So, here we are. A new game, a new outlook. It’s been 4 days since that loss to Manchester United, and however hard I try to forget it, I just can’t. Either it’s flashes of Arsenal pounding United’s defence or the image of Gibbs collapsing in a heap at the end of the game. But, when it comes to football, there’s little time for emotions. The next game is just 3-4 days away, and each game presents a chance to wipe out that lingering disappointment.
Borussia Dortmund come visiting today, and a completely different one from last season. They are ravaged with injuries, bad form and bad luck. They lie in the relegation zone of the Bundesliga, with 12 games gone, and they have an injury list to match that of Arsenal’s. German internationals Sven Bender and Mats Hummels have been injured for some time now, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Jakub Blaszczykowski are out too. Add to that the horrendous injury that Marco Reus suffered over the weekend in a 2-2 league clash against SC Padeborn.
Things for Arsenal don’t look too bright either. Mathiey Debuchy, Theo Walcott, David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and the perenially injured Abou Diaby have permanently taken residence in the Arsenal medical room, for majority of the season, and it looks like a German bomb shelter. Add to that the injuries suffered by Wojciech Szczesny and Jack Wilshere in the weekend loss to Manchester United. News reports suggest Wilshere will have to undergo ankle surgery, which means he will be out for about 3 months. Danny Welbeck too is a doubt with a knee problem. However, there are a few positives, with Laurent Koscielny available for selection, after he took part in training. Olivier Giroud who scored a fine goal in the loss though, is unavailable, as Arsenal didn’t register him for the group stages.This means it could be, yes, hold your breath, Yaya Sanogo starting up front. Or else, if Arsene Wenger decides to experiment a bit, Alexis playing up front, and a chance for Podolski or Cazorla.
Another issue that Arsene Wenger will be concerned is the fitness of in-form Alexis Sanchez. Having scored 12 goals and provided 8 assists this season, he has been the Gunners’ star man, and he appeared exhausted in the second half against Manchester United, and conceded possession, leading to the winning goal by Wayne Rooney in the 85th minute. Though possibilities of the manager resting his star player in a crunch clash like this are less, he has options like Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla to turn to. Rosicky and Podolski have had very little playing time, and Cazorla is a shadow of the player he was in his last 2 seasons at the Emirates. It will be a tough decision to make.
Despite the two sides struggling for form and fitness, they will still be able to put out two good teams, and an entertaining match to offer. Both teams like to play attacking football, and with Arsenal needing all 3 points to avoid awkward situations of the final matchday, it could be an open encounter. In the earlier match, Dortmund defeated Arsenal rather comfortably 2-0, and it was down to their superior pressing game which denied Arsenal any space and time to get into their groove. They play a 4-4-2 formation, but what helps them is their disciplined defensive midfield, which stifled the life out of Arsenal.
German international Ilkay Gundogan should ideally start alongside Sebastien Kehl, and the two can make life difficult for Arsenal’s attackers. It will be interesting to see if Klopp plays 2 upfront, with Aubameyang and Immobile or drop one back in midfield to support the attacking midfielders, Shinji Kagawa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. A formation of 4-2-3-1 would suit Dortmund in away games at sides like Arsenal, but at the slight expense of their attacking prowess.
With Dortmund having won all 4 of their Champions League games, and thereby having qualified to the next round of the competition, the onus is on Arsenal, who have won 2, lost 1 and calamitously drew 1, to take the game to Dortmund. This is how I expect the two teams to line up.
The manager has called for solidarity within the club and it’s supporters following a string of disappointing results. Indirectly aimed at recent comments made by Alisher Usmanov, he said,
Everybody has the right to have an opinion, having said that, we have values at this club. During the 18 years I have been here, I have shown that I can take criticism,I don’t take [Usmanov’s comments] personally at all.It is an opinion that I respect, but when you are from this club, you are from this club.You are in or out, you cannot be both.What is important is how close we are together inside the club and how much we can respond to people who question our quality.
I personally feel that there is a very strong bond inside the team and the club, and that this team will have a very strong season.I believe in what I do and I especially believe in my players, and in their quality and spirit.I question myself every day and I hope you do that as well.
Time to get a vital 3 points today!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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