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):
- Click here to receive the email ballot (where you can also vote for other Gooners’ blogs in other categories).
- Click here to vote on facebook (post a comment like “I vote for Woolwich 1886 as best #New Blog”)
- Click here to vote on twitter (just click “tweet” in the new window).
Thanks, as always for your visit. ‘Til tomorrow..