I nearly called today’s post ‘A Tale of Two Ties’, as the fact that Barcelona drew in Europe is not one to be hidden down the back of the FIFA score drawer.
While we led the German champions until two minutes form the end of our tie, the Spanish champs went behind, went ahead, and then drew with the Italian champs, conceding one goal from open play (when Pato brushed past Barca’s high line), and a second from a set piece. Barcelona were held at home by champions. Arsenal were held away…by champions. Arsenal are not champions.
Looking at things from that perspective, anyone who thought we could go to the BVB Stadium and bring back three points must have realised they were a touch optimistic. That we nearly did was a superb achievement, the result of some resolute defending, a work ethic that – in the main – was shared by the whole team, but is also testament to a stunning effort from Ivan Perisic that Szczesny had little hope of seeing, let alone stopping.
So we’ll take that, won’t we? On paper, that’s the hardest away tie for us in the group, and that we went ahead and then nearly achieved our first clean sheet in Europe for three years speaks to the attitude of the players playing for us. Speaking of which, what an absolute professional and genuine worker Benayoun is proving to be. The Israeli captain hasn’t looked his 31 years so far, and of the last two games he told the club site:
We beat Swansea the other day and to take a point in the Champions League will build the confidence. There is a lot of quality in this team and I’m sure we will show it from game to game.
Absolutely bang on the money. On Saturday a win was a win, and last night the point was a fine result. That Benayoun – one of the players the less experienced should be turning to – has his head screwed off the pitch and is putting in shifts on it can only be bonus to the team this season. On being at Arsenal he’s said.
It’s lovely to play for a big club like Arsenal and it’s a big challenge for me. I was happy that I have the chance to play and hopefully, with every chance I get, I will justify myself.
Well, no complaints here Yossi. I felt the boss would choose him ahead of Frimpong to add a bit of experience and attacking nous to the Germans’ equations, and that proved to be how it played out. He may not have had the best attacking game of his life, but there was a moment in the second half where he summed it all up for me: Battling one Dortmund player, and pressured to the ground as another engaged him (while unaware of winning a free kick) he made the effort kick the ball into space for another Arsenal player to take. Such commitment is welcome, and a great example to set.
Also mainly positive are the stats from last night’s game. Arteta had an 86% pass completion rate, continuing in his Swansea vein, and the team as a whole won 58% of aerial battles. Arteta himself spilled blood for the cause, with a pressure relieving header he needed to win. Dortmund aren’t particularly threatening in the air as far as I know, but with most of or headers won by Mertesacker and/or Koscielny, that bodes well.
Dortmund had six corners and I don’t think we were really troubled with any of those first deliveries in…which is a start. From open play the odd occasion where we were undone, either good tracking back, solid defending or top goalkeeping paid off, and although I’m concentrating on our defence here, there were sparks of promise from the forward play, and RVP’s finish was superb.
But our defence being so resilient after going ahead is the story for me. We nearly defended a one goal lead for about 55 minutes (including stoppage time), and we can be mighty proud of the team for that.
There should be easier ties in Europe this season, and we should improve.
Well done the lads. Keep up the effort.