Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Borussia Dortmund Previewed

Arsenal take the stage in the group stages of the Champions League for the 17th season in a row tonight when they travel to Germany to play Borussia Dortmund. It's the third time in four seasons that the teams have been drawn together at this stage in the competition. So far Arsenal have had the better of those meetings despite the defeat at home to Dortmund last season.

That game was the only one of the four recent games between the clubs which Dortmund have won and Arsenal didn't lose either of their trips to their German opponents. They badly needed a result away to them last season and came away with a 1-0 to get back into contention to qualify from the group. Ultimately they finished second in that group after losing their last game away to Naoli and went out to Bayern Munich in the last 16.

Despite failing to progress past the last 16 for a few years Arsenal are still one of the top eight seeds and are the top seed in their group. It's a group which also contains Galatasary and Anderlecht which won't be easy for Arsenal, but they have to be favourites to make it through to the knockout stages. It would be a pleasant change to see them top the group and get a more favourable draw in the last 16. The group won't be decided on this game though, but a positive result from it would certainly give Arsenal a great start to their campaign. 

Arsenal looked an awful lot better against City on Saturday than they did in any of their games in August, but their defensive issues were there for all to see. In their four league games so far this season the opposition have scored with their first shot on target in each game. Besides that three of the six goals they have conceded have come from set pieces and it's something the squad have to work on an awful lot harder than they appear to be at the moment. The funny thing is Arsenal did manage to keep clean sheets in both legs of their qualifying round victory over Fenerbache.

It's not going to be easy to solve the defensive issues the team has with two of the six defenders in the first team squad injured for this game and another one doubtful. Mathieu Debuchy sprained his ankle very badly against City and it looks like he'll be out for a couple of months at least. Nacho Monreal has picked up a back injury and hasn't travelled to Dortmund while Calum Chambers has tonsillitis and might not be available to play.

It could be said the defence picks itself as a result, but there might only be three defenders available to play. If Chambers does miss out the chances are Hector Bellerin will come in at right back and he certainly looks like a prospect for the future, but it's throwing in him at the deep indeed without a doubt. I suppose Francis Coquelin could play there too as he has done in the past, but there can't be many who believe he has a future at the club in his favoured midfield role, never mind at right back.

It's not such an easy task to pick the rest of the team though with so many options in midfield in particular. After his display at the weekend Jack Wilshere looks a shoe in, but it might not be a bad idea to give him a rest considering his past problems with injuries. There's a case for leaving both Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey out of the team too after they were less than impressive on Saturday. Ramsey hasn't quite got going yet this season despite scoring three goals so far and Arsene Wenger continues to play Ozil out of position.

There are plenty of players who didn't start on Saturday who could come into the team and do a very good job. Santi Cazorla in particular is a player with a lot to offer and I wouldn't be surprised to see him play. I can't see Tomas Rosicky getting into the team tonight though with so much talent ahead of him.

The defensive midfield role is a bit of a poser for the boss with Mikel Arteta back from injury and Mathieu Flamini holding sway at the moment. Like in most away European games there is a case for playing both of them to protect the defence, but the boss stated on Saturday that Arsenal are an attacking team and I can't see him changing that tonight. I think Arteta will get the nod, but I'm not the only one who worries about his lack of pace. He is very good when he's on the ball, but the defensive role he has been asked to play in recent seasons doesn't come naturally to him and he has struggled against the better teams.

With Yaya Sanogo injured yet again it looks like Danny Welbeck will continue in the centre forward's role with Alexis Sanchez and Ozil probably on either side of him. I would love to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a chance from the start to utilise the attacking speed of him, Sanchez and Welbeck with Ozil pulling the strings in midfield, but it appears Ozil has yet to convince the manager he is the best option in that role. I'd like somebody to explain to me why the club paid so much money for Ozil if he's not going to be played in his best position when the team finally has the players with the pace it needs to get on to his fantastic range of passing.

It could be a very open game tonight with two teams who like to attack and tend to leave spaces behind their defence. I expect to see plenty of players pouring forward at pace from both teams once possession has been turned over and it could be a matter of which team makes the most of the chances they create. Dortmund lost their first league game of the season last month, but they have come back to win their two games since then.

Arsenal and Dortmund are considered to be the clear favourites to progress from the group with Galatasary having a chance and Anderlect as rank outsiders. It's crucial for Arsenal to take all six points off Anderlecht and try to make sure they have qualification tied up before they travel to Galatasary for their final group game. It's not exactly an ideal place to go for any team needing a result and I wouldn't want to see Arsenal going there needing something.

Back to tonight's game though and Arsenal's defensive frailty could be the biggest obstacle for them to overcome. I have no doubt they will make chances at the other end, but I would be very surprised to see them keep a clean sheet. I'm still hopeful of a good result for Arsenal and that would be anything other than a defeat. 

It would be great to Welbeck get his first goal for the club and to see Wilshere and Sanchez put on another show like they did on Saturday. Most of all I'd like to see Ozil play in his best position and pull the strings to get the attacking players in behind the Dortmund defence. It's far more likely that he'll play on the left though and continue to frustrate quite a lot of Arsenal fans. I'm prepared to give him time to get going this season, but it seems there are many fans who have no patience at all.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment