Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Borussia Dortmund visit Emirates Stadium in the Champions Leagueon Tuesday, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and German journalist Andreas Wagner.
Arsenal dispatched Dortmund with surprising ease during the group stage two years ago, but following last year’s run to the final, Jurgen Klopp’s side have demonstrated they’re now a true force in the Champions League.
In a compact 4-2-3-1 system, Dortmund are a marvellously quick, energetic side. Whether it is by pressing opponents to regain possession, dropping back into their defensive shape or constructing lightning-quick counter-attacks, Dortmund don’t contradict the stereotype that German teams are ruthlessly efficient.
While the loss of Mario Goetze to rivals Bayern Munich was a significant blow, Klopp reinvested the proceeds of that transfer to purchase two exciting attacking players, and now Dortmund have an even stronger starting XI.
Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk to play Goetze’s role as the No 10, and is extremely good at positioning himself in space before driving forward quickly.
The second major arrival was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an astonishingly quick right winger who scored a hat-trick on his debut against Augsburg, instantly adapting to Dortmund’s style.
There’s a chance Klopp will instead use Jakub Blaszczykowski, perhaps a more reliable player defensively, but a battle between Aubameyang and Kieran Gibbs will be one of the quickest individual duels the Emirates will witness all season.
Joining Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan in the forward quartet are two players from Dortmund’s run to Wembley last year. Centre forward Robert Lewandowski is a superb all-round No 9: he’s naturally a penalty-box prowler, capable of converting half-chances into goals - but recently he's dropped increasingly deep to participate in build-up play, allowing others to break into the space beyond him.
Marco Reus, who will start from the left, remains Dortmund’s best counter-attacker with his direct, fast diagonal dribbles into goalscoring positions.
In the two central midfield roles, Klopp’s ideal combination is impressive all-rounder Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan, who improved significantly last season to become one of Dortmund’s key players. Both are reliable distributors of the ball, but are also excellent at attacking transitions, taking the ball past opponents smoothly.
Dortmund’s weakness might be at full back. First-choice right back Lukasz Piszczek hasn’t played since the European Cup final because of surgery, so Kevin Grosskreutz - a handy utility man, but more comfortable on the wing - should play instead. At left back, Marcel Schmezler has also been having fitness problems, so youngster Erik Durm could deputise. Again, he naturally plays higher up.
Borussia Dortmund have started pretty well this season. They are not at the top of the Bundesliga but they are not far off Bayern Munich.
Jurgen Klopp's team have reacted very well to losing in the final of the Champions League last season. They didn't need to change too much because they are a growing team.
"It's a very difficult game to predict. I hope we'll see many goals and I think we will because both teams are attacking powerhouses"
Two years ago they lost against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in the group stages and they were pretty poor in Europe that season, they lacked a bit of experience so they almost over-performed last season by reaching the final. They have continued to play well since then, have made some good signings and they still employ the same system.
I think people in Germany were a bit surprised when Arsenal completed the signing of Mesut Ozil but the Gunners have a very good reputation in Germany so they are not regarded as a club that is too far behind Real Madrid in terms of the quality of their squad. It was more of surprise that Arsenal would spend so much money than actually having a player of Ozil's ability in their side.
Obviously Robert Lewandowski is the main player for Dortmund with his goalscoring pedigree. Heidi Groskreutz has been in very good form of late and the centre backs have looked very solid so far this season. Marco Reus has continued where he left off last season and his creative ability could be key in Tuesday's game.
Dortmund have proved this season that they don't play to get a certain result. They always go out all guns blazing because that's their style of play, and that's exactly what they will do on Tuesday with their usual 4-3-2-1 system, which is quite offensive. They don't care if they are playing a team from the fifth division in Germany or Arsenal. They always play with the same style.
Both teams are extremely good going forward. I think on paper this game is one of the best games of the Champions League group stage this season.
It's a very difficult game to predict. I hope we'll see many goals and I think we will because both teams are attacking powerhouses. I'm going to say 3-3.
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