Bergkamp confounds his rivals, then consults the atlas

Such was the velocity with which Arsène Wenger's Arsenal careered through Borussia Dortmund's rearguard on Tuesday night that the garish yellow-clad visitors were reduced to motorway cone-men transfixed by life in the European fast lane. You half-expected the flash of a police traffic camera.

These north London joy-riders are stopping for no one. Suddenly the Gunners have the appearance of serious contenders for the Champions' League trophy as well as the Premiership, a team who can overcome the physical demands of the domestic season but who, on a midweek European night, have shown that they can adopt that continental style which demands patience and attacks launched on the counter.

There is a joie de jouer about them epitomised by Dennis Bergkamp, whose appreciation of the movement of a team-mate and ability to release the ball with supreme finesse does not decline with the passing of years. So great has been the gorging on the patterns and instinctive inter-passing, the Highbury faithful are in danger of becoming aesthetically obese. Unlike Manchester United, whose critics blithely ignore the fact their midfield was deprived of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt on Wednesday, Arsenal are ominously approaching full strength again, with only Robert Pires and Giovanni van Bronckhorst yet to return.

Even when injuries present themselves, Wenger has the uncanny knack of producing alternatives magician-like, like so many doves from a hat, and somehow ensuring that performers like Jérémie Aliadière and Kolo Touré are assimilated into his teams, with barely a seam visible in his carefully sewn cloth.

But let us dwell a moment. We have witnessed similar home displays before – Arsenal's 4-1 eclipse of Bayer Leverkusen last season comes to mind – to warn us of the perils of over-estimation. Arsenal were defeated in no fewer than five of six away fixtures in Europe last season – they drew the other against Leverkusen – which made for distinctly unpalatable viewing for Wenger.

Liverpool, fortunate to return from Valencia only lightly scathed after the Argentinian Pablo Aimar had demonstrated what he might have inflicted on England had he enjoyed 90 minutes this summer, and an anaemic Newcastle in the Ukraine reminded us just what a hostile environment travels in Europe can produce.

That is why a more accurate meter of Arsenal will be provided by Guus Hiddink's PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday. And, as much as the Gunners' attackers may have us salivating, it is prudent to remind ourselves that, if they are to progress beyond the Champions' League quarter-finals, much will hinge on the defensive resilience of the England pair, Martin Keown and Sol Campbell.

The lesson should not be ignored, as Liverpool taught English teams bearing European aspirations in the Eighties, that defensive security away from home is paramount. It still applies in today's prolonged competition.

To some Highbury watchers, the former captain Tony Adams' retirement has destroyed the foundations of that once-formidable back-four wall. But there has been sufficient evidence this season, and particularly on Tuesday, to refute that argument. Keown's often belligerent manner is not always appreciated by his opponents, but confronted by the towering menace of the 6ft 7in Jan Köller he demonstrated what he still offers Arsenal, despite being a few months older than Adams. Indeed, after a World Cup in which he warmed his backside on the bench, he approaches his responsibilities with an ever-more demonic zeal.

Campbell, of course, did see action in Japan, but his performances tended to suffer in comparison with Rio Ferdinand. He, too, is a man with a mission and demonstrated his value against resourceful opposition.

Unlike Freddie Ljungberg's smart new haircut, Matthias Sammer's team were not exactly short, back and sides. The talented young defender Christoph Metzelder and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann summoned an impressive resistance, and there was sufficient wing service for Köller to keep Campbell and Keown occupied. It explained why they are German champions, albeit of a Bundesliga which suffered excruciatingly in the Champions' League last week.

While the victories of all four Spanish clubs confirm La Liga's predominant status in Europe, there were dark expressions in the vicinity of the Rühr, the Rhine and in deepest Bavaria as Sammer, Klaus Toppmöller and Ottmar Hitzfeld contemplated a hat-trick of German defeats. However, Manchester United, who travel to Toppmöller's Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, will be wary of basing any assumptions on their 6-2 away defeat by Olympiakos. True, last season's defeated finalists have lost Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto to Bayern Munich (much good that it did Hitzfeld's team, beaten at home by Deportivo La Coruña), but United themselves are indifferent travellers in Europe. Last season, they won only two of their six group stage away games and were, of course, eliminated in the semi-final in the German chemical city. It remains a bitter pill for Sir Alex Ferguson, one that he will be pleased to spit out in this rematch.

Meanwhile, England's defeated Champions' League teams, Liverpool and Newcastle, will relish respective home games against Christian Gross's Basel on Wednesday and Feyenoord on Tuesday.

But eyes will be principally on the big two after a week of direction-finding, one in which Bergkamp consulted his route-planner for the quickest road and sea journey to Eindhoven while Diego Forlan's lengthy spell of orienteering finally found him the back of the visitors' net.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker