Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Borussia Dortmund

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?

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

  1. jcloud says:

    I’m confident about this game. If Arsenal won’t give away freakish goals they should claim the points.

  2. IDOWU says:

    I think its gonna be a good game, Arsenal should get at least a point, cos they are better away from home with no extra pressure. Dortmund might underrate us after beating us at home and that will fall perfectly into our hands. I also expect Ozil to make big impact in this one. COYG!!

  3. Redcore says:

    Sorry to quote you in your own article but :

    ” 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.”

    That line was typical Desi.. There are a lot of entertaining blogs for gooners but very few blogs that educate.. You are the swiss ramble of Arsenal tactical play.. Thnaks for the great work Desi..

  4. Redcore says:

    My own opinion on this is that we will miss Theo a lot in this match. His mere presence on the pitch will make Dortmund think twice about pressing Arsenal. In Ozil and Cazorla we have players who can put him in space and he would have been lethal in this match.

    Anyway I too would not mind seeing Gnabry start this match if he is fit. He is very disciplined defensively, has a good shot on him and his pace and relative unpredictability could work in our favor. Considering that our most experienced defender plays behind him, it is a risk that I think we can afford to take.

    Anyway really hope to see Arsenal win today. It would be a huge boost ahead of the United clash. Come on you gunners.

  5. Mickey Finn says:

    Swiss ramble is the Desi Gunner of the financial side of the game.

  6. Antique Gunmen says:

    Westfallen is a similar place to Munich in term of giving their enemies a certain defeated. We have the same obligation to make it even and a chance to surprise Signal Iduna Park as we did for Allianz Arena. No margin of error available this time. Let’s kick ’em gunners.

  7. Right Cross says:

    Thanks again Desi,

    Let’s hope for as good a performance as we put up 2 weeks ago but a better result.

  8. emma says:

    i guess we will be more about our approach in dis game as we have always been in our away matches.. we did it against munich last season,what`s stopping us dis time?? i guess,nothing.. nice post,desi

  9. A A Alhassan says:

    Let’s see what will happen

  10. Major_Jeneral says:

    You were right when you said Giroud could be isolated if the midfielders dont get through Dortmund pressing . So it is paramount Gnabry( though inexperienced for a game of this magnitude but its is this kind of game that he need) plays if fit but I doubt it if wenger will go with him . Am however confident whoever is given the nod must play with the team . The team needs to play with compactness and discipline especially at the back . We cannot afford to give them possession because that will be suicidal . As wenger said if you can’t win don’t lose .

  11. JJ Pjttman says:

    If we only draw this match and come 2nd in the group, we will likely draw one of Madrid Bayern PSG Atletico or Barca/Milan in round of 16
    I feel better than last season about this but it sure makes a win very important probably the first time all season the press have NOT overplayed a match

  12. Ro says:

    Dear Desi,

    I just want to say that your analysis of the game is absolutly fantastic. Its great to read your insights and pick up on things I may not have thought about. Your match reviews show someone who cares for the team, without making opinons based too much on emotion.

    My only annoyance with you is that you take ages to upload your articles. Im guessing this is probably because you have a full time job and find it hard to make time, or that you spend a large amount of time writing it.

    Anyways, I thought Id send some appreciation your way in order to coax your writing.


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