“It was pressing, and counter-pressing, and perfection… In the centre midfield it was perfect.”
Jurgen Klopp reflected on his team’s utterly deserved 2-0 triumph and yet study of those words will tell the story of the night. Yes, Dortmund had pace, power, desire, and an incredible work ethic. Arsenal produced a little bit of the former, and nowhere near enough of the others. Yes, Dortmund were very, very good, but we certainly allowed them to look it.
What can I say tonight to dispute that? Nothing. Other than, of course, it was one night. Taking a step back from the bitter disappointment of the evening we find ourselves three points off the top of the group with five matches to play, three of which will be at home. Think about that for a second. Our first competitive defeat in fourteen Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League fixtures straddling the close season. Hopefully it will serve as a massive wake-up call and not prove to be a portent of another miserable season ahead in the big away games.
Let’s hope this increasingly expensively assembled squad will reflect later this week on just why there was a collective lack of effort and execution tonight. We have used such performances down the years to develop a ‘this will not happpen again’ attitude, most famously after a five goal beating at Stoke in our first double season.
Let’s hope we analyse the twenty-four Dortmund chances to our four and identify those in midfield who allowed their men to run at our beleagured defence all night. No names, no pack drill, but what should be as good an attacking midfield as there is in Europe folded tonight, giving oxygen to the argument that we should have done more to secure an out and out holding player in the summer. Yet this was not a performance that would have been made better by one more signing. This was a performance that would have been made better by making more of an effort to control the ball and the pace of the game. The collective failure to do so should not be laid at the door of individuals.
I’m in danger of turning this into a rant, and that is not what most of you who come here expect. I don’t mind us getting a schooling tonight if we use the experience to ensure it isn’t repeated this season. We have what we have in the squad for another three and a half months before we can add what may be missing. I have no doubt we will play much, much better at Villa this weekend, and against Tottenham next. I will next see the boys in the flesh at Stamford Bridge a week later. The fear tonight is that another tough away test could prove too much for this squad.
Don’t let it be so, Gunners, It’s time to show some cojones.