What a… Yesterday night Arsenal…. It was a lesson… As you can see, Dortmund’s pressing last night was so convincing that even I’m finding it hard to get any words out. Credit to the impressive Dortmund, who bestowed onto Arsenal an unbridled masterful game of how to play football. Dortmund were hungry, and Arsenal were taken to the slaughterhouse.
If Arsene Wenger and Jürgen Klopp were all chummy and in awe of each other before the match, then after the match, I’m sure Wenger planned some sort of excuse to omit himself from his post-game rendezvous with the ever-ebullient Klopp.
The Match Report
Losing to Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park is no shame. However, producing the same old flaccid performance against the bigger teams more or less restores that shameful equilibrium.
The scoreline finished 2-0 to Dortmund, but you could’ve fooled me. Dortmund’s concurrent attacks resembled a swarm of killer bees protecting it’s nest, that nest being the Signal Iduna Park. Arsenal couldn’t handle their stings, nor could they handle the ball. They flipped and flopped with it like a piping hot potato, where Dortmund moved the ball like the Harlem Globetrotters. And they did so without so many key absentees.
The warning signs were clear from minute one; bright red, flashing lights, signalling to Houston that we have a problem. Arsenal’s best player on the pitch was not of anyone wearing an Arsenal jersey. No, it was the Armenian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who squandered so many of his chances, keeping the scoreline somewhat respectable.
Despite, the myriads of chances Dortmund created, the scoreline was still ominously 0-0. However, you just knew that Arsenal couldn’t uphold this homemade wall of luck. This inevitability was later solidified when Danny Welbeck fluffed a rare Arsenal chance; a chance he really should have scored. The goal was coming, and it did come, from an Arsenal set-piece – shock!
The ball somehow found its way to Ciro Immobile on the halfway line. As he turned, he was suddenly faced with a 2-on-1 situation. He was shepherded towards the Arsenal area under no real threat, beat Koscienly with a fortunate piece of mis-control, and then fired it across Wojciech Szczęsny. Dortmund were up 1-0 on the stroke of halftime, the worse possible time to concede.
All hopes of Arsenal coming out to the second half with a point to prove were quickly and effectively disposed of. The second goal came straight after the second half kicked off. Kevin Großkreutz played Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through – who’s pace was a perennial problem for the Arsenal back line – who then rounded an on-rushing Szczęsny, and fired home the second.
The second goal took the sting out Arsenal and the game. Dortmund sat back and afforded Arsenal more of the ball. Apart from a few more squandered Danny Welbeck chances, and an APB out on Podolski’s missing shin pad, Dortmund played a game close to “perfection”, described by Jurgen Klopp, under no real duress.
Where Is Our Patrick Vieira?
It was another sell-out crowd for the traditional, ‘The Big Game, No Show’ performance provided by Arsenal. The Arsenal midfield was overpowered in every possible facet. New Arsenal captain, Mikel Arteta produced a performance that paid even more credibility towards Wenger’s inability to buy a defensive midfielder as a sacrilegious one.
Wenger has adopted a new formation this season of 4-1-4-1, which has been met with a lot of pessimism from fans. Perhaps this preemptive action was to negate the funnelling Arsenal faced against the big teams last season. However, on the back of last night’s one-sided performance that assumption can be put to bed. The fact is, this formation depends highly on a fully capable defensive midfielder, which Arsenal don’t have, and haven’t had since Patrick Vieira left in 2005.
Between Mathieu Flamini, who has the hunger and passion in abundance, but lacks the discipline, and Arteta, who may have the discipline but not the legs to provide adequate protection for the defence, you can wonder why Arsenal fans have screamed for Callum Chambers to be moulded into that role. An outcry that I find a little ill-advised, but surely a decision that cannot be any worse than what is on offer now.
Özil Hung Out To Dry, Again
If I had never watched Mesut Özil play football before, and someone told me Arsenal had payed their club record, £42 million for him – on the back of last night – I would have Wenger live out his remaining years in a mental home. Özil’s return to German was his worse game I’ve ever seen him play. It was eerily Space Jam-esque, and it’s almost heartbreaking to see a player so devoid of confidence.
The new 4-1-4-1 formation has made the infamous “number 10” role obsolete. On paper Özil is penciled in on the flanks, but watching him, he often spends most of his game drifting infield. So suggesting that he isn’t playing well because he is out on the flanks is amateurish.
The fact is, Özil is not in form, and hasn’t been for a while. Wenger has been at Özil’s side fighting his battle for a long time now. But, I think that it is in his best interest and the club’s best interest to sit Özil out for a couple of games. Give Oxlade-Chamberlain a lengthy run in the side.
The Final Say
Not the ideal start to a Champions League campaign. Dortmund brought their A game, but thankfully forgot their shooting boots. These spineless performances cannot go unnoticed.
Arsenal’s next game sees them travel up to Aston Villa, who sit second in the table. A win there won’t mask the horror that was on show last night, but will make things more viewable. For now, it is a Nightmare on Elm Street, and this fight with their demons continues.
Wojciech Szczęsny – 6
Hector Bellerin – 6
Per Mertesacker – 6
Laurent Koscienly – 7
Kieran Gibbs – 6
Mikel Arteta – 4
Jack Wilshere – 7
Aaron Ramsey – 5
Mesut Özil – 4
Alexis Sanchez – 6
Danny Welbeck – 6