Tonight the Champions League group stages return and Arsenal get to take on the fourth seeded team in their group in what should be a walk in the park? What? What you mean we didn’t get FC Battenburger from some country no-one has heard of? Oh no, in all their wisdom, UEFA decided that making Borussia Dortmund, champions of one of the toughest leagues in Europe, merely a fourth seed was a great and fair idea. Of course we got them.
I know, moan, moan, moan, but hey, don’t you think we have good reason?
From our first match we know how tough an opponent they can be and since that opening match, when we were mugging them for a 1-0 win until they hit a wonder goal to give more of an accurate reflection to the scoreline, they have improved. The lucky thing for us is that we have as well.
Ahead of the match the injury hokey kokey dictates that you put a Diaby in and take a Rosicky out. I’m absolutely delighted to see Diaby back and, as I tend to do, got in to a bit of a Twitter scrap over him when a few people were resorting to calling him ‘crap’ and ‘shit’ and a ‘waste of space.’ Diaby is an immensely talented player, something that is backed up by the fact that he is automatic first pick for the French National side when fit. It is not just Wenger who rates him highly. Some people could not understand why he was taking so long to recover from his leg break when Ramsey was already back and running the show, but there is something you need to know about the difference of their injuries. While Rambo’s double tib/fib was horrendous, if you are going to have a compound fracture, the further away from a joint the better. It seems ridiculous to say that Ramsey was ‘lucky’ the day he was Shawcrossed, but if there is anything we can take from that nightmare situation it is the relief that it wasn’t a joint break such as that suffered by Diaby and Eduardo.
Having spoken to a specialist, mostly because I managed to break a joint of my own, I was informed that it is almost impossible to break a joint and not cause permanent damage. My joint, the break in which was slight compared to what Diaby suffered, still causes me problems to this day some 10 years later. The slightest knock or bump causes pain and swelling. Now think about how horrific Diaby’s break was. If you were fortunate not to have seen it be assured that it was the worst of all three. Since then he has also endured at least two horrific tackles which could have broken it all over again, once from Michael Essien and one from Paul Robinson.
It is no coincidence that the majority of injuries he has suffered since the day he met Dan Smith have involved that ankle or leg.
I do understand why some people want to cut our losses with Diaby and I accept that view point, but what I cannot stand is people who say he is ‘shit’ for always being injured. He was the victim of an assault and this needs to be understood. I like that Arsenal have stood by him and I truly believe that if he can put his injury problems behind him he will become an integral member of our squad.
Let’s move on shall we?
Speaking ahead of the match, Arsenal’s man of 2011 has been praising Theo and it is clear that the two are developing something of a productive partnership.
“Theo has given me more assists than anyone else this year. I’ve certainly noticed it and that’s why I really liked the fact that he gave me the ball for my 100th goal – it was meant to be! Hopefully I can give him some proper assists as well, because as a striker I believe assists are just as important as the goals you score.
“Theo’s assists aren’t lucky – they’re proper assists, down to good movements, good actions, good final balls. For me that’s perhaps even more important than a goal. For example, I look back at my first goal against Chelsea and don’t really feel that it’s mine – it’s 95 per cent down to Gervinho. And my first goal against Norwich was 90 per cent Theo’s – a fantastic first touch, great pace, good cross and bang, I tap it in.
“OK, it goes in my name, but that’s a tiny part of the story. I do appreciate that, and hopefully I can give him and all the other guys just as much back. Don’t forget Aaron. He was a bit unlucky against Norwich as he should probably have been passed to on a couple of occasions when he’d shown great movement to get into good positions. I should definitely have given him one ball, looking at it again, and there were other times too. If he keeps going that, though, he’ll score goals.”
There is a real feeling of camaraderie amongst this year’s team, something that has always seemed to have been disrupted by one player or another over the recent six seasons. Long may it continue.
You might have noticed that I haven’t really talked about tonight’s match that much and that’s mostly because I haven’t a clue how it is likely to go. We have a splendid record at home in Europe but we underestimate Dortmund at our peril. They are defensively sound, managing to hold out Bayern at the weekend to claim a 1-0 win and we will need our entire team to be operating with handbrakes off if we are to gain qualification tonight. Of course, we still have the chance to do that in the final group game should it all go a bit pear shaped tonight, but we will no doubt be looking to maintain our recent momentum and get qualification sewn up as soon as possible.
If you know how tonight is going to go then you are a far better judge than I, so for now, as always, I will simply ask for 100% from the 11 in red and white and the rest can fall where it may.
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