There was one football eccentric on the touchline at the Emirates tonight, raging against the fourth official and despairing at his under-performing players but on this occasion at least Arsene Wenger could take solace in the fact that it was not him.
Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund went down to their eighth defeat of the season so far, albeit their first in the Champions League, and the man who is regarded by some as the heir apparent to Wenger was dispatched by the old master. However much Klopp might be struggling, Wenger needed this victory just as much.
The travails of Dortmund has been one of the most intriguing stories in European football this season, and there is a scenario in which they could be pipped by Arsenal for the first place in Group D. Klopp’s side were a different beast altogether to that which gave Wenger’s players a frightful chasing in the corresponding fixture and you can see that the fight ebbs from the German team quickly these days.
For Arsenal it was a first win in four games and delivered by Yaya Sanogo who scored his first goal for the club within two minutes and ended the game early, nursing what looked like a thigh strain. The second goal came from the right foot of the incomparable Alexis Sanchez, the leading light in this Arsenal team although ably assisted on this evening by the likes of Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0 - player ratings
Arsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0 - player ratings
1/2 Kieran Gibbs
Continues to impress and if he can stay fit will soon establish himself ahead of Leighton Baines as the leading left-back in the country. 7
2/2 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
– Brings balance to the Arsenal side with his all-round game, fast becoming an indispensable member of Wenger’s squad – almost capped another strong performance with a dipping half-volley that struck the bar. 7
Arsenal are now safely through to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 15th consecutive year and there remains a slim possibility that they could finish top although it would rely on Anderlecht beating Dortmund in Germany in the final group game on 9 December, an unlikely outcome. In that scenario, a win for Arsenal against Galatasaray would see them snatch the top place by a point.
As it stands, Arsenal will most likely go into the second row draw with the possibility that will, once again, find themselves up against one of the favourites. As for Klopp, with the way things are going for him, it would not be impossible to imagine a defeat to the Belgians. He was fraught right up to the final whistle, putting his head in his hands in the technical area and raging in disbelief at the fourth official.
One bad season does not, of course, wreck a fine managerial record but if he had come here and won for a second successive season it would have only stirred more dark thoughts about Wenger’s longevity. In October last year it was Robert Lewandowski who conjured the winner for Klopp and now he, like so another former star of this side, plays for Bayern Munich.
Nevertheless, there was a warm handshake for Wenger at the end of the game from his German counterpart who went onto the pitch after the final whistle and seemed to be making a point to his crestfallen substitute Adrian Ramos that he should have scored with a late chance. So long did the conversation go on, that the two continued the discussion across the pitch and right up to the moment they went to thank their fans.
Arsenal started with some purpose and within two minutes, Sanogo had scored his first competitive goal for the club. In the place of the injured Danny Welbeck and the ineligible Olivier Giroud, there was nowhere to go but Sanogo, a man with only three first team appearances to his name outside of friendlies before this game.
In the team’s better moments, Sanogo’s efforts are treated by the Arsenal support with a wry, affectionate amusement. In bleaker times he can represent their deepest misgivings at the shortcoming of Wenger’s squad. His goal was met with delight, and a sense that if Sanogo can score then, surely, all would be well.
Taking the ball from Calum Chambers’ throw, and with his back to goal, Sanogo’s natural strength was enough to protect possession before he laid it off to Cazorla, got the return and beat Roman Weidenfeller. He will never be among the most graceful strikers to have played for this club under Wenger but there is no doubting that he is desperate to impress.
Six minutes later and Sanogo was put through on goal by a flick from Cazorla and managed to backheel the ball in the wrong direction as he tried to make up his mind what to do with it. It was an unfortunate postscript to his best moment for Arsenal and did nothing to detract from the feeling that at times the ball is in control of Sanogo rather than the other way around.
Having controlled that first 15 minutes of the game, Arsenal invited Dortmund back into the match and the German team had some decent moments in the latter stages of the half. The best of them was a header from Henrikh Mkhitaryan that forced a very good save from Emiliano Martinez, in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny.
Nevertheless, the thrust and running of Dortmund that had proved far too much for Arsenal in the game in Germany was absent and in its place a team that looked much more like the side 16 in the Bundesliga. They were sluggish when they came out following the break and before the hour, Sanchez had scored his team’s second goal.
The Chilean had already embarked on one run in which there were several failed attempts to dispossess him before he got off a shot. On 57 minutes the excellent Cazorla picked out a pass to Sanchez lurking in the left channel and he moved the ball onto his right foot before picking his spot expertly beyond Weidenfeller.
It was a marvellous goal and came soon after a nicely-flighted half-volley from Oxlade-Chamberlain had clipped the crossbar. The young Englishman can often look like a version of Sanchez himself, albeit with a smaller engine and slightly less finesse but the pace and the strength is there, and it will be intriguing to see how he develops.
With a two-goal lead, Arsenal had Dortmund precisely where they wanted them: strung out, trying to attack and very vulnerable to the counter. Both Mikel Arteta and Sanogo left the field with injuries in the second half, although the severity of both was hard to tell. For Klopp, walking off the pitch at the end, there was time alone to contemplate yet another defeat.
Arsenal (4-1-3-2): Martinez; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Cazorla; Sanogo, Sanchez.
Subs: Flamini/Arteta 66, Podoloski/Sanogo 78, Campbell/Oxlade-Chamberlain 90
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Ginter, Schmelzer; Bender, Gundogan; Mkhitaryan, Immobile, Grosskreutz; Aubameyang.
Subs: Kagawa/Immobile 60, Ramos/Aubameyang 60, Jojic/Grosskreutz 77
Man of the match: Cazorla
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary)
Booked: Arsenal Arteta Dortmund Subotic, Piszczek
Match Rating 7/10
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