Date: 27th November 2014 at 8:47am
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In an interview Alexis gave in Chile earlier this month he said that of the three forward positions he had a slight preference to play on the left as it allowed him to come inside on his stronger right foot. On the left was where he played in this game with Sanogo a conventional target man up front with Cazorla and Ramsey behind him and Ox wide right. Most of Alexis’ best work was from that position too though his passing was pretty wasteful at times with only 56% completion rate but he also came up with some passes that were genuinely incisive and creative. A couple in the first half, a perfectly weighted ball into space towards the byline for Gibbs to time his run well enough to get to it before it went out of play and another ignoring the simpler pass with two closer options before picking out Ramsey in the box, brought Pires to mind in their vision. Even more redolent of that particular right footed left midfield former player was Sanchez`s goal which was truly Piresesque in its execution. But if Sanchez can be likened to Pires at all then it would be Pires on speed such is his industry and determination.

There were a few groans when Sanogo’s name appeared on the team sheet in place of the injured Welbeck and the non-registered Giroud but the former postman delivered early on benefiting from his own good hold up play and a clever reverse pass in the box from the excellent Cazorla. It may have been Yaya’s one real high spot of the whole game but he worked hard to keep the Dortmund defence busy throughout and justified his selection.

For once we seemed to get the balance between defending and attacking right but the reality is that this was determined by the early goal. Dortmund conceded so early that any plans to sit and play us on the counter were negated as they were forced to play out in order to get back into the game. This obliged us to get players behind the ball when we didn’t have possession and provided the space to get forward when we did. It suited both Gibbs and Chambers with their respective flank partners Alexis and Ox both putting in a shift in covering for them as they broke forward. Cazorla was another who impressed in covering a great deal of ground across the whole of midfield, dropping deep when Ramsey was furthest forward but providing a threat when advanced in a more central role than of late. He passed quickly and accurately showed some magic feet at times and picked up two assists.

With Arteta intelligently covering the back four and the rest of the midfield putting in the effort to close down an aggressive Dortmund side the defence held firm. Once again make shift centre back Monreal acquitted himself very well. I’ve said it before but we have had poorer centre backs as a fourth choice than Nacho has so far proven to be.

With the pattern of the game dictated by our early goal midfield were forced to play without the ball against an attacking Dortmund side that despite their current domestic league struggles passed more accurately than we did and also dominated possession while we tackled more successfully and conceded twice as many fouls as the German side. Not the balance of play we are accustomed to seeing from Arsenal but we restricted them to one less goal attempt than the relatively modest 9 we managed and rookie keeper Martinez really only had a couple of good saves, one in each half, to make. Even with fewer chances than we’ve seen of late we looked as though we might score more than Dortmund did. The Ox produced one great effort early in the second half, just before Sanchez did score, which hit the woodwork.

Had we not have let the Anderlecht game slip though our hands we might well have expected to top this group but for once this was a game in which the result matched our overall performance helping to lift some of the negativity that all too easily seems to afflict us. We are a good side with some exceptionally good players worthy of our support.

It seems we’re set to lose Arteta for a while which is a great shame as having only recently returned to the side we have perhaps gained a greater appreciation of the tactical intelligence he brings to the midfield anchor role. As Wenger said post game it’s hard to have to take these persistent injuries on the chin as frequent enforced changes in turn make it harder to generate the rhythm in our play we are still seeking. But cope with them we must and on the positive side players like Debuchy and Ozil are not too far away from returning while Koscielny and Giroud are now back through the treatment room’s constantly revolving door.

There are indeed positives to be found among negatives.