The visit of Borussia Dortmund to the Emirates was always going to be a defining night of our season, but judging by our season so far, and in particular the recent week, its potential for our season has skyrocketed. What was once ‘simply’ going to be the visit of a European heavyweight to North London, it is instead the possibility to qualify for the next round of the competition and claim our first win in four. It also gives the opportunity to see our potential next manager as Jurgen Klopp will grace the opposition dugout, a man that in Arsenal fans eyes can simply do not wrong at the moment, but that is a story for another time.
For the match itself, we will be without Jack Wilshere and potentially SEVEN other first teamers as our injury curse strikes again. It’s hard to imagine what this new physio is doing so differently to his predecessor if so many of our players are still getting injured, but for a man to go from the German national team to Arsenal, he must be doing something right (surely?!). Giroud will also be unavailable due to the fact that he wasn’t registered for the group stage fixtures as a result of his ankle injury from August, and the fact the Welbeck, along with Walcott, is also a doubt, the mantle could once again be passed to Sanogo. However, despite the criticism he has to endure (most of which is warranted, granted), and the fact that he runs like an elephant on roller skates, I feel that it is unfair on the player himself to start him. All joking aside, Wenger signed him because he had potential, and he could one day turn out to be a decent player, but he needs game time and a lower level where less is at stake. To play him once a month in what always seems to be a vital game is criminal, both for his and the team’s sake, and has so far got us nowhere.
Here’s how I think (hope) we will line up:
Bellerin Mertsersacker Chambers Gibbs
OX Cazorla Sanchez
Although he hasn’t featured in the last couple of weeks, I feel that Bellerin has gone from a player that we could ‘try out’ to a player we have to play. Clearly, the current defence is not working, whatever the reason may be, whether it is the tactics employed by Wenger or simply the naivety of those playing, it just hasn’t come off. Therefore, why not play someone who, in the few games he has played, has impressed? To play a second choice left-back at centre-back, at an age where he will no longer improve, instead of playing an academy prospect who Wenger claims has ‘great potential’ seems like madness. Furthermore, when playing at centre-back in the opening weeks of the season, Callum Chambers won player of the month, and was constantly playing alongside the experienced Mertsersacker, who could give him all the help he needed. Now, playing as a full back with limited pace, not a lot of opportunities to cross it due our limited aerial threat, and wingers not tracking back, he seems to constantly be on the back foot and his early form has left him. The solutions to this defensive crisis seem obvious to most, just sadly, not the man who picks the team. From then on, the team pretty much picks itself due to injuries, with Sanchez on one wing and Oxlade-Chamberlain (who I feel has been our standout player in recent weeks) on the other, with Cazorla in the middle. Martinez meanwhile will continue between the sticks due to Szczesny’s injury, and although we still have Ospina to come back, it does present an opportunity for the young argentine to put himself in the managers’ mind, and indeed the shop window.
The player we need to perform the most in my opinion however is not Sanchez, not Chambers, and not even Sanogo, but Aaron Ramsey. Although he cannot always be expected to repeat the achievements of last season, to have only been able to hit the back of the net twice this campaign is a rather poor showing. In his press-conference on Tuesday, he described how for the first time this season he felt ‘physically sharp’; an encouraging sign but words are not what we need right now, we need results.
Despite our problems at the moment, Dortmund certainly have their own baggage. They come into this fixture enduring their worst start to a domestic season under Klopp and they lay a worrying 16th in the table. To add to this, star striker Marco Reus has also been ruled out until after the new year, which although is a major problem for them, I do feel their replacement will be a tad better than Sanogo!
Nevertheless, seasons are made on nights like this; when the footballing gods seem against you (along with your own physio) and the campaign seems a write-off before even the halfway mark, one good performance can turn that all around,
Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey to score,
COME ON YOU GOONERS!