Arsenal: Naive Maybe, But Whipping Palace & The Prem Is Priority

Despite taking to long to realise that Dortmund would press relentlessly and some late full-back over-confidence, our ultimate goal this year is winning the Premier League...
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Last night's game was a strange one. I had the pleasure of watching with another Arsenal fan as well as a Dortmund fan. The three of us spent the majority of the game effectively cooing at the quality of football on display. There was no individual moment of brilliance, it was the sort of game you only truly appreciate if you had watched football for a long time. Every bad touch, every misplaced pass you felt would be punished. The game wasn’t played at the highest tempo Dortmund sometimes impose (CL final) when teams are unable to take two touches but it was still very high. At times both teams would back off to allow them to regroup. If anything the game reminded me more of WW1 trenches when the opposing sides would have periods of calm. Then again, maybe that analogy is unwise when describing a game between a German and English team...

A hallmark of Arsenal’s recent run had been to start at a high pace, trying to score early then going into a containment mode. Napoli was a perfect example of this. Against Dortmund, Arsenal were all at sea in the early parts of the game. I don’t know whether it was the team believing their own hype or that they were unaware of Dortmund’s game plan (which I struggle to believe could be true). Ramsey was caught in possession by Reus on the edge of the box trying to dribble his way out of trouble. Lewandowski shifted the ball beautifully to Mkhitaryian who slotted home. Reus in the early moments was truly unplayable, floating across middle third in a very Ozil manner. While Ozil was marginalised in this game as he hunted for space, Reus instead went looking for the ball. The equaliser, ironically, was caused my Reus’ free role. With Reus starting as the nominal left winger, Schmelzer was overloaded on the flank. Sagna found space and delivered a fantastic ball (which he didn’t provide often, and the same goes to Gibbs). Giroud did what any CF should and got in the area and managed to grab a lucky, yet deserved goal. Giroud had a truly brilliant first half. While he didn’t receive the ball much, he fought for every ball and proved a handful to Subotic and Hummels, not something many strikers can claimed to have done. His movement and determination however was unquestionable.

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Arsene said after the game that the team were naïve. Certainly, the initial approach was all wrong. The players took too long to realise that they would be unable to dwell on the ball. The later push for the goal when a draw would have placed us in a strong position in the group was naïve. Yet it was also due to the team’s confidence at the moment. It’s difficult to encourage confidence without slipping into over-confidence. We played well but games at the top level are decided by fine margins. We played the CL runners-up and were unlucky not to win. We won’t play a better team in the PL and still have a very good chance to qualify from the group. Crystal Palace will almost certainly act as the opportunity to take out the players’ frustration and make no mistake- the PL is the priority this year.