Arsenal kick off their Champions League campaign in Dortmund tonight, against a side that have lost their biggest players over the last few seasons but who are still a top top side. With Jurgen Klopp at the helm, they will always be a threat to any team and they will give us a lot of problems tonight.
Last season we travelled to Germany and with a goal from Aaron Ramsey, essentially nicked a result in Dortmund. That result and performance was based on defensive stability, something which we will struggle with tonight.
Mathieu Debuchy suffered a bad injury at the weekend, with reports saying he’ll be out for the next 2 or 3 months. Nacho Monreal is out with a back problem (but should be back for the weekend) and Calum Chambers, Debuchy’s natural replacement at right back, is 50/50 as he’s suffering from tonsillitis.
Fortunately, Gibbs is back but if Chambers can’t make it then it looks more and more likely that youngster Hector Bellerin will be thrown into the deep end. The kid looked lively in The Emirates Cup, but a Champions League game is a bit of an ask. He was on loan at Watford last season (where he made a handful of appearances) and is quicker than Theo Walcott. Apart from that, I don’t know much about him.
But whoever starts, and whether it is the young Spaniard, then we will just have to support him and hope he puts in a decent performance.
If Hector Bellerin does start (meaning that Chambers is not fit enough to play, and therefore the bench) then we will have a crisis if any one of our back line picks up an injury during the game.
And that brings me to my next point, Arsenal can’t afford to carry anyone tonight and that means Santi Cazorla needs to start instead of Mesut Özil.
In last seasons away game against Borussia Dortmund, it was almost a “backs against the wall” performance where we withstood a lot of Dortmund pressure and nicked a goal on the break. The tactic worked perfectly (and showed that Arsene can play a conservative game, although he didn’t do it enough last season) but was dependent on every single player running themselves into the ground.
Alexis Sanchez is a player you know will give absolutely everything, offensively and defensively, and the same goes for Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. You can also say the same about Santi Cazorla, but you can’t say the same about Mesut Özil.
Clearly, he’s struggling for form at this moment in time but tonight is not for Arsenal to carry a player who doesn’t offer anything defensively. Dortmund are a quick, dynamic team and they will attack us (with pace) at every opportunity. That means that every Arsenal player needs to be switched on and needs to track back when needed. How did Coleman score against Arsenal a few weeks ago? When Özil failed to track his man and gave the Everton full back a free header.
Simply put, things like that just cannot happen against a top side like Dortmund, otherwise they’ll score 4 or 5 against us.
So Arsene Wenger needs to be brave, and drop Mesut Özil tonight and think about the team as a whole.