With Chelsea the other English club to feature in tonight’s opening Champions League group fixtures, it’s an easy decision to watch Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal. The German champions are playing their first Champions League game since 2003 and line up against an Arsenal side which has treated its fans to a pretty sorry start to the campaign. Dortmund themselves have endured a tough time of it this season, racking up just seven points from five Bundesliga matches, with Jurgen Klopp hampered by injuries to Lucas Barrios, Marvin Bakalorz, Patrick Owomoyela and Julian Kock. And the Dortmund coach knows his side will have their work cut out against Arsene Wenger’s team, with the Gunners expected to play offensive and attractive football.
Away defeats against Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga in last season’s competition cost Arsenal top spot in the group and paired the Gunners against Barcelona in the Round of 16. Arsene Wenger’s side will usually crush Champions League opponents in the group stages at the Emirates but need to grind out more away wins to ensure they top their group. Their win in the qualifying round against Udinese, although probably deserved, was hardly a comprehensive victory and the away leg could certainly have gone either way. But a win for Arsenal tonight and a decent defensive performance will go some way to silencing their critics.
Dortmund have won several plaudits for their own easy-on-the-eye approach to football and Arsenal will be given first hand experience of what they missed out on with stylish playmaker Mario Gotze conducting proceedings from Die Schwarzgelben’s midfield. If both sides are intent on playing the game as it should be played, we could be in for an enthralling attacking game with plenty of chances. And this is why fans of football shouldn’t even consider switching on the Chelsea game. Ever.
Tomas Rosicky (knee) has been ruled out but Arsenal do have injury concerns to key players as well, with Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen and Aaron Ramsey also set to miss out. Arsene Wenger will however be able to call upon new signings Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun, Chu-Young Park and Andre Santos. Jurgen Klopp will again be without Barrios (thigh), Bakalorz (Achilles), Owomoyela (hip) and Kock (knee).
When teams pack the midfield, it usually means they are looking to frustrate their opponents. Arsenal’s five-man midfield is all about possession and creating chances but Wenger should consider a slight revision to this formation. With Van Persie, Chamakh, Gervinho and Park at his disposal, it’d be nice to see a few more strikers added to the mix. Maybe the midfield would stop knocking the ball from side to side all game and they might take the more direct route from midfield, to front men, to goal. Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin should also be given licence to drift infield more because they’ve demonstrated their finishing abilities. Scoring goals has been an unfamiliar problem for Arsenal this season but it really needn’t be any more.
Prediction: Dortmund 1-2 Arsenal
The Gunners will show more signs of returning to form and should be too strong for the German champions.