Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Group Matchday 5

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, November 26
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Viktor Kassai
    • Assistants: Gyorgy Ring and Vencel Toth
    • 4th Official: Robert Kispal
    • Additional Assistants: Tamas Bognar amd Mihaly Fabian
  • Reverse Fixture: Dortmund 2 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins, 3 Dortmund wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: D-W-L-W-W-D
  • Dortmund's European Form: L-W // W-W-W-W
When you search for "draw
and tie," you get drawings of ties.
For future reference...
Pursuant to this section from last weekend's preview: yes, I would absolutely take a draw from this match.


Please, can we have a draw? I'm pretty sure we'd both be through to the knockout phase with a draw.

Please, please, please.

*looks up German word for please*

It's bitte? Bitte means everything...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Giroud (registration,) Szczesny (dead leg,) Wilshere (ankle,) Walcott (groin,) Ospina (thigh,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle)
Doubts: Welbeck (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

I call this pose "the Arsenal."
Okay, where do I start? How about Olivier Giroud? Isn't it great that we have Olivier Giroud back? Wasn't his goal against United a beauty, even if it was too little too late?

What's that?

Oh, he's not available.

You see, when Arsenal thought that Giroud would be out until the end of December with his broken tibia, they decided to leave him off their European registration list to make room for an extra player who, you know, wasn't injured. It made sense, but now that Giroud is back faster than expected, well, that doesn't change the fact that he's not on the list. He's unavailable tonight and on matchday six in Turkey.

And now it turns out that Danny Welbeck didn't train yesterday with a hamstring problem! Well that's just great! It's a recurrence of the injury he picked up with the England squad. Theo Walcott didn't train either with his groin problem. Wojciech Szczesny is out too. At least Welbeck is supposedly in the 18-man squad.

As for Jack Wilshere, well, there could be ligament damage after the horrendous challenge he took on Saturday; he might be out for two months at worst. He has to "see a specialist" and that's never good. As Arseblog pointed out yesterday, he'd be back faster if he got sent off for the headbutt on Marouane Fellaini, stayed healthy, and got suspended three matches. I mean, Arsenal lost the match anyway. Also, he'd have been available tonight.

So, is there any good news? Well, Laurent Koscielny is back in training. Apparently he'll be in the 18-man squad, too. That's something!

Dear God, help us...

Predicted XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Welbeck.

Dortmund Squad News

Out: Reus (ankle, Hummels (ankle,) Sokratis (calf)
Doubts: Bender (hip,) Kirch (thigh,) Blaszczykowski (thigh,) Sahin (knee,) Schmelzer (match fitness)

Dortmund players love selfies just as much as Arsenal.
Pictured here are BVB's not-injured goal scoring threats.
When Arsenal faced Dortmund on matchday one, I remarked that it was one of the only times Arsenal's opponent had a longer injury section than they did. That was probably also true last weekend against Manchester United. Of course, Arsenal lost both matches.

So, maybe it's good news that most of Dortmund's injuries have moved from "out" to "doubtful." The biggest injury is the new one to Marco Reus, who is out until at least the new year with ligament damage in his ankle (or, as I call it, the "Jack Wilshere.")

As many as eight first team players might miss out for Dortmund. Sven Bender missed Saturday's draw with Paderborn with a hip injury. Sokratis has not played since he picked up a calf injury against Monchengladbach before the international break. Mats Hummels resumed full training during the international break; the center back has been out since the first of the month with an ankle problem. Jakub Błaszczykowski also returned to training during the break; he's been out since September since a thigh injury suffered while on his way back from a knee injury suffered in January.

I believe Hummels and Sokratis did not make the trip to London; Sven Bender did. In terms of the long-term injured, Oliver Kirch (thigh) and former Arsenal loan-target Nuri Sahin (knee) both played a friendly against Dortmund's reserve squad during the last break. Both traveled with the club, but haven't played a competitive match for a while, so I doubt they'd start. Marcel Schmelzer, still on a long road back from multiple injuries, traveled with the team as well but may not be fit to start.

In bad news for Arsenal, Dortmund have no injury concerns on the attacking front, at least in terms of their potentially lethal strikers.

Predicted XI: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Ginter, Subotic, Durm, Kehl, Gundogan, Kagawa, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Immobile.

Current Form

My search for images from Saturday's match were
dominated by Reus on a stretcher.
If I told you a team took a 2-0 lead before halftime against a recently promoted side, then told you that that team proceeded to have its star midfielder get hurt before they blew the lead and drew 2-2, you could probably assume I was talking about Arsenal, right? Well, that's exactly what happened to Dortmund on Saturday at Paderborn. You probably could've guessed that, since I already talked about Reus's injury.

Dortmund are now, astonishingly, 16th in the Bundesliga, with 11 points from 12 games. They are 19 points off table-topping Bayern Munich. However, that disastrous run of form has not carried over to Europe, where they've won five on the bounce going back to last year. It seems that clubs in Germany match up well against Dortmund, in terms of stifling Der BVB's strengths; on the other hand, the other clubs in Group D, Arsenal included, seem to fall right into Dortmund's strengths.

Arsenal have lost two straight now for the first time since last December; they are without a win in three for the first time since, well... September.

Match Facts

I call this pose "the Arsenal."
What do you mean I did that already?
Arsenal will look to get some measure of revenge after Dortmund annihilated them on matchday one; the scoreline was 2-0, but the match was not that close. Dortmund outshot Arsenal 23 to 5; the Germans had seven shots on target to Arsenal's one.

When these two clubs met in the Champions League group stage last year, the visitors won both matches. At the Emirates, Robert Lewandowski punished Arsenal as they pressed for a winner, burning the Gunners on the counterattack in the 82nd minute to give the visitors a 2-1 victory. Arsenal later won 1-0 in Germany via Aaron Ramsey.

In 2011, Dortmund came from behind to draw 1-1 with the Gunners in Germany on matchday one. Arsenal won at the Emirates 2-1 on matchday five. The clubs' previous meetings in the group stage came in 2002, as Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury and Dortmund won 2-1 in Germany, through two goals from a young Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal have a poor record at home against German competition over the last three seasons, losing to Bayern Munich twice, Borussia Dortmund once, and Schalke once. Their last result over a German side at home was against Dortmund in 2011, 2-1 on matchday five, as noted in the last paragraph.

The Referee

"Oh yeah? Well, can you do this with your hand?"
The match officials are from Hungary; the referee is Viktor Kassai. Arsenal have an abysmal record in matches with Kassai in the middle, to the tune of three losses in three matches. They lost 2-0 at Braga on matchday five in 2010, then 4-0 at AC Milan in the round of 16 in 2012, then 2-0 at Napoli on matchday six last year. Most of those matches included terrible calls going against the Gunners, including Mikel Arteta's controversial sending off from the match in Italy last December. Borussia Dortmund have had Kassai only once, for a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the 2012 group stage.

Kassai, despite what Arsenal have seen from him, is one of Europe's top referees and has worked a large number of big matches in his career, including the 2008 Olympic gold medal game (where Argentina beat Nigeria,) a 2010 World Cup semi-final (where Spain beat Germany,) and the 2011 Champions League Final (where Barcelona beat Manchester United.)

Around Europe

Aguero's first of three, when it all looked like it'd be easy...
Tuesday - Group E: In Russia, Roma's 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow in the early game did Manchester City a huge favor in their hopes to climb out of the group's basement. Then, everything got all bonkers at the Etihad. City led 1-0 through a penalty and red card and everything looked brilliant for the English side. Then, Bayern Munich scored twice before halftime, 10-men and all, to lead 2-1 for most of the way. Then, Sergio Aguero scored twice in the final minutes of the game to give City a ridiculous win. The result leaves City, Moscow, and Roma all on five points with one game to play. City will play in Rome, while Moscow travels to Munich.

Tuesday - Group F: Even before Tuesday's matches began, Paris St. Germain and Barcelona had qualified for the knockout phases. But, just for good measure, Lionel Messi decided to grab a hat trick as Barcelona crushed APOEL. And, just to be sure, PSG beat Ajax in France as well to stay top of the group. Ajax and APOEL will now battle for third in the Netherlands on matchday six while Barcelona will try to climb to the top spot against PSG at Camp Nou.

Tuesday - Group G: In Germany, Chelsea decided to show Schalke how many Premier League teams have felt of late, coasting into the knockout phase with a 5-0 thrashing of the home side. Sporting's 3-1 win over Maribor gives them a two point lead on Schalke for second in the group, but they'll travel to Stamford Bridge on matchday six for Chelsea's dead rubber.

Tuesday - Group H: Both Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk have qualified for the last 16 of the tournament; the Portuguese side ran out 3-0 winners against BATE Borisov in Belarus while Athletic Bilbao picked up a surprise 1-0 win in Ukraine, clinching the group for Porto.

Wednesday - Group A: Atletico Madrid have three wins and a loss in their group, but tonight face the side that beat them, second place Olympiacos, in Spain. Juventus currently sit third due to the tie-breaker with the Greeks; they visit Malmo in Sweden.

Liverpool are in danger, having dropped consecutive matches
to group leader Real Madrid.
Wednesday - Group B: Real Madrid are running away with this group, six points clear of their opponent, second place Basel; the Spanish side can lock up the group with a win in Switzerland tonight. Such a result would help Liverpool, who are three points back of Basel as they travel to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets Razgrad, who nearly stole a point from Anfield on matchday one.

Wednesday - Group C: Bayer Leverkusen is four points clear at the top of the group as they host second place Monaco in North Rhine-Westphalia. Meanwhile, Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica are both one point behind the French side for second; they'll meet earlier in Russia, which could put Monaco under even more pressure. Unless they draw.

Wednesday - Group D: The other match in Arsenal's group sees Anderlecht hosting Galatasaray in Belgium. The hosts will no doubt be buoyed by their comeback in London. An Anderlecht win combined with a Dortmund win in London would mean that on matchday six, Anderlecht would host a Dortmund side that has already won the group. If Anderlecht wins in that scenario, then Arsenal would need at least a point from their trip to Turkey. So let's hope Anderlecht and Galatasaray draw, which would guarantee second place for Arsenal.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and the secret sixth member of the '80s pop group Duran Duran. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, because "zorro" means fox and "cat" means cat.

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Man, I love that shrug emoticon. It fits so many situations, not least this one.

Given that I had predicted a 4-2 loss before the match started, I suppose there is some solace in the idea of only losing by 50% of that scoreline. Look, at the end of the day, if you're looking for a fiery condemnation of this match, you're not going to find it here. I'm so far past anger, I had to show my passport at customs on my way through to acceptance. At this point, I understand fully what we are - a mediocre team with a horrendous manager, one that is staring 6th or 7th place dead in the eyes.

Sure, it is galling that I have to feel this way when we're talking about unquestionably the worst Manchester United team in 20 years. There's almost an "achievement unlocked" aspect of finding a way to lose at home to a team that ended up with a defense including Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia at fullback, with Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett (fetuses both) in central defense. But, when it comes down to it, I at this point always expect an Arsene Wenger-managed team to find new and innovative ways to fail when the chips are down.

That said, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not bagging on the players at all. Right from the opening whistle, the Arsenal players pressed United's creaking backline like their lives depended on it, often forcing them into mistakes. David De Gea on several occasions gifted possession back to Arsenal with horrendous kicking errors, and Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular harried and hassled United players like demons.

Really, it could have been different were it not for De Gea's brilliance, and were it not for some suspect finishing from the Arsenal. Perhaps Roy Hodgson is onto something playing Wilshere at the base of a midfield diamond, especially given that he sure isn't a finisher. For whatever reason, all of our best moves ended up with Wilshere on the end of it, and De Gea repelled him each time. It has to be said, given that the guy had a dislocated finger from international duty, his goalkeeping was brave and determined. He caught and held so many shots, his positioning was so good...frankly, he got his team out of jail today.

As it was, he simply had to be good for the first half, when Arsenal were excellent for 90% of the way up the field. Once that petered itself out, we shot ourselves in the foot as we have so often before.

In the interim before the halftime break, Wilshere was hacked down in the penalty area by one of their lot, which you'll be stunned to know ended up with Mike Dean not giving the spot kick. Maybe this would have been different had the ref not been an inept shithead, but then again, scorpion and the frog and all that. However, fair's fair, he did display some sensible officiating when Wilshere got up in Marouane Fellaini's face for being a diving cheating bastard.

But, again we got rogered pretty bad by Dean when he failed to send McNair off (or even punish him at all) for a horrendous tackle on Wilshere that ended up causing him to be subbed off. It was studs up from behind, and any competent referee would have sent McNair packing.

Oh well...when things are going horseshit, they're going horseshit.

Of course, soon after, United took a lead they absolutely did not deserve. On one of their rare forays upfield, a cross came in that was Wojciech Szczesny's to deal with all day. I don't know if he called Kieran Gibbs off or not, but either way the defender should always have left that for him. Unfortunately, he clattered into the keeper like an absolute idiot, ended up on the ground, and somehow contrived to stick a leg out and deflect an otherwise-harmless ball from Valencia into his own net.

DEFENDERS, STOP DOING THIS. I swear, every time a defender tries this in desperation at any level, Premier League to Sunday League, they should be caned like they do in Singapore for spitting on the street.

Damian Martinez had to come on for the injured Szczesny, to go along with the dreadful Santi Cazorla (seriously, what's happened to him?) on for the previously-injured Wilshere. That limited the options of Tactically Inept Manager to some extent, but he did do well to throw on Olivier Giroud later on into proceedings. He almost scored with a header right away, and it looked like we might get back into it.

Unfortunately, Tactically Inept Manager struck again. It was the 83rd minute, and we knew that with all of the injuries and Manchester United time-wasting going on, there'd be between 6 and 10 minutes of injury time to go. By this point, United were parking a fleet of buses in their own penalty area. Anyone with half a brain knows that this is not panic-stations time yet. Needless to say, we had 9 men in the visitors' half, they broke on a two-on-one, and Wayne Rooney made no mistake.

How costly that would soon prove to be.

There was a hilarious miss from Angel Di Maria on a similar situation to Rooney's (Martinez did fantastically well to come out and cut off the angle, it has to be said), but soon after Giroud hammered home a thunderbastard to De Gea's near post. Despite getting a hand to it, the Spaniard was blameless on that one - it was hit at Mach 8 and his defense left him out to dry there.

But, that displays just how tactically inept that Tactically Inept Manager is. Had we not gone in overload mode so early, that just might have made it 1-1 instead of 1-2.

Anyway, United managed to see out the last few minutes, and that was that.

Still, how can you be mad at this point? As currently constituted, and much more importantly, as we're currently managed, this is what we are. We are SO the 6th or 7th best team in England, and that's about where we're going to finish.

As I was saying to some friends earlier tonight - when you already have a statue of yourself outside the ground while you're still in your current job, that is pretty much the dictionary definition of not accountable.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7 (Martinez 7), Gibbs 3, Monreal 8, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 8 (Cazorla 5), Sanchez 7, Ramsey 7 (Giroud 8), Oxlade-Chamberlain 8, Welbeck 7

Man of the Match: For me? David De Gea, all day. To do what he did, to catch and hold all of those shots with a dislocated finger? That was brave and determined goalkeeping. You have to tip your cap to him.