Arsenal suffered a setback in the first difficult test of their credentials in Tuesday’s defeat by Borussia Dortmund.
Never mind the fact match winner Robert Lewandowski should have been off the pitch for a blatant elbow on Laurent Koscielny.
Gunners record signing Mesut Ozil, by his exceptionally high standards, put in a quiet performance. In fact, the £42 million man rather paled in comparison to his German teammates in visiting ranks.
Denied time and space in a chronically congested midfield, Ozil saw the first half largely pass him by. Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund had a new threat to cope with after the break when Santi Cazorla came on.
The burden of being a marked man lifted slightly, Ozil exerted more influence in the second half. Cazorla’s introduction gave the hosts extra impetus and the match opened up as a result.
Ozil teed up the Spaniard to crack one against the angle of post and bar at 1-1. Like the yellow card for Lewandowski, this proved pivotal in determining the outcome.
As this opening illustrates it would be naïve, a word used harshly by Arsene Wenger to describe his side’s Champions League showing, to think Arsenal are a one-man show.
The debate will rage nonetheless. Many fans will see the loss Dortmund, however unlucky the Gunners actually were, as compelling evidence that the board need to put their hands in their pockets again in January.
Ozil’s transfer deadline day arrival at the Emirates Stadium bucked the recent trend of star players exiting Arsenal. Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas are among those departed heroes who collected silverware in pastures new last term.
A concussed Mathieu Flamini sat out the Dortmund defeat and, whilst Mikel Arteta did an admirable job deputizing as Gunners midfield anchor, his destructive presence may have changed the dynamic.
Stop Ozil, stop Arsenal is a mantra, given the context of several first-team players who were absent, that does Wenger a disservice.
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