Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Borussia Dortmund

Arsenal visit Dortmund, the self-professed football capital of the world, to open a Champions League group phase that promises to be the toughest one in recent years. BVB are by far the best team from the fourth pot and could quite possible provide a sterner challenge than the other two teams in the group.

Many fans would be sceptical if someone said a game between the 11th placed sides from England and Germany was going to be a pulsating encounter with excellent technical quality. As things stand, Arsenal and Borsussia Dortmund are just outside the top half of their respective leagues with very similar records (except goal difference). If Arsenal win away against Blackburn on the weekend they will match the seven points from 5 games that Dortmund have already accumulated.

In a way, both teams have a lot to prove. The German side are keen to re-establish themselves amongst Europe’s elite and will want to better the performances of Stuttgart (2007) and Wolfsburg (2009) after their Bundesliga triumphs. Arsenal have to demonstrate they are in a position to move forward after  the events of the summer and a difficult start to the domestic campaign.

I was able to watch a couple of Dortmund games recently, their draw away to Leverkusen and home loss against promoted Hertha Berlin. BVB reminded me a lot of Arsenal in both the games. They have good, young technical players who contribute to an attractive, free-flowing playing style based on delightful movement and teamwork.

Their last game against Hertha Berlin was a disappointing home loss. Dortmund dominated the ball and got enough bodies forward but found it really hard to break down a very well organized defence. When they did create some chances, the defending champions found the opposition Keeper in sublime form. Even though Klopp’s side had quality defenders, they struggled to contain counter-attacks. They eventually lost after conceding from a run down the middle and another from a set-piece with both their highly rated central defenders failing in efforts to attack the ball. Sounds familiar?

I expect this to be a very open game with both sides looking to dominate possession. The Dortmund games that I watched seemed a tad slower than the Premiership pace that I am used to. It’s hard to form definitive opinions based on limited evidence but I am convinced Arsenal can dominate this game if they can move the ball fast. The concern for the Gunners is that there are a number of new players who haven’t had a chance to learn each other’s game whereas Dortmund are much more settled.

Both teams have gaps in their collective defending and chances will be created when the ball-players find the off-the-ball runs. If the Gunners let Dortmund dominate the ball for parts of the game in the same manner that Swansea or Udinese did, the Germans will punish the visitors in a manner that those teams weren’t able to. At the other end, Gervinho and/or Walcott can really rip the hosts’ defence to shreds if they can establish a good understanding with the midfield.

Arsenal started the Udinese games on the front foot and established an early impetus. A repeat of that could work against the relatively inexperienced German side who also look like a rhythm based team that is not very comfortable when pinned back.

Wenger will probably start the same back five that kept a clean sheet against Swansea. Mertesacker’s experience in the Bundesliga should come in handy but the hosts will also feel confident of troubling him with their movement, especially if Arsenal push high up the pitch without adequate cover for the defence and pressure on the ball.

From the cover point of view and with Ramsey and Rosicky injured, I won’t be surprised if Song and Frimpong both get a start with Arteta in front. There is an option to include Benayoun in an attacking role with Frimpong moving to the bench.

The third and most unlikely choice, based on Wenger’s decisions thus far, is to move Arshavin in a central attacking role with Gervinho and Walcott on the flanks. I believe that can work but will demand a change in tactics with the full-backs showing a lot more restraint.

I do strongly believe Arshavin must start this game because he is the only truly creative player in the side right now who can produce match winning through balls. Arteta and Benayoun might do that after a few more training sessions. Gervinho and Walcott are more direct players and would thrive on service that can get them in behind, particularly against a defence that likes to push up.

Since Walcott has played a number of games, it might be sensible to have him on the bench.

Preferred line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Song, Arteta, Frimpong – Gervinho, RvP, Arshavin.

I do expect Arsene to pick Walcott ahead of Arshavin.

This game should be a good benchmark to assess Arsenal’s position after the transfer business. Playing away against the champions of a big league like Bundesliga will provide further insights into Arsenal’s strengths and weaknesses.

My main interest will be in the performances of Gervinho and Arteta. If they link up well with the others, this match will have goals galore. The end result will depend on who makes the crucial mistakes and who converts the chances.

A win is possible but unlikely and should not be taken for granted. Let’s not forget in 2002 an Arsenal side that included Henry, Vieira, Pires, Cole, Seaman, and Sol Campbell lost 2-1 at the same venue despite taking the lead.

That said, a win will most definitely provide the much needed momentum after a forgettable opening month. Should be fun. Enjoy.

37 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Borussia Dortmund

  1. Mr K says:

    I think you’re asking too much of Frimpong. You want a XI who is most experienced in European matches.

    My XI:

    Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny,
    Santos, Gervinho, Arteta, Song, Arshavin, Park Chu-Young, Van Persie

    Benayoun and Frimpong to be subbed on in 60th minute.

  2. aaaa says:


    sagna mert koz santos

    song frimpong

    arshavin artea gervino


    has got to be the team and also the formation with to 2 holding and the 5 going up also i like santos cos cl exp

  3. AK47 GooneR says:

    Benayoun ateta
    Walcott. Gervinho

    Does anyone know if park is allowed to play?!

  4. WOODFAUS says:

    Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, santos – Song, Arteta, yossi– Gervinho, RvP, park
    the final third of our gma lacks bite so we need to play an out and out striker with RVP playing behind him.

  5. cupsui says:

    Don’t see why park couldn’t play?!
    I like the idea of arsharvin in midfield and have been advocating that for a while now he is very creative and is a little wasted on the wing its not his ideal position and it allows him to get lazy when he wants.

    frimpong could be very handy to replace sharvin about 60-70min mark if we are ahead or they are on the march in a tied game. Yossi is always a great sub

    If frimpong gets the start, arsharvin should be on the wing and use theo as an impact. I would have rested rambo anyway but now he is injured.

    otherwise great analysis as usual desi!

  6. Kaycee sunshine says:

    sagna massacre koscienly santos
    Arteta benayoun
    gervinho rvp walcott
    i think its best we start with this line up considering the attacking nature of our opponents. Playing two traditional defensive midfielders in such a game will only distract our attacking fluid. Ala Arsenal vs Udenese away, it didn’t work until rocisky came in for frimpong and geared us to attack

  7. Anitex says:

    Szczesny- sagna, Mertesacker, koscielny, santos, – song, Arteta, Benayoun – Gervinho, Walcott, R.V.P

  8. along champion's says:

    Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny,Santos,
    Gervinho, Arteta, Song, benayoun, walcott, Van Persie

    frimpong, Arshavin and Park Chu-Young to be subbed on in 70th minute.

  9. along champion's says:

    Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny,Santos,
    Gervinho, Arteta, Song, benayoun, arsavin, Van Persie

    frimpong, walcott and Park Chu-Young to be subbed on in 70th minute.

  10. Alex says:

    I would like to see RvP rested, perhaps he and Park should play one half each.

  11. PeleofOjo says:

    Sagna,Mertescacker,Koscielny,Gibbs(Santos if fit)
    Arteta, Song
    Walcott Gervinho

  12. ali says:

    sagna, per, koscielny,santos,
    arteta, arshavin,
    gervinho, walcott,

  13. nevada -ruiz says:

    sagna – mertesacker – koscielny – santos
    song – arteta
    walcott – rvp – park – gervinho

    sagna – mertesacker – koscielny – santos
    song – arteta
    walcott – rvp – gervinho

  14. szczesny
    sagna-per mertesacker-koscielny-santos,
    sagna-per mertesacker-koscielny-santos,

    i think this are the best lineup….

  15. ne says:

    sagna met kos santos
    walcoot arshavin(or rvp) gervinho
    rvp(or park)

  16. NepaliGunner says:

    I would definitely play a counterattacking game, with the winger’s being the main point of attack. Hence I agree with your team. I would like to see Park play, but perhaps playing at Dortmund is not a great place to start.

  17. jay says:

    I don’t know why yossi can’t start for us on D̶̲̥̅̊ night
    He’s D̶̲̥̅̊ only midfield player fit apart from arteta that moves with the ball..A̶̲̥̅ song frimpong midfield will be so
    unproductive..Gibbs is no where near A̶̲̥̅ champions league
    Player and so should sit on the bench..the only
    XI to nip the game in D̶̲̥̅̊ bud:schez..sagna..per..
    Gervinho..v.p: others should sit on D̶̲̥̅̊ bench

  18. Fredrick says:

    Anyone saw how badly frimpong played last week against swansea? Against liverpool, he got sent off. Against Swanseas, he gave away cheap freekick and careless passes to opponent. england should be relieve he is not going to represent them in international. Since Alex Song is back, Frimpong should never play again for arsenal. Arsene should choose benyaoun instead.

  19. Kushagra India says:

    Sorry for off topic but had a AST meeting yesterday …..the outcome was ,the manager chooses the salary and the players not the board so our summer’s plight is due to Wenger, not the board…….Ivan is lookin to spend helluva lot more in January..

  20. Kushagra India says:

    Manure are sustainable ,40 partners compared to our 12……smashing us..

  21. Kushagra India says:

    A draw would be a good result considering we are still not in the grove….will take time..

  22. sam says:

    wow fredrick!
    benayoun is better DM than frimpong? ok its your opinion.
    btw, anyone picking arshavin for his 4th game in 2 weeks he’s just asking for trouble. arshavin should be rested now we have other options. then back on saturday against blackburn. park is still untested in arsenal shirt for this kind of game, i wish our captain could be rested as well before the old harmstring come calling.then we lose him for 3 whole weeks.
    my 4-3-3 starting line:
    sczsezny, sagna,gibbs,per,koscielny,song,frimpong,arteta,walcott,gervinho,park.
    bench: van persie,santos,benayoun,djourou, arshavin.

    van persie struggles as lone striker anyway, arsene can try park chu young in the first half if he fails we change tactics.
    even santos starting in front of gibbs could work instead of arshavin.

  23. FoolishgooNer says:

    We want three points. We know there will be mistakes, complacency in later group stage games. So taking three points out of the main competition means avoiding Barca etc until necessary! Song is fresh so I expect that he protect and serve the back 4. I also hope pat Rice can make effective three substitutions! I will definitely go for the offensive because I know per is slow and will stay back. For me either Arshavin plays behind Robin CAM or he stays on the bench and we start…. Park Chu Young. Back four. Sagna Per Kol Gibbs. Song and Arteta infront of them. Theo Arshavin and gervinho playing off and with Robin could see us score 3 or more. Ofcourse the front three of theo, arshavin and gervinho should be alert track back and run their sox off. Andrey for the free role. If we start frimpong he will get a silly yellow and we will play scared as a team. Unleash the mad Russian! The English assasin and the Hungry Ivorian! Subs. Frimpong to come in for Andrey, Park for robin and Song for the Armband when robin leaves. Theo should play the whole game he gets injured when substituted and misses 5 games! Cheers gooners. PS. I don’t care about the passing game I just want the speed of the attack to be improved… No Ramsey/diaby to slow down counter attacks…. Thank god.

  24. Mart says:

    Szczesny Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Santos; Song Frimpong; Arteta RVP Gervinho; Chamakh. Subs: Park, Benayoun, Walcott.

  25. Gordon says:

    Szczesney.. Sanga.. Kosielney.. Mertesacker.. Santos.. Song.. Arteta.. Arshavin.. Walcott.. Gervinho.. Van persie..
    If arshavin doesn’t do it behind van persie piss him off..

  26. frquen says:

    i need something different too.. Here i go
    Sagna, per, kozzer, santos,
    Gervis, park ju, Yoss

  27. sam says:

    sagna per koz santos
    song arteta
    walcot RVP gervinho
    after 60minutes bring in arshavin for van persie, benayoun for walcot and in the 75 minute bring on fringpong for walcot and switch formation to 4-5-1, but i believe Park should be given a run in this game.
    i also believe Gibbs needs to learn more, a win in this game is very important, since it would bring the much needed confidence.
    i see arsenal winning 2-0 and Park scoring

  28. Hash says:

    Desi…Starting with both Frimpong and Song would be silly. We need a positive result and starting with two holding midfielders away from home will back fire. Playing defensively would invite Goetze and company to find gaps at the back four. In all fairness, we need to give time to the new back four to work on their communication in order to develop a solid chemistry in the long run. Therefore, Frimpong and Song in the starting line up doesnt make much sense to me. I would rather prefer both of them to start at Ewood Park.

    For all the experience he’s got and the calmness he showed after coming off the bench on Saturday…we badly need Yossi to start in this game. It makes perfect sense to have him directly replace the injured Ramsey.

    Frimpong can be subbed for Yossi later on in the game once we hopefully are leading in the match. Theo should not start and come off the bench to kill off the game…he can be our weapon as the super-sub and besides he should be reserved to start up against Blackburn. I felt last season he was exceptionally away at Ewood Park.

    Its hard to call whether Santos would start or not. I guess Gibbs will be prefered over Santos’ lack of match practice.

    My starting XI:

    Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Song, Yossi, Arteta – Gervinho, RVP, Arshavin.

    Subs: Park for RVP, Walcott for Arshavin, Frimpong for Yossi

    Prediction: Dortmund: 1 – Arsenal: 2

    P.S. I have a feeling we’ll see the best of Gervinho so far in tonight’s game. Cant wait for him to unleash at Dortmund!

  29. Charlie says:

    We need to play a counter-attacking game, beat them in the way that many teams try to beat Arsenal. I haven’t been impressed with Walcott lately but i think it is essential that both him and Gervinho start this match. That leaves Dortmund with a dilemma whether to stay back guarding against the pace of the wingers which would limit their attacking threat somewhat or to push forward controlling posession and creating chances but becoming very vulnerable to counter-attacks against two of the fastest in the business. RvP can provide the creativity in the absence of Arshavin dropping deep to play in the two runners either side.

  30. Satz says:

    Am i the only one wondering that Theo is suspended for the game tonight after picking a yellow at Udinese away?I am not sure but it seems to me he is suspended and if he is why is he even travelling?Just a confirmation on that from someone would be wonderful.Whereas the line-up goes Andrey got to play tonight.He usually thrives on European nights.RVP,Andrey,Gervinho,Arteta,Song,Yossi,Gibbs(prefer Santos if he is fit and ready),Per,Koscielny,Sagna,Szczesny making up the team.
    Would like Park to come and play for a while tonight and Frimpong to be replace either Arteta or Yossi cause we might need them at Ewood Park.Would like to see Santos come and play at the wings for sometime if he does not start the game.If he gets sometime he could be mighty with his physical presence against the Rovers.Lets see what AW is going to do tonight and i expect us to do well.Come on Gunners!!!!!!

  31. Manama says:

    Dnt kno why u guys wud start santos ahead of gibbs.dat wud nt help undastandn at d bak.think ashavin shd b played infront of song n ideal line up wud b scz sagna per kosc gibbs song arteta arshavin walcot gervinho rvp

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