Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
A fine win against a very decent side means that our last group game (Matchday 6 – aah, the romance of the cup) will be all stations to Dead Rubbersville.
In fact, it will be a reprise of 2009 when an Arsenal side already assured of top spot sent out the kids and lost 1-0 in Olympiakos. On the pitch that day: Bartley, Cruise, Gilbert, Merida and Vela (as well as Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey & Song, all now firmly in the first XI.) I imagine we’ll see more of the same this time round, though I foresee Dortmund & Marseille keeping a keen eye on Wenger’s approach given how much things are in the balance beneath us.
There was, as expected, a cracking atmosphere in the German end, with a lot of choreographed singing and clapping. It was very impressive, very loud, and they had come in their thousands. There must have been around 6,000 in all. As well as the usual 3,500 in the away end, there was a whole other segment in the upper tier taken up by them. How did that happen? Did we give them more seats for a reason and does this set a precedent? I’d be interested to know.
Their arrival in numbers probably explains the riot police, extra vans and helicopter overhead, despite the fact there was not the faintest hint of aggro.
It was an enjoyable game, even if chances were at a premium. Which is why it makes it all the more impressive that we scored twice – we only had five attempts on goal and three shots on target all match (thanks, Opta). Gervinho should have added another but fluffed it. Fortunately, it never looked like being something we’d go on to regret.
Robin van Persie got both, of course, which will do his fragile confidence no harm… What is it now, 12 in 8? There was a good graphic in yesterday’s Telegraph comparing him to the other strikers in Europe – and another piece in the New York Times on whether he’s the best in Britain – and his goals to games ratio is quite superb, right up there with other European luminaries like Messi. What a player.
He cost £2.75m, doncha know.
Top spot tends to mean we delay any meeting with our nemesises – nemesi? – Barcelona by at least a round, but beyond the extra £5m it probably generates to remain in the competition a bit longer, I’m not sure how much first or second slot really matters. If you want to win it, you’ve got to beat the other biggies at some point. What difference does it make when, other than to confidence?
So overall an excellent win that ties things up neatly, and another win to notch into the bedpost.
Now, will Robin get a rest on Saturday? I expect he will.