I really wish I had blogged a preview on this game, but I was too scared. I made excuses and found other things to do. I would have shared my thoughts on how I felt Arsenal could get a result at Dortmund. Not through any tactical insight I had or vision, but just the innate belief that this Arsenal team can beat anyone on their day.
Two weeks ago, Dortmund came to the Emirates and gave us a lesson in football and beat us 2-1. Everyone pointed out the tactical naivety of Arsenal and the superiority of German Football. It was also the first game in a series of big tests with matches against Chelsea, Liverpool, Dortmund away and United away in quick succession.
In years gone by, that loss followed closely by another loss to Chelsea both at home would have started a meltdown. However, this is increasingly looking like no ordinary season for “The Arsenal”. There was a win under difficult circumstances at Crystal Palace and a very impressive win over Liverpool at home.
This Arsenal team continue to defy critics and pundits who writes us off before a ball was kicked. It was a cagey game and Arsenal had to hang on to the coat tails of Dortmund for most of the first half where we didn’t even get a shot on target and Arteta was in real danger of being sent off. We had to balance defence and chasing the ball against our natural desire to attack plus our greater need for the 3 points. At times we rode our luck a bit, but it will be most unfair to put down such a great team performance to luck.
Every single Arsenal player put in a man of the match performance. From Wojech in goal with crucial saves, Per and Kos were imperious, Gibbs and Sagna ever dependable, Arteta’s leadership, Rosicky’s industry, the sublime skills of Ozil and Santi, the doggedness and strength of Giroud and of course the Super Engine that is Aaron Ramsey. We harried, tackled, chased and gave all for the cause. We took our chance when it came.It was a complete team performance against one of the very best teams in Europe. It was nothing short of brilliant.
The Arsenal are on a fantastic away run having not lost outside the Emirates since March 2013. The excellent run started with a 2-nil win at Bayern, which though not good enough to overturn the first leg 3-1 defeat, it gave the team such belief that we went on a brilliant run that secured us fourth and a seventeenth straight UCL slot. We also have an excellent record in Germany. We were still not given much of a chance against BVB. In fact we only had a shot on target in the 64th minute, Ramsey’s goal.
However, immediately we scored the goal, the game opened up and we had our best period over the two legs with Ramsey and the BFG coming close to adding to our lead. This was because BVB had to come out and play. Arsenal can hurt any team in an open game. Then Arsene decided to bring on Monreal to shut down the left flank in response to BVB’s attacking subs. Arsenal snuffed the life out of the game and secured the result.
It is very clear that the platform for any success in football is a strong defence. There is no doubt that the Arsenal defence is barely recognizable from last year or recent seasons. The team now defends together and always looks to keep their shape even under intense pressure. In my opinion, the new system is the main reason Arsenal are doing so well despite the fact that they have been hard hit by injuries to very key players all season. One cannot help but salivate at the prospect of Theo and Podolski back to help Giroud, add dynamism, pace, a new dimension to our attack and options off the bench for the Manager. A bench of Podolski, Rosicky, Wilshere, The Ox, Monreal, the Verminator and Gnarbry can change any game.
At the moment, the Manager has to keep playing the same team game in game out with little scope to change things around from the bench. This is what makes the start of the season all the more impressive. The added advantage is that when these players come back, they will be ‘like new signings’.
Arsenal showed true grit, experience and MENTAL STRENGTH to take all 3 points back to the Emirates. We may not have ever won this competition but we are certainly experienced and know our way around the group stages. This was a crucial win especially with Napoli beating OM in Naples to get 9 points on the board. You get the feeling that this group is still open as all the top 3 teams can win their last 2 games and really make it a photo finish. We can feel fairly confident of beating OM at home. I also truly believe that in an open match in Naples, with our injured players back, we can get a result.
For now, I will enjoy this win and look forward to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time in a long time as favourites to win the game….”just like the good old days.”
Thank you Arsene.