to be. Everybody thinks this is the perfect moment to go through. Arsenal have some injuries but we have many more injuries and problems. It’s not interesting to compare.
‘We have pressure too. Not maybe in this competition, but we have a big target. We want to go through in first position. But in Germany we have big pressure. In the last six games we played four very good halves and two very bad halves. Those two bad halves were enough to lose us those games. Tonight I cannot change the Bundesliga problem. Tonight is like a holiday for me. It is ‘only’ the Champions League. I have pressure though, of course I do. Everybody has pressure.
‘It’s not my plan to relax. We will see what we will do here. We need each game to get more stability. We have to use this game for the Bundesliga. We need stability and that is our problem up to now. If we play well then it will help us in the Bundesliga.’
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal are without Wojciech Szczesny (hip) and Jack Wilshere (ankle), whilst Olivier Giroud was not registered for the Champions League squad and misses out.
Danny Welbeck (hamstring) is fit and Laurent Koscielny returns to the squad after an achilles problem. Theo Walcott (groin) again sits out.
Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Mesut Özil (knee), David Ospina (thigh) are out.
Arsenal (from); Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta (c), Podolski, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Sanogo, Welbeck, Martinez, Campbell, Bellerin, Huddart.
Player to watch: Aaron Ramsey
Ramsey hasn’t performed at close to the level he did last season as yet, there are many reasons for this, most of which I documented here.
Wilshere’s absence could prove to be a blessing for Ramsey, the two never seem to simultaneously play well and the Welshman was substituted after another muted display on Saturday. With Wilshere injured, this is a chance for Ramsey to assume the same mantle that he did last season.
Borussia Dortmund Team News:
Dortmund have once again lost Marco Reus, this time with an ankle injury that will keep him out until the new year. Mat Hummels (ankle) and Nuri Sahin (knee) are also unavailable.
Sven Bender (hip), Oliver Kirch (thigh) and Sokratis Papastathopoulos (calf) have not travelled, whilst Jakub Błaszczykowski (knee) is a doubt.
Borussia Dortmund (from); Weidenfeller, Subotic, Kehl, Kagawa, Gündoğan, Immobile, Mkhitaryan, Jojić, Błaszczykowski, Aubameyang, Großkreutz, Ramos, Langerak, Piszczek, Ji, Sarr, Ginter, Schmelzer.
Player to watch: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
With Reus unavailable, much of the creative burden will fall on the Armenian schemer. Mkhitaryan likes to take up positions between the midfield and the strikers and if Arsenal have to push on at any point, (let’s face it, even if they don’t *have* to) he might pick up some pockets of space.
Dortmund are a wing heeled counter attacking side, but Mkhitaryan tends to wait for the cavalry to arrive before wreaking havoc with opposing defences.
Match Facts & Stats
Both times this fixture has been played between these two managers, the score has finished 2-1, with Arsenal prevaling in 2011 and Dortmund winning by that score last season. Arsenal beat Dortmund 2-0 at Highbury in 2002.
The November 2011 win over BVB was Arsenal’s sixth in succession against German visitors; since then they have lost four in a row at home, most recently the 2-0 reverse against FC Bayern München in last season’s round of 16 first leg.
Arsenal’s home record against German clubs in the Champions League is W9 D1 L5; overall it is W14 D6 L11.
Dortmund’s last six UEFA Champions League away fixtures have produced five wins and a single defeat, 3-0 at Real Madrid CF in last season’s quarter-finals which led to a 3-2 aggregate reverse.
Tomá? Rosický played for Dortmund between 2000 and 2006, scoring 19 goals in 149 Bundesliga games.
Dortmund have started a UEFA Champions League campaign with four wins for the first time. The last time they opened a group stage with three victories, in 1996/97, they went on to lift the trophy.
Nacho Monreal is one yellow card away from suspension.
Viktor Kassai from Hungary will referee this one.
I think with a home fixture and with the result more important to the hosts that Arsenal will just clinch this, 2-1. Alexis and Welbeck for Arsenal, Immobile for Dortmund.
Arsenal are aay at West Bromwich Albion at 12.45pm on Saturday. Dortmund play away at Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday at 4.30pm.