06 November 2013

Arsenal 1-0 Dortmund: Aaron 'Effin Ramsey

Özil flicked it in from the edge of the box. Giroud muscled his way onto to it, heading it down. Ramsey nodded it home. Done. Sorted. In that one sequence, we've regained control of Group F and announced to all concerned that we're more than flat-track bullies. I'm not the first to point it out, but it does bear repeating that Arsenal are now
the first English club to win at San Siro, Bernabeu, Allianz, and now Westfalenstadion. Those first two are nifty little historical footnotes; the last two are far-more dramatic statements because they mark achievements of the current squad. What's more, this win might stand for something even more-vital than the win over Bayern. After all, Bayern went into that now-infamous second leg all but assured of progress, having scored three away-goals. They could afford to take their foot off the gas—or so they thought. By contrast, the outcome of this match was far more essential to both clubs as qualification for the round of 16 still hangs in the balance.

Assuming that Napoli would defeat Marseille (as they did), both Arsenal and Dortmund knew that securing three points on this evening would be crucial. Further, Dortmund had to know at least something of our resilience in such situations. Therefore, although this victory may feel less momentous in comparison to the 2-0 win over Bayern, it's nonetheless a symbolic and strategic coup. We now perch atop Group F, level on nine points with Napoli but with a +3 goal differential compared to Napoli's +1. The remaining fixtures may favor us as we host winless Marseille before visiting Napoli, while Dortmund host Napoli and then visit Marseille. Should we defeat Marseille while seeing Dortmund defeat Napoli, that should be enough to see us through. However, the way that the squad is playing at the moment suggests that we have enough control over our destiny that we need not worry about results elsewhere. While it's still too early to suggest that we're now among the favorites in the Champions League, it's no stretch of the imagination to see us advance to the next round and, with a favorable draw, reach the semifinals. After all, we are the only club that can boast of having beaten last year's champions and runners-up, and on their pitch to boot. Of course, there's a lot of football to be played, and you're only as good as the match you're currently playing.

At various points, we've marveled at the squad's dominance as we've simply over-run opponents. At others, we've seen grit and tenacity see us through against arguably inferior opponents. Wednesday's result might be the first time this season that we've won through that grit and tenacity over an elite squad. This one was a pitched, to-and-fro battle with the edge probably going to Dortmund, at least until Ramsey, against the run of play, scored on the hour. Having weathered the early sturm und drang, it's ironic and fitting that we scored on a counter against one of the world's premiere counter-attacking clubs on their pitch.

Of course, the players who contributed directly to the goal—Rosický, Özil, Giroud, and Ramsey—claim the limelight, and well they should. Rosický did well to find Özil on the flank, and the German sent in a nice ball, but scroll back up to watch the movement between Giroud and Ramsey. As soon as Ramsey sees the ball going to Giroud, he times his run perfectly onto a ball that he just knows will be there. It may not be as exquisite or as intricate as Wilshere's goal against Norwich, but it's just as telling. This squad has players who just get each other, who understand what's about to happen before it happens. This chemistry, this symbiosis, suggests that we're witnessing something special. Of course, before the prose gets too purple, we could find ourselves on the other end of a scoreline, on the short end of a result that begs questions about depth or tactics or ambition. For now, though, we have a few days to enjoy a well-earned three points in the Champions League before traveling to Old Trafford. We'll take a closer look at that one in days to come. Until then, bask in the glow. We've earned it.

Before we part ways, I'm proud to say that Woolwich 1886 is 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:
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til tomorrow..