Borussia Dortmund's visit to Ashburton Grove tonight could not come at a worse time for the German club, such is Arsenal's current form. With 20 victories and 3 draws in their last 24 games, the Gunners sit top of both the Premier League and their Champions League group. Not only that, they are playing some of the best football of the Wenger era, and while comparisons to the Invincibles are somewhat premature, there is reason to be excited. Jack Wilshere's jaw-dropping goal against Norwich last weekend epitomized the ability, confidence and belief running through the squad at the moment.
The question now hinges on whether or not they can maintain this and show the football world they are genuine heavyweights. Victory over Dortmund would go some way in cementing their intent. If that first half performance against Napoli didn't do the job, defeating the German giants would send shockwaves of fear throughout the European elite: Arsenal will be a team no one would fancy their chances against.
Arsene Wenger said in his press conference: "We know we are a team that looks like being successful – for that you need a special hunger and I believe these players have a special hunger”.
What Wenger said echoes the sentiments of the crowd; there is something about this team, a spirit, a determination, and with Ozil’s acquisition, a cutting edge. All of these will need to be at peak effectiveness in order to beat the German side.
Wenger’s use of the word “looks” suggests they are not there yet; in order to actually achieve success - rather than just show signs of it - they’ll need to add consistency, a point the boss goes on to make.
"I believe that collectively in the way we win the ball back and the use of the ball offensively, we have room for improvement, for more consistency."
With Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil, the Gunners have one of the most enviable midfield triumvirates in world football. The Norwich game was the first time the latter two played together, and the signs were certainly encouraging.
However, Wenger has been dealt a blow with Mathieu Flamini ruled out with concussion. The Frenchman has been a revelation since his return and his absence will mean either Mikel Arteta or Aaron Ramsey will operate in a deeper role. Moreover, Theo Walcott is out for another couple weeks, although his absence has been compensated for recently, as Arsenal’s attacking prowess has shown.
Jurgen Klopp and Neven Subotic have been waxing lyrical over the Gunners in the past days, and whether or not this is mind games or genuine admiration remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that a win tonight for Arsenal and the belief it would bring, would set the groundwork for further improvement, just as Wenger asked for.