22 October 2013

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Borussia Dortmund, The Emirates, October 22 (2:45 PM ET)

Arsenal vs. Blackburn in the FA Cup
The Emirates Stadium via Ben Ward
There’s a weird dichotomy of feelings following winning the way Arsenal did on Saturday. There’s that elation and a need to want that feeling to last juxtaposed against an urgency to see the team play again as soon as possible. I’m not sure where I stand along these two lines. I do want to watch Match of the Day on repeat and the Ramsey skill gif that were part of that terrific result, but at the same time, I want to see more and I want to see them do it again against the next opponent. Unfortunately for me, it’s probably the former that I’m gonna have to go with since I will be working rather than enjoying the football. I’ll be the kid doing homework instead of going to the school dance.

It is a hell of a dance that I will be missing as Arsenal welcomes last year’s runners up, Borussia Dortmund, to the Emirates. Dortmund isn’t as strong as the side that romped Madrid on the way to the Champions League final, but that’s what happens when you have the heart beat of the team, Mario Gotze, pried away coolly by their much richer domestic rivals and European Champions, Bayern. That’s not to say the Germans don’t have any talent left, far from it.

Die Borrusen are still fearsome. Robert Lewandowski is as terrifying as a striker gets. Marco Reus is as scary as his next hair style. Gundogan, Bender, Hummels, and Subotic have also drawn the leering eyes of Europe’s finest. They are talented, they play a quick passing game, and they’ll press you like crazy. Dortmund makes a game of freneticism look beautiful. While many of you will say you won’t ever see a goal like Arsenal’s first from Saturday, the combination of Reus and Lewandowski have done just that in the past.

Over the weekend, Dortmund returned from the interlull and disposed of Hannover 96 1-0 at Signal-Iduna Park. They currently find themselves tied for second place in the Bundesliga with Leverkusen with 22 points, one point behind the leaders, Bayern. They have a pretty swell +15 goal difference in the league, which is only matched by the Munich side. The one blemish in their domestic record is a loss in the Borussenderby against Monchengladbach. The team’s record is a testament to this team’s formidability.

In Group F, Dortmund sits third behind Napoli and Arsenal. The Germans were unceremoniously welcomed into the group by Napoli, losing 2-1 at the Stadio San Paolo. Dortmund does have a better goal differential than the Italian side, having beaten Marseille 3-0 on Matchday 2, but if the group ended today, the loss to Napoli would have the Germans playing on Thursday Spursday in the Europa League.
This game presents Arsenal with a golden opportunity to create some separation by what should be their closest rivals in the Group. We’ve seen through the North London Derby how a head to head victory can be the difference in separation in the Premier League this year. It can be the same with this group. While Arsenal is currently three points clear, this match represents a potential 6-point swing between a win or a loss. At home, this is a must win.
I don’t expect much rotation from the weekend. Mathieu Flamini is out due to a concussion, which removes a force that could disrupt Dortmund’s quick counter attack. Aaron Ramsey should easily fill that spot in the starting lineup, and I expect that to be the only change for the Gunners. Perhaps Wenger will swap Rosicky for Cazorla, given the Spaniard has only just returned from injury, but I was surprised that Santi was immediately handed a start on Saturday, so I’d say it’s unlikely. Rosicky should be the top option on the bench, if needed.

Tactically, this is a matchup of two teams that like to be on the ball and move the ball quickly. They both like to press high up the pitch and can be deadly on the counter. Dortmund is currently second in the Bundesliga in average possession. Arsenal might have more versatility in the tactical department, as we have seen the side comfortably fall back into a shell of two banks of four. Expect Dortmund to try to shadow Ozil with Sven Bender. This should allow Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere to continue what they’ve been doing and may be even, a little Spanish wizard to do his thing.

The key difference in this game might be Arsenal’s narrowness versus Dortmund’s width. In a game where control is a potentially deciding factor, Arsenal’s ability to outnumber Dortmund’s midfield might be the key. However, if the midfield gets too crowded, don’t be surprised if we see Rosicky come in for one of the central midfielders to give Arsenal a more disciplined outside attacker. Conversely, Reus worries me a lot because of his pace and his ability to interplay with Lewandowski. This is a game where Mertesacker is going to have to hold down the fort because I can see him being exploited. Pierrre-Emerick Aubameyang is another speedy weapon.

It’s hard to see a scenario where both teams don’t score. Arsenal is in fine form but have struggled to keep clean sheets. Dortmund is perfectly capable of scoring goals. Neither team is ­­­­­great at defending set pieces. Dortmund allowed two goals off set pieces against Napoli. Perhaps an Arsenal defender can nod one in. My match prediction is 4-2 to the Arsenal.

Predicted lineups: 

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud

Dortmund: Weidenfaller; Groskreutz, Subotic, Papastathopoulos, Durm; Bender, Mkhitaryan, Reus, Aubameyang, Sahin; Lewandowski

No comments:

Post a Comment