Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund
Arsenal returned to winning ways on Wednesday night with an assured victory at home to Borrussia Dortmund, which ensured their qualification from the group stage of the Champions League.
Following a series of disappointing results, the Gunners needed to get off to a good start to restore confidence and did exactly that, taking the lead after only 75 seconds. Yaya Sanogo, starting in place of the injured Danny Welbeck, did extremely well to hold the ball up before laying it off to Santi Cazorla and spinning in behind the Dortmund defence to collect the return pass. The much maligned Frenchman has tended to hesitate when through on goal or rush his shot, spurning the opportunity, but on this occasion, Sanogo was calmness personified as he coolly slid the ball beyond the goalkeeper to score his first competitive goal in an Arsenal shirt. He had waited 18 games to achieve this feat and the home crowd saluted the occasion with ironic chants of “he scores when he wants”
Dortmund may have had an exemplary record in the Champions League, going into this game but their domestic form has been atrocious so far this season and their confidence was fragile as a result. The early goal knocked the stuffing out of the away side and having already secured their qualification to the next stage, Dortmund were unlikely to cause the Gunners too much trouble from this point on. In fact the game was very much there for the taking, the only question was whether Arsenal had the capacity to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
Sanogo had a gilt edged chance to double his tally for the night, moments after opening his account, as the Frenchman was played clean through on goal, but reverted back to his old ways and became unsure of himself at the key moment. Rather than take a shot on goal Sanogo needlessly attempted a drag back which allowed Matthias Ginter the opportunity to get back and make a tackle.
Arsenal were dominating possession but as always were particularly vulnerable to the counter attack. It seems that whenever the Gunners are awarded a corner it is more likely that the opposition will score as they hit Wenger’s side on the counter attack. Arsenal don’t help the situation either as their deliveries from corners are woeful to say the least and one such occasion in the first half led to Kieran Gibbs having to make a desperate last minute tackle deep inside his own half. This should never happen from your own corner but is something that can be seen time and time again from the Gunners.
This was a much improved overall team performance by Arsenal as they impressively pressed Dortmund high up the pitch, greatly restricting the visitor’s ability to play the ball out from the back and subsequently forcing errors and winning back possession higher up the pitch. Yet following Sanogo’s missed opportunity to double the Gunners lead, the home side struggled to create clear cut opportunities and it was in fact Dortmund who could and should have scored before half time as Mkhitaryan was allowed time to bring the ball down inside the six yard box and shoot on goal, only to be denied by a fine save from stand in goalkeeper Martinez.
Arsenal came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders for the second half as they sought to ensure all three points. First Alexis Sanchez was extremely unfortunate to see his fine low curling effort well saved, having steered the ball through the legs of a Dortmund defender. Then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost marked his 100th appearance for the club with a wonderful volleyed effort which came crashing back off the crossbar to the dismay of the Arsenal faithful.
The Gunners sustained pressure finally told three minutes later thanks to a wonderful flowing move which saw the home side switch the ball from one flank to another and then back again with supreme skill and speed. The ball was played to Cazorla, who in turn played it square to Sanchez. The Chilean was once again producing an excellent performance full of strength, skill, power, verve and determination and got the goal he so richly deserved, cutting inside before curling a perfectly placed effort beyond the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
Arsenal’s second of the night effectively killed the game off as a contest and the match petered out as a result. At the final whistle the Gunners could reflect on a job well done and with qualification now secured can turn their attention to the League as they seek to address an alarming run of domestic results.
Unfortunately the never ending injury list continues to increase game by game as more names are added onto it. Against Manchester United, the Gunners lost Jack Wilshere to an ankle injury which the club have now confirmed will rule the Englishman out for three months. On Wednesday evening Mikel Arteta suffered a calf injury which Wenger later described as looking serious and Sanogo was substituted following a hamstring injury, having replaced the injured Welbeck in the starting line-up.
The atmosphere around the club will have improved following this victory, but Arsenal must now consolidate it with another win against West Brom on Saturday. Following a shaky start to the campaign, the Gunners need to gain some momentum by going on a run, but injuries may undermine any attempts to do so. The team cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves and can only collectively grit their teeth and get on with the task at hand.