Champions League week 5 and ze Germans were the visitors to London town in the form of Borussia Dortmund. Fresh from a fantastic 1-0 win against league rivals Bayern, they came into the game full of confidence and looking for the win that would put them right back in Group F contention. Arsenal, however, were looking for the victory that would see them qualify for the knockout stages.
No real suprises in either line up and the game started as expected. BD were pushing high up the pitch and pressing the home midfield at every opportunity. The Arsenal defence were seeing plenty of the ball but were finding it difficult to get the ball forward, opting for patience as they knocked the ball from side to side.
The pattern of the game then changed due to a couple of BD injuries. First, the fantastically named Bender was caught by a stray boot and had to be stretchered from the field of play, shortly after, the boy wonder Goetze, who many were looking forward to seeing, was subbed with what appeared to be a dead leg. Unfortunate for BD and the game, but I wasn’t really complaining as he looked threatening early on!
Dortmund had looked dangerous but the loss of 2 key players seemed to effect their game and Arsenal were starting to find a little more space. Walcott, in particular, was starting to look lively. First, he had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, and then some neat play saw him latch onto a through ball but fail to round the onrushing keeper. Then came the most incisive action of the first half as Theo dazzled the full back with a beautiful dummy before collecting the return pass and whipping a delightful cross towards RvP, only for the keeper to stick out a paw and diffuse the situation. It was the best move of a tactical first 45 which saw neither keeper troubled. Surely the second half would see more goalmouth action with both teams needing a win?
No more changes at the break and Dortmund started brightly. Some slick passing down the right resulted in a deflected cross which rolled agonisingly across a packed area but fortunately for the Gunners, straight to the BFG who knocked it out for a corner. A scare, but nothing more. This kicked Arsenal into life. Some neat passing down the left eventually fell to the feet of Song, who showed his strength to hold off one tackle before twirling through 2 more tackles with moves that Robbie Savage would have been proud of, before finally floating a beautiful ball to the back post where captain fantastic did brilliantly well to not only generate power, but also head the ball down and beyond a disappointed keeper. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
The game had finally come to life, and with Dortmund looking a little dejected and tired from their earlier hard work, space was starting to open up for the Arsenal midfield. Song and Ramsey were starting to control the game and it was the later who found Gervinho’s perfectly timed run with a defence splitting pass, and suddenly the Ivorian was clean through on goal. He jinked past the keeper with a fantastic sidestep but should really have been more aware of the defenders getting back, one of which nicked the ball away for a corner just as he was about to pass the ball into the net. Gervinho once again showing little urgency in front of goal, something reminiscent of Kanu and something that will need to change if he is to be an Arsenal great.
More chances followed for the home side with Walcott firing wide and substitute Benayoun just unable to find Walcott at the end of another flowing move. Song was everywhere, Vermaelen was dominant at the back and my new favourite Santos was showing more tricks than David Blain as Arsenal took control. Then, with around 10 minutes left, the brilliant home fans were given a treat as Diaby made his way onto the field for his first appearance of the season. Its great to have him back. Seconds later the Gooners were cheering again as a corner routine reminiscent of Bould and co saw RvP all alone 2 yards out. Game over.
For the last 5 minutes, Djourou replaced Koscielny, and it was his mix up with Song that allowed Dortmund in for a consolation goal, Kagawa tapping in from close range. Szscesny was rightly furious that his clean sheet was taken away at the last, but it meant very little as Arsenal finished the night as group winners.
Overall, Arsenal were excellent. They found it difficult in the first half to find space but that was due to great organisation from Dortmund rather than poor Arsenal play. The second half was a different game and with the tempo of the passing increased, the gunners midfield proved too strong for their German counterparts. A great result against a very capable German outfit.
Oh, and Chelsea lost!
Szscesny-didn’t have a great deal to do. Made a pretty routine stop at the beginning of the second half and kicking was good throughout 7
Koscielny-saw loads of the ball first half but played a couple of sloppy passes. Looked awkward going forward but solid as always in his defensive work 7
Mertersacker-won a lot of headers, as you would expect, and was his usual calm self. Never looked like making a mistake which is good to see 7
Vermaelen-what else can you say about this fella? Outstanding and commanding. Flicked on for RvP second 8
Santos-he’s dangerous, but my god is he fun! All the tricks you would expect from a Brazilian striker and solid one on one. love him 7.5
Song-outstanding display, espescially second half. His skill for the first goal was class. Would have been full marks had he not gifted Dortmund a consolation goal. MOTM 9
Arteta-along with most of the team he struggled to find space first half, but showed his class and experience in the second. Great corner routine. 7
Ramsey-excellent second half when more space was available. Playing well at the moment and appreciated by his team mates 7.5
Walcott-liveliest player in the first half and caused the Germans problems. solid performance. Great cross in first half 7.5
Gervinho-should have scored when clean through. Goes round people for fun but final ball/finish must improve 7
RvP-2 goals, smart performance rather than outstanding. Linked up well and knows where to be in the box. 8
Benayoun-worked hard as always but showed a bit more of his attacking ability. Great player to have in the squad 7
Djourou-didn’t have much to do and was sold a bit short by Song for the BD goal. Will get slated for the goal but Song should have got rid 6
Diaby-great to have him back. Could be a top player if can get through a season or two without injury 6
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