Arsenal’s loss at home to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League can be told one of two ways.
The first is that Arsene Wenger’s side failed their first big test of the season and are not quite the title contenders many billed them as. Up until this point in the campaign, they’ve played no big teams domestically – none whatsoever – and only Napoli, who are a very good Italian side, came to the Emirates and were made to look average.
The other – and this one I feel is more accurate – is that Arsenal went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in Europe and were narrowly beaten.
There is no argument that Arsenal were outclassed by the Germans, because that wasn’t the case. Yes, Dortmund may have been in control for much of the game – remember, possession doesn’t always equate to dominance – but had it not been for a mentality to go out and take all three points, Arsenal probably would be sitting on seven points in the group at this stage instead of six. And what exactly is the problem with that? You know, gambling to win.
I already wrote, as recently as last week, that a loss or a setback to Arsenal’s good run of form would mean very little. Nothing in the bigger picture has changed since Monday, or even Tuesday morning. The point isn’t that Arsenal need to go all out, spending big to bring in trophies – that’s not what the fans are saying. The fundamental thing about this football club is that there is improvement – and thus far, based on what has happened in the transfer market and the development of those in house, there has been dramatic improvement.
The loss to Dortmund could have gone either way. Had Arsenal won, not a whole lot would have been said about Jurgen Klopp’s side. They’re still one of the very best in Europe and the envy of most clubs. But this doesn’t change the fact that Arsenal are still capable of going head-to-head with the other big teams in the Premier League. It would also be accurate to say that Dortmund are a better side that any of the teams Arsenal are going to face in English football this season.
To talk of improvements once again, the atmosphere at the club is hugely important. I’m not worried for Arsenal going into the next month of fixtures because the atmosphere has been lifted significantly. Those people who questioned whether Arsenal actually needed Mesut Ozil clearly don’t have a clue about the workings and needs of the club. The team needed a player of his type to add to and improve the level of football; the club needed a player of his stature to lift the mood and act as a marker for the shift in ambition and intent.
Where over recent years a loss of this type – or any loss, really – would have played a role in the following few weeks, this feels different. There’s an acceptance because everyone has to lose in sports. But Arsenal didn’t lose by three or four goals as they have done in the past in Europe. They were also not outplayed by any means. Dortmund may have been in control, but Arsenal definitely gave them a game. And remember, this is a team who went to the Champions League final a few months ago, so there can be absolutely no dismissal of the quality of Klopp’s side.
The mentality for this weekend against Crystal Palace hasn’t changed too much, if at all. The feeling inside the dressing room and around the club is that Arsenal will win. Had it been a year ago and following a loss, there would have been nerves and reservations about all three points from sets of the supporters. But that’s not the case now.
This Arsenal side are still good enough to match the best the Premier League can throw at them at this time. Why? Two reasons: Arsenal are very good, and the other teams in the league are not massively impressive. If Arsenal are likely to slip up at any point over the coming month, the exact same can be said for any of the other big teams. Remember, Manchester United played Chelsea and Liverpool back-to-back and only secured a point. How many will look to the fact that they were dire for both games? How many will acknowledge that Arsenal are playing the right brand of football, whatever the outcome of the coming games?
As has been said countless times already, Arsenal’s problems will stem from a lack of depth in important areas of the pitch, not a lack of quality. No Mathieu Flamini or replacement saw spaces for Dortmund to exploit. No Theo Walcott or replacement saw a lack of pace to Arsenal’s game.
What remains intact and quite safe, though, is the mentality at the club. The loss to Dortmund won’t have as much of an effect on the team as it would have done in previous seasons.
Will Arsenal bounce back from the loss to Dortmund?
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