Awful Arsenal’s defensive dearth exposed by depleted Dortmund
Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Lukasz Piszczek, Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin – all names that were missing through injury or not involved against Arsenal.
Such stars are synonymous with Borussia Dortmund’s recent successes, but none were needed as Jurgen Klopp presided over as comfortable a 2-0 Champions League home win as you will ever see.
Coral reacted to an anaemic Arsenal performance in the Westfalenstadion, where they mustered just one shot on target, by lengthening the Gunners’ odds on winning Group D from even-money to 9/4. Arsene Wenger remains odds-on to steer his team through to the knockout phase, however, at 2/7.
There is no shame in going to Dortmund, who were finalists in Europe’s elite club competition in 2013, and losing, but the manner of Arsenal’s defeats raises questions about their recruitment. Attacking arrivals Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck carried little goal threat, while record signing Mesut Ozil was on the margins in a left wing berth.
As disappointing as the Gunners frontline was, it is defensive frailties that grabbed the headlines. A sprained ankle for Mathieu Debuchy and an ill-timed bout of tonsillitis for Calum Chambers meant Wenger had to blood teenage Spanish right back Hector Bellerin for a full debut in Dortmund.
It would be lazy journalism to blame the youngster; rather it was Arsenal’s back four as a unit at fault here. A soft centre opened up twice either side of half time, first with Ciro Immobile’s stunning solo effort.
The Italian, one of a raft of forwards captured by Klopp in a bid to replace Robert Lewandowski, broke his Dortmund duck by running from his own half, getting between two defenders and firing across Wojciech Szczesny.
Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang then popped up in a central position after the break, played a one-two with Kevin Grosskreutz and rounded the Gunners goalie as well as beating Laurent Koscielny, who had got back on the line.
And it could have been worse for Arsenal, if one-time Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan had his shooting boots on. The Armenian attacking midfielder cracked the bar and spurned other openings here. Dortmund produced something remarkable here, considering those seven first-team regulars mentioned above were missing.
Mikel Arteta, skippering the Gunners, is in real decline as a credible shield for the back four. Fellow 30-something Mathieu Flamini missed out with a knock and this anchorman position is another priority area for Wenger. Having watched two goals come from the middle and Mkhitaryan run riot, he has to admit this an area to address.
Arsenal are now 33/1 chances for the Champions League outright, but are expected to get through a group which also contains Galatasaray, coached by pragmatic ex-Italy boss Cesare Prandelli, and Belgian champions Anderlecht, who drew 1-1 in Istanbul. Wenger certainly has food for thought after seeing his side concede five goals in three outings across all competitions.