IT was a night of awkward truths for Arsenal and, by the time it was all done, it felt like the irrefutable evidence of how far they have to go before they can be regarded as a team who are capable of making a serious impression on the Champions League. It is some considerable distance on the evidence of this defeat, when ArsÃ¨ne Wengerâ€™s players were made to look ordinary and should probably be relieved that Borussia Dortmund could not turn their superiority into more goals.
If JÃ¼rgen Kloppâ€™s team had been in a more ruthless mood it is no exaggeration to say Arsenal might well have been ruminating on one of their heaviest defeats in this competition. Between them, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had enough chances to make it an even more harrowing ordeal. Yet Wenger will have suffered anyway such was the disparity between the sides. The gulf seemed to grow even wider once Ciro Immobile had scored just before the interval and it really told only half the story that Dortmund restricted themselves to one more goal, courtesy of Aubameyang, in the second half.
Aubameyang also struck the crossbar in that period, from something no more elaborate than a quick throw-out from his goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Arsenalâ€™s inadequacies had been laid bare and Wenger will have to contend with more questions about his recruiting after a night when his options were so thin that he had a teenager, HÃ©ctor BellerÃn, making his first start in defence. BellerÃnâ€™s only previous Arsenal appearance was as an extra-time substitute in a Capital One Cup tie last season but, in fairness to him, he was not the only one to find it difficult. Increasingly, it feels like Wenger has been reckless not bringing in at least one more defender as well as a player who can shield the back four.
Dortmund managed to overwhelm Arsenal despite considerable injury issues of their own and the statistics will make grim reading for Wenger. Not just the fact it was a shot-count of 24 against four but that Dortmundâ€™s players ran a collective 11km more than their opponents. Klopp called his side a â€œpressing machineâ€ whereas Wenger must have been startled by the carelessness of his team. Too often, one of his players could be seen waving an apologetic hand after losing the ball in his own half.
By the end, Jack Wilshere and the substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were misplacing almost routine passes. â€œWe were not at the requested level,â€ Wenger said. â€œWe had a difficult night, congratulations to Dortmund because they were the better team, but we had a disappointing performance.â€
He was not willing to offer a more in-depth explanation but Arsenal were a team lacking personality and, more than anything, a robust presence between defence and midfield. Mikel Arteta has plenty of attributes but Arsenal need a different type of player. Mesut Ã–zil stood out only in the briefest of flashes and Aaron Ramsey was overrun before Wenger substituted the pair just after the hour. Alexis SÃ¡nchez started brightly but faded and Danny Welbeck had four chances on the break and did not hit the target once.
Maybe the match would have taken a different course if he had been more accurate with the first of them shortly before Immobile opened the scoring. Unfortunately for Welbeck, that moment became another demonstration of the raw state of his finishing. Arsenalâ€™s Â£16m signing screwed his shot wide and the importance of that miss was exacerbated by what happened next.
Immobile deserves a lot of credit because he had a long way to go after collecting the ball in the centre-circle but Kieran Gibbs really ought to have got closer to the Italian as he surged forward into the right-hand side of the penalty area. Laurent Koscielny could not cut out the danger either. Immobile was too quick for both of them, tried a trick and got a lucky ricochet before driving his right-foot shot past Wojciech Szczesny into the far corner.
Yet it was typical of Arsenalâ€™s night that the goal had originated from losing the ball straight from a throw-in. â€œIt was three against one and it is difficult to understand how we lost the goal,â€ Wenger said.
It was Dortmundâ€™s 15th shot of the first half and the pressure did not relent after the break. Immobile had made the visiting defence look just that â€“ immobile â€“ and it was the same three minutes after the restart when Kevin Grosskreutz clipped the ball behind Mertesacker and Aubameyang nipped in front of Szczesny to go around the goalkeeper for the second goal.
Perhaps Szczesny had overcommitted himself but Arsenal should actually be grateful to him for keeping down the score. â€œIt was nearly perfection,â€ Klopp said of Dortmundâ€™s performance and Wenger did not argue when he was told that Graeme Souness, in his television role, had described Arsenal as playing without a midfield.
Arsenalâ€™s dishevelled look was not helped when Lukas Podolski, about to come on as a late substitute, realised he did not have any shin pads and had to borrow Ã–zilâ€™s. A miserable night was compounded by another injury scare for Wilshere, who twisted his ankle in the final moments. â€œItâ€™s difficult to say how bad it is,â€ Wenger said. â€œBecause of his history I am a bit cautious.â€ – The Guardian