Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Arsenal
For some reason, it had not dawned on me how tough our Champions League group would be until last night. Maybe it was all the other stuff going on – I simply hadn’t thought much about it. Maybe it was years of sailing through this part of the competition (though we made a meal of it last time round).
Perhaps it was in anticipation of this that Wenger gave one of his most candid interviews about how realistic our ambitions could be this year. “It’s too early to speak about winning it,” he said. “Saying that would raise a lot of scepticism about the team at the moment and I don’t think any one would believe it.”
He’s right of course; ours is a much-changed team, riding (what we can hope is the tail of) a miserable, sticky run of very bad form, and with the riches available to four or five other European teams, winning this competition is a tall order indeed.
You could argue Wenger is trying to cushion himself against a fall but personally, I’m glad he’s being a bit more honest about our chances these days. It’s clear domestically that it is harder than it ever has been to compete with oligarchs, and that applies in Europe too, but with bells on given the addition of two teams who negotiate their own TV rights to the tune of €140m a year. I look back at 2006 now, when we were the width of a whisker away from winning it, and appreciate more than ever what an achievement that was.
Last night was another small step away from the nadir of Old Trafford. The late equaliser may have chafed a bit at the time but the result was an excellent one (and it was a humdinger of a strike, too). Resilient in defence, with Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny and the returning Song standing out, we stood our ground well. This, as they say, is more like it. Stubbornness, sticking together, fighting for everything – these should be givens at Arsenal. It’s a relief to see some of that spirit coming back, bit by bit, game by game, and there was no better place to show it than at the home of the German champions.
Weak going forward? We have not looked dynamic or ruthless enough in that department for a while. But Dortmund away, against a very good defence, was probably not the place to go all Harlem Globetrotters on us. van Persie’s goal was a lovely sucker punch, set up well by Theo and finished sweetly.
Two games unbeaten! I think I need to sit down.
Finally, a word about Dortmund. Huge crowd, affordable tickets, incredible atmosphere. Standing at Dortmund costs €14.90 – or €219 for a season. The cheapest season ticket at Arsenal costs £951 (€1,099). Even allowing for standing being a cheaper option, and for Arsenal giving us 7 cup games for that price (where Dortmund might not include that – but I don’t know), the difference in prices is embarrassing.