22 October 2013

Die Borussen! A match preview...

Stay calm; I'm not calling for Dortmund to die. It reads "the Prussians", one of a seemingly endless number of names and nicknames for BV Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund. Whatever name we choose, Dortmund comes in as the real marquee match of the season. For as fine a form Arsenal has been in, 22 October has been a date that we've looked forward to with anticipation and, yes, a bit of dread ever since the fixtures
were announced. After all, for all of the history and enmity between us and Spurs, going into this match tomorrow raises the stakes quite a bit as this shapes up to be the toughest test we've faced to date. It'll be a bit like looking in a mirror in many ways. Like us, Dortmund play a creative, attacking brand of football and prefer finding talented players and honing them in that brand. Like us, they've suffered the sting of seeing those players leave the club just as they're realizing their potential, whether it's Mario Götze leaving for league rivals Bayern this past summer or Shinji Kagawa leaving for (and languishing at) Man U. They join us in being one of only two clubs to beat Bayern in the last eight months. The similarities, however, only go so far and matter even less.

Similarities aside, the biggest news from our point of view is Flamini's concussion and subsequent absence. His head-on-head clash on Norwich's Tettey leaves renders him unavailable, and, as understated as his arrival was, his presence on the pitch has left an indelible mark, whether it's his marshalling of the defensive midfield, his grit and tenacity, or his willingness to do the dirty work behind the more-glamorous midfield. In his absence, we'll almost certainly see Arteta and a more-restrained Ramsey hold down the pivot in front of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Sagna as we look to hold off one of the liveliest counter-attacking teams we've faced all season. I've salivated over Lewandowski in the past, and he'll come into London for the second time in as many weeks, sure to leave an impression stronger than the one he left while representing Poland. Speaking of which, countryman Wojciech Szczęsny posted a facebook message to Lewandowski saying "żarty się skończyły! London calling:)" or "jokes are over! London calling". This could be read as an invitation (to join Arsenal) or a challenge (we'll defeat you). Either way, I like the spirit.

On to more serious matters, we have to caution ourselves against too much braggadocio. After all, we've done as much as we should have, with the only stand-outs being a 1-0 win over Spurs and a 2-0 win over Napoli. Beyond that, without slighting other opponents, we've only done what we should be expected to do, Özil or no Özil. Few expected a 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa, of course, but most of us expected to win out over the other clubs we've faced. The style with which we've done so, of course, should inspire a small degree of confidence.

Aside from Flamini's absence, we'll able to field a very strong side against Dortmund, who will be somewhat hobbled by the absences of Ilkay Gündogan, Sebastien Kehl, Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels, and manager Jürgen Klopp. That's four absences in the heart of Dortmund's defense (including CM Gündogan), and this should leave Dortmund vulnerable. Add in the home-field advantage, and we really should be able to take these three points. This is not idle boasting. It's hard, after all, to argue against the form we're in. Not just the results, but the manner in which we're earning them. The strength and creativity we can offer in the midfield should be well-positioned to seize the advantage over Dortmund's midfield; between the absences of Kehl and Gündogan and the bedding-in of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, we should be able to neutralize their counters and control possession, at least enough to come away with a win, leaving us with nine points from three matches and probably needing just one more point from three remaining matches to advance.

Before we go, I'll leave you with some words of inspiration from Özil, who reminded us of this:
Even if it did not run perfectly for Real against Dortmund, I scored or set up a goal in nearly every game against a German side; that gives me a good feeling. Moreover, we play the first game in London. That's an advantage.
Indeed, his form, as well as that of the rest of the squad, should create a bit of confidence going forward. That said, I'm calling for a 2-1 win with goals from Giroud and Cazorla to set the pace. Make your own predictions in the comments-section below.

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