Friday, November 8, 2013

Dortmund 0 Arsenal 1

The was a massive result for a number of reasons. The odds were against us as Westfalenstadion was a difficult place to go where no English side had won before. Arsenal, themselves, tried two seasons ago only to be denied by Dortmund's late equaliser. Arsenal were buoyed by their impressive win over Liverpool at the weekend, but Dortmund's confidence were also boosted by their 6-1 thrashing of Stuttgart on Friday night, another win added to their excellent home record. Apart from Alan Smith, who predicted a positive result for his old club, all the pundits and journalists alike seemed to have expect nothing but a home win. Probably only fans were optimistic, but to be honest, even those hopefuls would have taken a draw if it had been offered before the game.

Arsenal took a huge step towards qualification after the 1-0 victory over Dortmund, sitting top of the Group F on 9 points along with Napoli, who beat Marseille 3-2 at home on the same night. There is still a possibility of all the three teams finishing on 12 points, but the win certainly helped Arsenal's hopes of securing their place in the knockout stage. 

This was the second game of Arsenal's most important week so far this season. It was a contrasting game to the 2-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday, in which Arsenal's creative midfield caught the eye. At half time, some of our members were not happy with the lack of chances Arsenal created in the first 45 minutes. Our final ball didn't have an edge to threaten Dortmund defence. Nonetheless, with a number of dangerous situations we survived, most of us at Rendezvous bar were content with 0-0 at half time.

Arsene Wenger had his game plan spot-on and the team executed it with discipline and professionalism. They were patient. In the post-match press conference, the Frenchman stressed the importance of not making the first mistake and praised his experienced midfield for not losing the ball in the stupid positions. The media exaggerated the impact of Wilshere's ankle injury prior to the match, but Rosicky was a better option for this game without doubt. Perhaps Dortmund missed the German international centre-back Hummels, who put in a man-of-the match performance at the Emirates, more than we missed Jack Wilshere. There was a time when Wilshere's absence would have been thought a disaster but now it's just a minor irritation.

We didn't create a lot. In fact, the goal came from our first attempt for goal. It was a classic counter-attack. After the goal, the game suddenly opened up and we had a series of goal-scoring chances and even nearly found the net second time.

The most pleasing fact this season is that this team has been improving every game. They have learnt lessons from their mistakes in the first game against Dortmund. Mertesacker reflected the game on his Facebook Page, using the same word "naive" as Wenger described the team. Prior to the second match, Ramsey said they would have to be streetwise in the return match. We know that there are still fans out there who wanted the team to play their brand of football, but it wouldn't have worked against this Dortmund side. Arsenal can win a game not only by playing beautiful football like they did against Liverpool, but also by creating little and defending under pressure. The fact that Arsene can now choose this kind of tactics highlights huge improvement in our defence.

In fact, Arsenal's gutsy performance against Dortmund seemed to have earned more plaudits and convinced more people of their title credentials than their fluid display against Liverpool. Arsenal showed their solidarity and defended resolutely against one of Europe's best sides as a team. On top of that, they demonstrated character, defensive stability and organisation, which they have been accused of lacking for the past few seasons.

Beating last season's Champions League runners-up on their home soil has sent out a positive message for Arsenal's domestic title aspiration as well. Our players must have taken belief from this feat. This week has been considered as a real litmus test for Arsenal's title credentials. Now two down, one to go. And the great thing is that we know that we will still be top of the table whatever happens at Old Trafford. Pressure is not on us, but Man U. It would be a perfect end to the massive week if we can increase the gap to them to 11 points.

Players rating

Szczesny: 7
Well protected by the back four, didn't have much to do, but did well when he was called upon.

Sagna: 8
Good defensive work, tried to provide width offensively as well.

Mertesacker: 8
Had an excellent game. Made 2 tackles and 8 clearances.

Koscielny: 8
Kept Lewandowski quiet. Unlucky not to score.

Gibbs: 7
Got caught out of position at times, but his pace made up for it.

Arteta: 8
Resolute display a real defensive rock

Ramsey: 8
Covered more ground than any other player on the pitch (even more than some of Dortmund players who are known for their workrate) of 12.83km. It is amazing how he pops up in those great positions. Although he has been doing that for the last two seasons, this season his finishing is making the difference. Would he have scored that goal in the last two seasons? No. Probably it would have taken him a couple of seconds to decide how to deal with Giroud's knock down. This night he dived towards the ball and headed it past the keeper without hesitation. Nearly scored a second goal.

Özil: 7
Not outstanding, but showed his class at times. His perfectly weighed cross for Giroud led to the goal.

Rosicky: 8
His tenacity and vision started the move leading to the goal. Another top class performance against his old club

Cazorla: 7

Kept the possession well in midfield.

Giroud: 7

It wasn't his best game by his own admission, but worked tirelessly and provided an assist for Ramsey's goal.


Monreal: 6
75th-minute substitute for Cazorla.

Bendtner: 1
Replaced Giroud in the 90th minute. Pointless substitution. His sole mission was keeping the ball at the other end of the pitch for the dying minutes, but he even managed to lose a free-kick near the corner flag by getting offside. Just one touch registered with no passes, no tackle, absolute zero contribution.

Vermaelen: N/A
Injury-time substitute for Rosicky. Little time to make any impact. Made just one clearance. Always good to have this experienced defender in reserve.

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