Arsenal face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League at BVB Stadion Dortmund on Wednesday night.
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CORRIDORS OF POWER
With Theo Walcott out injured, Arsenal lack the natural width in attack that a winger provides - meaning the full backs assume even greater importance.
Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs are expected to charge up the touchline 'corridor' to offer an outlet as the likes of Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla cut inside, something they have done to good effect this season. However, as the first game against Dortmund demonstrated, this can expose them to swift counter-attacks.
Arsene Wenger's bemoaned his side's naivety following Robert Lewandowski's late winner in last month's match, but it is unlikely his side will make the same mistake in Germany. Dortmund do not tend to play with natural wingers themselves, and as our graphic above indicates, the game at Emirates Stadium was concentrated in the middle of the pitch, allowing the full backs to push further up the field.
In London two weeks ago, Gibbs (2, blue) was preoccupied with the rampaging right-back Kevin Grosskreutz (19, orange), but Sagna's average position (No 3, blue) was so advanced it was actually over the halfway line in the Dortmund half.
However, with his side away from home this time around, the France international will likely be more cautious with his forays forward. But fresh from his assist for Olivier Giroud's goal in the London leg, and also for Santi Cazorla's goal against Liverpool on Saturday, Sagna will still be expected to support the attack.
If he can balance defensive stability with a genuine attacking outlet on the right flank, Arsenal stand every chance of securing a positive result in Germany.
DANGERMAN - HENRIKH MKHITARYAN
When Mario Goetze departed for Bayern Munich in the summer, Dortmund moved quickly to sign Henrikh Mkhitaryan as his replacement - and it has proved excellent business. The Armenian operates between the lines of the opposition's midfield and defence and, aside from his goalscoring ability (he has four in 12 appearances for his new club and hit 25 goals last season for Shakhtar Donetsk), he is superb at creating space for others.
In last month's encounter at the Emirates, Mkhitaryan was perhaps not at his best (winning just 47.1 per cent of his duels before being substituted in the 66th minute) yet he still scored the opening goal for the visitors. The Armenian operated deeper in midfield and a combination of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey helped nullify his considerable threat.
However, he will pose a whole new problem on home turf and can be expected to operate further forward, feeding the likes of Marco Reus, Jacob Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. It will require real discipline from the Arsenal midfield once again - as the first match showed, any momentary lapse will be pounced on by Mkhitaryan, often to devastating effect.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last four Champions League away games in Germany (W2, D2)
- The Gunners have scored in each of their last eight Champions League games in Germany
- Dortmund have kept only one clean sheet in their last seven Champions League games
- Dortmund have won their last seven home games in the Champions League, equalling their best run (between 1996 and 1998)
- Arsenal have scored two goals in the opening 15 minutes this season, something only reigning champions Bayern can match
- Olivier Giroud has scored three goals in his last four Champions League appearances
- Robert Lewandowski has three goals in three Champions League appearances this season
- Lewandowski has scored (11) or assisted (two) 13 goals in his last 12 Champions League appearances
- Arsenal’s record after three games is the same as last season (W2 L1)
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