Last night saw the return of the Champions League ‘proper’ and a very tough game was first up for us, Ze German champions Borussia Dortmund. By some crazy method of UEFA calculations, we drew Dortmund in pot 4. So the German Champions were actually meant to represent the weakest team in the group, they were far from that.
Dev’s predicted line up was close… but not quite right. Arsenal lined up with the expected back four and strike force but with Benyaoun preferred instead of Frimpong. A bold move from Le boss who went for ball retention and experience over a more defensively minded player.
Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Gibbs
Benyaoun – Song
Walcott – Arteta – Gervinho
The pre-match atmosphere was simply amazing, while only watching on the box, you could tell why they call it the ‘wall of sound’ at Dortmund. When the teams lined up RVP couldn’t help but take a look round in awe… jealous Robin? I was!!
As soon as the game started, Arsenal were under the cosh. Dortmund were buoyed by the deafening partisan crowd and they took the game to Arsenal, ready to exploit any sloppiness and hesitation. A number of chances came and went with our offside trap completely non existent and Sagna having to make a goal line clearance. For me, Song was isolated. Every time the ball came near him he had at least two players around him and was being forced into mistakes. Arsenal’s first chance of note came from our best offensive player in the opening exchanges, Gervinho. Gervinho seems to have the knack of just popping up in the box at the right time and his opportunist close range shot was saved by up the upright keeper.
Arsenal grew in confidence as the game went on and after a couple of decent chances from Theo and RVP, Arsenal took an unlikely lead through RVP. An under hit pass was fantastically read by RVP who slid in to knock it to Theo. Theo took a couple steps forward and took two defenders out with a delicious through ball to RVP, who curled it round the keeper from the edge of the box with his right foot. Yes, his chocolate leg. 1 nil to the Arsenal on the 42nd.
The aim of the second half was simple, don’t let them repeat their first half chances again because they will score. To be fair, we didn’t. Arsenal struggled to get the ball from Dortmund for long periods but we had tightened up and were not conceding possession in vital area’s easily.
We did have to call upon Szcz a number of times to make a couple of world class point blanks saves but this keeper takes them in his stride. How many times have you watched Cech, Van der sar or Reina make a save look easy? Szcz will save up points by making his job look easy.
Our only real chance of the second half fell to Gervinho who admirably (or stupidly) stayed on his feet after being slightly tripped but couldn’t get his shot away when one on one with the keeper. We haven’t had a chance to watch much of Gervinho this season but the guy is a threat. He’s got pace to burn, great ball control but has the ability to lose possession cheaply if he tries to be too clever. He will improve.
Unfortunately our luck didn’t hold out and in the 88th minute, Arsenal fell victim to another ‘goal of the season’ contender. As Arsenal cleared a corner, the ball fell to Perisic who hit an amazing dipping left foot volley that flew straight into the top corner with Szcz a spectator.
The final score, 1-1. A good point at the noisy German champions.
For the first 30mins Arsenal rode their luck and then some. But this was to be expected from an exciting young team who have been starved of Champions league action for a number of years.
The players who stood out for me were Sagna, Koscielney and Song. Sagna is the best right back in the country, no arguments. Always reliable and a warrior in his approach to the game. Last ditch tackles and goals line clearances helped rescue us during tough periods.
Koscienly showed against Barcelona at home last season he is a ‘footballing defender’. He doesn’t love the rough and tumble of some premiership games but when he plays against a footballing team his ability to read the game and break up play is fantastic. I really thought he had a great game.
The man of the match for me was Alex Song. During the first half he was breaking up play but trying to be too clever and guilty of losing the ball cheaply. In the second half, Song was the ultimate defensive midfielder. See it, intercept it and pass it, nice and simple. The crowd were getting agitated and frustrated every time he won a tackle; music to Arsenal’s ears. We need to Song to keep it simple yet effective more often. There are too many times where he has taken the ball too far up the field only to lose it thus leaving us exposed.
We picked up a good point today and our confidence will continue to grow. Next up Blackburn away, a completely different challenge to say the least!
(Feedback welcome on twitter – @Tottz82)