05 November 2013

Dortmund Preview: Another second-leg comeback?

First, it was AC Milan. Then, it was Bayern. In the last two years, Arsenal has lost the first leg only to storm back in near-historic fashion. Could an away-victory over Dortmund be next? The key difference between those two matches and tomorrow's second-leg is that we're still in the Group Stage, not the round of 16, and so the stakes might seem a little lower. However, with Napoli hosting Marseille and looking likely to win, they'll probably get to nine points, as would the winner between Arsenal and Dortmund, leave the loser stranded in third and looking at dropping out of the Champions League and into the Europa. Therefore, with three matches remaining, a win is vital, and a loss might be fatal, at least to the loser's hopes of advancing in the Champions League.

It's with this in mind that I turn to recent history. Two seasons ago, in the Group of 16, we suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss to AC Milan only to come back home and, in the second leg, very nearly equalize with a 3-0 win. Last year, of course, was even more impressive, as we followed the 3-1 loss at home to Bayern with a 2-0 away win, putting the eventual champions in the throes of panic. Sadly, because these were during the knock-out phase, the wins on their own were not enough to see us through. However, a win on Wednesday would earn an essential three points, keeping us top of the table (or near it) while knocking Dortmund into a desperate situation. Precedents matter—perhaps not as much as current form, to be sure, but they matter. I'm sure I'm not the only one pointing out that Arsenal have stormed back from a first-leg setback to defeat the Bundesliga's first-place team in their own house, after all (I know Bayern recently overtook Dortmund, but the point remains. I think).

More-recent history seems to suggest that we should worry—and, of course, one should never underestimate one's opponents. However, at the risk of sounding overly optimistic, recent setbacks, while worrying on their face, signify far less once we look beneath. The league cup loss to Chelsea is easy enough to look past as our squad included a number of second-stringers and was outclassed by an XI that would rightly be a starting line-up for two-thirds of the Prem, if not more. There. File it way and move on. The 2-1 loss to Dortmund, while more significant, might reveal the result of bad luck more than class. For most of the second half, we were the ascendant squad and looked ready to take the game by the scruff but for one crucial counter-attack on which we got burned. Dubbing this bad luck might be sour grapes; after all, thunderous counter-attacks are Dortmund's calling card. Closer to the truth, we were perhaps due for a comeuppance after an unbeaten streak of 12 matches. Reading too many press-clippings, and all, an coming up against the toughest opponent we may face all year (depending on who we'll face later on in the Champions League *cough*).

Dortmund is not Liverpool, but the dominance of our performance on Saturday bodes well for the squad's confidence and focus. With the exception of Szczesny's little 1-2 with Sturridge towards the end, everyone looked to be clicked-in throughout the match, a quality that was missing against Dortmund if only for that those two sequences, one that saw Ramsey dispossessed just outside the box and the other that let Großkreutz find an unmarked Lewandowski open on the far-post. That's all it takes, of course, but we're once bitten. we've seen that we can't afford to let our guards down, and I'm sure the boys will come out to play a complete match, taking it to Dortmund and play whistle to whistle, until full-time is called. I'll stick my neck out and call it a 2-1 win for Arsenal. Yep, you read it right. We've shown in the past that clubs that manage to beat us seem only to light a fire in us, so it stands to reason that history is about to repeat itself. Right? Right.

We'll go in without Flamini and Wilshere but will likely go in otherwise unchanged in other positions. Therefore, we'll likely see a defensive pivot of Arteta and Ramsey behind an attacking midfield of Cazorla, Özil, and Rosický. It's possible that we might see Monreal in place of Gibbs. Whoever takes the pitch, it's vital that we hold off their first surge of adrenaline on the attack in front of their fans and stay disciplined when they counter. Two weeks ago, in the aftermath of losing in such stunning style, it seemed like the Champions League was out of reach. Let's remind ourselves that two brain-farts are all the separated us from a draw or even a win in the first leg; I'm sure those who take to the pitch know full-well the importance of focused, determined effort. This one could be epic.

Last but not least, I'm one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blogs" category. I want to hoist a flag for Arsenal by beating out the other nominees, who cover a little bit of everything—rumors, La Liga, the Bundesliga, etc., etc. I'm banking on the support of fellow Gooners to see this site through. Here's how (I think you can do all three to vote three times):
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til tomorrow..

9 comments:

  1. 2-2 draw. dortmund have too much firepower for us to hold them to one goal espeically at home. one point means we would still be able to qualify, if we can beat Napoli and dortmund beats or draws with them down the road!

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    1. nope, we're gonna come out and do what we do. another away win in Germany. they won't know what hit them after we win 2-0 maybe 3-0. while we're at it, let's knock off a few benches like they did at our place!

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  2. Much as I would love a win or even a draw, I don't see us pulling off either. Dortmund is so strong and they'll know that we beat Bayern. I actually think they'll sit back and let us dominate possession and try to catch us on the break, instead of bombing forward to score early. they can afford to be patient, I think they have the inside track on qualifying, so they don't have to risk pressing too hard to score...

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    1. oh, ye of little faith! there's more of a fighting spirit in this squad than you give credit. Yes, they have some form on their side, but I think we have enough quality on our side to respond to their first-leg win in style...

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    2. I still don't think they will sit back defending for 90mins. We will have our chances. We should just take them.

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  3. sorry, Gentlemen but BVB are going to have our way with you like as if you are a cheap prostitute! thanks for coming all the way to our house to save us the trouble. just keep that stiff upper lip, all the better for, you know...

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  4. Take it home, Dortmund is far more compact than Bayern. Present Arsenal side is a mix of experience and youth, more experience than youth. They now play the patient game...against Liverpool, I was thrilled. Against Dortmund, it's far tougher...I would have called a win but Theo Walcott's absence is restricting me. If Theo was available, we would have beaten Dortmund square...but without the pacey wizard, I'm only praying for that win...and how we need that win!

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  5. Think the gunner needs to be aware of BVB counter cause that what they have use most in upsetting big team in their staduim so we need to play with care in midfield.The problem arsenal will have in this game is lack of pace in the side we need pace to break a defence like BVB have got theo will surely be missed tonight

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  6. Well speak no more, the result yesterday has closed this case.

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