So what have we learned from our narrow defeat against last year’s CL runners up? Almost nothing, other than this team is still a work in progress, but has made progress nevertheless.
Arsenal played with a bit more tension and less fluidity than Dortmund, and that in my view made the marginal difference. Klopp is a top-top manager: second best in the world after Louis van Gaal. He knows how to make his players play in a system of football with clear tasks and expectations per position. If a top player leaves, he will find a quality replacement in no time and gets them to fit into the system incredibly fast, and that is what makes him such a good manager in my opinion. Arsene is more laissez-faire in his approach to ‘system-football’ as he allows his players more freedom to ‘express themselves’.
Dortmund was a well-oiled machine and if and when they won the ball back, they passed it better round than we did. We struggled with fluidity in the first half as too many passes went astray and we suffered from continuous miscommunication between the players. The fact that they were a tat nervous did not help either. But the boys fought back slowly but steadily and deserved their equaliser.
We had a great shape in the first half and gave away little. However, in the attacking third we struggled to combine effectively as the continuous and ferocious pressure of the Germans allowed us less time on the ball; and then, you need certain automatism to kick in (as our opponents demonstrated so effectively to us last night) which are not fully there yet. This will come, though, and I am sure the team will learn quickly. It is these sorts of games that will speed the gelling and finding each other automatically up for us.
Now, we can say that it is the little things that make the difference in games like these, but this is the case in most games. We can also say we would not have lost this game with Flamini in the team, or even won the game with Theo and Podolski available. Maybe this is so, but we just don’t know. We can also say, we should have played for a draw and remain more compact at the back; and although there is merit in this too, we could also have lost the game with exactly that approach after which we would have said we should have played for the win – attack is the best defence and all that sort of stuff. Hindsight smindsight.
What is most important: compared to the Munich home game, Arsenal have made tremendous progress and with a bit more luck we would not have lost, possibly even have won, this game. The team has made a lot of progress in a short period of time.
But Dortmund did not reach the CL final last year by luck and once a team has humiliated a team like Madrid, collective confidence levels go sky-high, and this will last for a while. At times we played better football than them, but unlike us, they were always in control and played with a better established and ‘oiled’ system, and that’s why they scraped past us, I reckon. Nothing to be ashamed of, though.
So let’s not go on and on about certain individual players who apparently underperformed on the night, or whether certain players are far more effective in another position than they played in yesterday. Let’s also not use this game as a ‘yardstick’ how good our team really is and see failure to win as evidence that our good run until now is down to just playing the lesser lights of the footballing world (as if there are anymore lesser lights).
Let’s just see this as a great game of football, at the highest possible level, that we were not far away from winning. Let’s see it as confirmation that the team has made great progress in the last twelve months and more is likely to come. Let’s see it as a great learning opportunity for the boys without too much immediate damage done. Just wait and see how the team will progress in the next few weeks as a result of this game: Liverpool will feel the full brunt in two weeks time.
And with regards to our CL group, we are at least the second strongest team and that will tell in the end.
Written by: TotalArsenal.