Dortmund 2 Arsenal 0: Four talking points as Gunners are beaten
Dortmund 2 Arsenal 0: Four talking points as the north London side slump to a Champions League defeat
A worrying display
Arsenal’s first first-match Champions League loss in 11 years will be a chastening one for their fans, as many were optimistic for the new season following the big-bucks signings of Sanchez, and to a lesser extent Danny Welbeck, to add the showpiece addition of Mesut Ozil last season. Though a few of the performances this season – against Everton, for 75 minutes at least, and Leicester, most notably – they have fared well against the only real Champions League-calibre opposition they have faced, drawing 2-2 against City this weekend and beating them 3-0 in the Community Shield. But here they were soundly beaten by quality opposition, exposing problems that seem liked they could prove persistent.
Dortmund were all over Arsenal, managing 24 to Arsenal’s 4 (and only one on target). In defence, they swarmed Arsenal, denying them space, and up front Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was strong, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked threatening – if not particularly clinical – and Ciro Immobile was very mobile. Not least for his goal, where he picked the ball up in his own half and ran a good 60 yards before finishing smartly. Both goals, however, were poor from Arsenal defensively. For the first Per Mertesacker made a poor decision in not going to challenge the header which led to the goal, and then Laurent Koscielny let Immobile run a good 60 yards pretty much unchallenged. For the second, Hector Bellerin – on his Champions League debut despite not playing a league game (it showed) – gave too much space to Kevin Grosskeutz, who played a ball behind the out-of-position Per Mertesacker to Aubameyang, who rounded Wojciech Szczesny, who in turn was a little rash in rushing out. It was a good goal and there have certainly been worse defensive mistakes, but this triple dose of errors is the type of thing that gets ruthlessly punished at this level. Well, usually – Dortmund were not that clinical here in general, and could have easily had five. It was a little surprising Flamini did not figure in the game, either at right-back instead of Bellerin, or in his more usual holding central midfield role. Dortmund’s strategy of pressing here is a common strategy for them, and Flamini could have added some much-needed bite to the Arsenal midfield.
As busy as bees
However, we should be wary of focusing too much on Arsenal, as Dortmund were superb – the energy of the infamous ‘Yellow Wall’ in the stands seemingly transmitting down to the players, who ran one kilometre more per player than Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp said after that if you give Arsenal just one metre of space they are so strong. So credit must go to Klopp as well as his players.
Will the real Danny Welbeck please stand up?
Arsenal’s signing of Welbeck brought a very mixed reaction, with opinion ranging from all the way from this is his chance to shine after being unfairly kept out on the wing/subs bench to rubbish, overpriced and can’t finish. After the England game it seemed he’d gone some way to proving his doubters wrong, linking up very well with Rooney and Sterling as an out-and-out forward and providing two fine finishes. Here, though, he fully lived up to the critics’ assessment of poor finisher, as he let three good chances to go wait. With Giroud out until Christmas and the next best option Yaya Sanogo, we will get to see soon which of these two Danny Welbecks is the truer reflection. Arsenal fans will desperately want it to be the former.