Arsenal host Borussia Dortmund tonight in Group F of the Champions League. The Gunners top the group with 2 wins from 2 games, whilst Dortmund sit in 3rd place having won 1 and lost 1.
Team news & predicted line ups
Arsenal are without the injured Mathieu Flamini, with boss Arsene Wenger resisting temptation and sticking to his 5 day rule. They are also without Theo Walcott who faces a further 2 weeks on the sideline, as well as Yaya Sanogo, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby.
They are likely to stick with a 4-2-3-1, using Ramsey as part of the double pivot in place of Flamini.
Borussia Dortmund welcome back ‘keeper Roman Weidenfeller who returns from a one-match European ban. Mats Hummels is also welcomed back having served a domestic ban, and midfielders Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin & Sven Bender are all set to feature after playing on the weekend despite being doubts for the game against Hannover. However, BVB will have to cope without Ilkay Gundogan, Lukas Piszczek & Sebastian Kehl.
Midfield battle to take centre stage
Arsenal are without a natural winger and thus will play more centrally. However, Dortmund’s defensive game is focused on making it hard for teams to play in the middle as they combine counterpressing and triggered pressing with a mid-high block. This, though, allows space in behind and Arsenal should look to take advantage of this area. They would be able to do this by making Arteta play between the centre backs during build up play as he has the technique to play direct passes, which will be a key requirement for Arsenal in order to avoid Dortmund’s effective pressing in the middle third, and pushing both Ozil and Ramsey further forward to provide vertical outlets. A worry for Arsenal, though, is their lack of a true, pacey winger as they will need to exploit the space in behind with direct balls. With no Walcott, they will find it hard to catch Dortmund on the counter because both Cazorla and Wilshere tend to drift centrally which creates an overload in the middle, but Dortmund are most effective when defending in the middle of the pitch.
I think Dortmund’s sheer directness, pace and tactical excellence on the counter will win them the game, but I anticipate a close encounter, with the game being won in the middle of the pitch. The small things matter the most, and this is what it will probably come down to. Arsenal will need their quality in midfield if they are to succeed.