However, aside from the result, there are some positives to take from the game…
1) It was a close encounter
Only a goal scored in the last ten minutes of the game separated the two sides over 90 minutes. Arsenal were slow to start but grew into the game especially after Olivier Giroud’s equalizer on the stroke of half time.
Arsenal had the greater share of possession (54 per cent) and Dortmund’s winner was scored against the run of play when Arsenal were (naively) mounting their best spell of attacking play looking for a winner themselves – Santi Cazorla’s effort that rattled off the bar shows just how close the line was between winning and losing for the Gunners.
Arsenal had more shots overall (8 to Dortmund’s 7) and more on target too (5 to Dortmund’s 3). Roman Weidenfeller was the must busier keeper on the night. Arsenal were also superior to Dortmund in their passing, which is where Dortmund are usually known to be superior to their opposition.
Arsenal completed 79 per cent of their attempted passes to Dortmund’s 74 per cent and were superior in attacking midfield areas where not one of Dortmund’s midfielders completed more than 77 per cent of their passes (Kevin Grosskreutz) and the Gunners had Tomas Rosicky (78 per cent), Mikel Arteta (80 per cent), Mesut Ozil (82 per cent), Aaron Ramsey (79 per cent), and Santi Cazorla (90 per cent) operating at a much more efficient level than their Dortmund counterparts.
2) Dortmund were finalists last term
Dortmund were, of course, finalists in the competition last term at Wembley and the closeness of Tuesday’s clash shows how close Arsenal are – they are capable of competing with the best on the continent and, as they previously demonstrated against champions Bayern Munich, they really can beat anyone on their day.
Whist the defeat will be a disappointment the performance and the competitiveness of the team should give them confidence that they can match the best in the business.
3) Arsenal still have players missing
Meanwhile, they can compete with the likes of Dortmund despite missing a number of their key senior players – the likes of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Mathieu Flamini, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all unavailable for selection. Dortmund were playing pretty much their best XI on the night and had a number of senior and key players available on the bench. It bodes well for the Gunners that when they get those players back they’ll be even more dangerous and competitive at the highest level.
4) Arsenal are still top of the group
Whilst a win or draw would have made life a little easier for the Gunners, they remain top of the group along with Dortmund on the same points with both the visitors on Tuesday and Napoli with 6 points. They still have a very good chance of qualifying to progress to the knockouts and they’ll likely make it out the group barring a catastrophe in Napoli or at home to Marseille. If they can make four or five more points from an available nine left, they should be just fine.
5) Defensively solid
The other huge positive that will likely go unmentioned, is that apart from switching off defensively in the last 10 minutes as they chased a winner, they were defensively solid at the back.
Aaron Ramsey’s dribbling antics were at fault for the first goal – an individual error from a midfielder who, in fairness has been their best recently – and the second was scored by a player who, on another day, may not have even still have been on the pitch in the 82nd minute.
Dortmund were kept at arms length for the majority of the game – Arsenal broke them down in midfield and denied them space in the final third which meant, for the most part they were only really having shots from long range and rarely troubled Wojceich Szczesny – he made just one save over 90 minutes.
Overall it was a solid performance from the back four – it was the switching off in midfield that was at fault for the defeat in the end. Arteta was very good all game and just got caught out of position for Robert Lewandowski’s winner and, as mentioned, Ramsey’s loss of possession in his own penalty area resulted in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener.
With a little bit more concentration from the players in front of them, Arsenal’s defence would likely have kept a clean sheet but the keeper and his backline were up to the challenge. Ahead of the trip to Dortmund next month, perhaps Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould can have another word about team defending and the responsibilities of all eleven players, not just the five at the back.
image: © wonker