Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Borussia Dortmund Previewed

Arsenal just about managed to beat Swansea City 1-0 on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League, but the most important thing for them was the result. It was the start of their recovery from their mauling at the hands of Manchester United, and it also got them some much needed points on the board. With a very busy schedule ahead of them for the rest of the month they are straight back into action tonight in the group stages of the Champions League.

Their opponents are German champions Borussia Dortmund and it's a little odd that the German team were among the teams ranked as fourth seeds. It means there isn't a team considered to be a minnow in Arsenal's group, but I still think it's a group Arsenal are capable of winning. The most important thing for Arsenal is to win their home games in this group, and hopefully pick up a few points on their travels too.

Dortmund were impressive in winning the German league last season, but they have had a slow start to their campaign this time around. They lost 2-1 at home to Hertha Berlin on Saturday and they're eleventh in their league with seven points from five games. They could of course say the same of Arsenal who are themselves eleventh in the Premier League.

The other two teams in Arsenal's group are Marseille and Olympiakos, and Arsenal are more than capable of beating both of them. Marseille haven't had a great start to their league campaign either, and they currently sit 17th in their league with three points from five games. It's hard to judge exactly how good Olympiakos are this season, as they haven't played a competitive game yet. 

Arsenal were said to have made a very big offer for 19 year old Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze during the transfer window, and he looks to be a real talent. Hopefully Arsenal won't find out to their peril exactly how good Gotze is, and Mikael Arteta will be the player making a real impression on the game. Arteta looked very good on Saturday and he looks like he has fitted perfectly into the team already.

The Arsenal team should be fairly similar to the one that beat Swansea on Saturday with a few obvious exceptions. Aaron Ramsey injured his ankle in training yesterday and he won't be available to play, and both Alex Song and Gervinho should return to the team. Their three game domestic bans were a real blow to the Arsenal team in recent weeks, but their performances away to Udinese were very good.

Arsenal were in a lot of trouble at half time in the away leg of their Champions League qualifying round against Udinese, but Song put a great performance to help them to a 2-1 win. In his absence in the Premier League he has been replaced by both Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin who both did well, but Song's return to the team will be welcome. Gervinho looks to be Arsenal's biggest threat from a wide role this season in my opinion, but his domestic ban has hindered his progress so far.

Both of those players should be fit and raring to go and hopefully they can increase the overall quality of the team. The players to lose out will probably be Frimpong and Andrey Arshavin, but otherwise the team should be the same with the exception of Yossi Benayoun filling in for the injured Ramsey. Benayoun has plenty of experience at this level, and I would have no worries about his ability to perform at this level.

If Arsenal can perform at their best I would have no worries about their chances in this game, but they have only done that for 45 minutes so far this season. That was the second half of the trip to Udinese, and it was at a time when the performance was really needed. I'm hoping for a similar performance for the entire 90 minutes tonight, and I know the players are capable of it.

The players' confidence suffered a real blow in the defeat to United, but only four of that team will be starting tonight's game. With both Jack Wilshere and Tomas Vermaelen still out for quite a while there will be opportunities for other players to impress in their positions and hopefully they will take those chances tonight. When both of them return it will really strengthen the team, but  for the moment Arsenal have enough to cope without them.

I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal and I'd love to see Arteta get his name on the scoresheet at some stage. He showed what a good eye for a pass he has on Saturday, but others failed to finish the chances he created. I think he has the class to put away whatever chances come his way, and show one or two others how to do it too.

Arsenal haven't done too well on their travels in the Champions League over the last few seasons, and as long as they avoid defeat tonight it will be judged as a good result. I'm probably being very optimistic in my prediction, but I always predict an Arsenal win regardless of who they are playing. To me that's what being a fan is all about, and I will always believe Arsenal will win every single game they play.

That's if for today.

Here's a look at what Benayoun is capable of.

See You Tomorrow.

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