It’s just been a couple of weeks since the two teams last met. Very little has changed in that time and we should expect a very similar game. I covered Dortmund’s pressing style in the previous article so won’t get into the details again but it’s definitely something that could prove decisive depending on how aggressively they start this game.
Bulk of their attacks are created from transitions following pressure on the ball high up the pitch. The Gunners did well to control that at the Emirates and will want to produce a similar technical display again. Partly though, the home side’s intentions will also play a big part in the way the patterns of play shape up. For instance, Klopp could pick Aubameyang on the right instead of Kuba if he really wants to go for it. The Gabonese striker makes a few technical errors at times and will not be as consistent with defensive duties as the Polish winger would but his speed can seriously trouble the Arsenal defenders. It’s a question of balance and the German manager’s choice will tell us just how confident he is of his side’s ability to counter the Gunners’ technical qualities. Blaszczykowski starting the game would imply a more cautious mindset from Klopp while Aubameyang would be the bolder more provocative choice.
Lewandowski has been exceptional at home and the team in general combines really well on a pitch they know intimately. A lot of their movement is instinctive and relies on blistering pace, which is easier in a more familiar setting with the support of the crowd behind them. The Gunners have already seen the consequences of dropping their concentration against this side and they’ll want to avoid gifting goals to ruthlessly clinical opponents. Their defensive performance against Liverpool was good and against Dortmund in the previous game was better – though still not good enough. So, the output to aim for is their display in Munich that started the whole turnaround.
The first goal will again be massive.
One thing I really enjoyed watching against Liverpool was that the midfielders didn’t get in each other’s way. Their movement was very fluid but it had good horizontal and vertical balance. There were players making forward runs, those coming in from the flank, yet others who were keeping an eye on the deeper areas. Finding that balance was easier against the Reds because they couldn’t match Arsenal’s technical qualities and the use of a flat back three limited their numbers in the central third. Dortmund will not suffer from a similar handicap. Consequently, the midfield battle in this game is going to be fierce and the Gunners will have to work very hard to find the right combinations.
The success or failure of the midfield will be seen in various patterns during the game. For instance, Giroud being isolated in attack or the lack of purposeful vertical runs from midfield will suggest the midfield is struggling to get past the pressing into open areas. On the other end, attackers running at defenders with many Arsenal players chasing the ball while looking at their own goal will be an indication of spacing problems between the lines. Ideally, you want to see bodies between ball and goal offering layers of protection and then sharp purposeful passing in the attack. Dortmund won’t concede too many chances, and that in itself should not be a concern, but it’s important that the team doesn’t get caught up in a sterile passing rhythm that can be hard to break out of.
Wenger doesn’t have too many options. If Gibbs is fit he should play. Gnabry for Rosicky is worth considering. The youngster can offer a different kind of threat and this experience could help him a lot in the long run. But Wenger also has to consider if he’s physically fit and ready for such a gruelling encounter. The option to give him 20-30 minutes at the end is always open.
We might see,
Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Özil, Ramsey – Rosicky, Giroud, Cazorla.
Arteta will again be the key player for the Gunners but others like Ramsey will have to be rock solid from a defensive point of view. It was the failure of other midfielders that resulted in both Dortmund goals in the reverse fixture.
Arsenal have lost their last three home Champions League games against German opposition but on the previous two occasions their performance in the away leg was better. They have to be cautious without applying the handbrake and have to play their attacking game without losing defensive awareness. It sounds simple enough when put in words but different sets of players at Arsenal have found it hard to execute on a consistent basis over the last few years.
If you can’t win, don’t lose. That was the boss’ message after the previous disappointment. Can the players get it right on the pitch?Follow @goonerdesi