Average Arsenal

Arsene Wenger described Arsenal's performance yesterday morning (Singapore time) as "average".

He was flattering them.

Beaten 2-0 by Borussia Dortmund, the Gunners were fortunate only that the margin of error wasn't far greater.

They were annihilated.

Perhaps, given Arsenal's record in games against big teams, Wenger's description was actually very apt. This was entirely in keeping with what we've seen in the past year.

While victories against the flotsam and jetsam of the league are usually secured, the more glamorous clashes tend to be rather one-sided affairs. Last season they were thrashed away at Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, their fellow members of the top five.


This year, a similar pattern has begun to emerge. Wenger and Arsenal loyalists will point out that they were forced to play Hector Bellerin at right back, a result of injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers.

But, quite apart from this being the result of short-sighted summer recruitment, it's worth a look at the Dortmund absentees. Jurgen Klopp was without Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Nuri Sahin, Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels and Jakub Blaszczykowski.

It didn't seem to do him any harm.

Dortmund were brilliant in every department except finishing. Had they issued a perfect performance, Arsenal might now be updating the darker corners of their club records.

The pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a serious problem from the first moments. Every time Arsenal lost the ball, which happened frequently, the German side pounced.

If they didn't come down the flank through Aubameyang, they arrived in the centre through Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The lack of a first-class defensive midfielder has been a cause of consternation for some time at the Emirates.

Fans have watched nervously as Wenger drifted between the underwhelming Denilson to the self-centred Alex Song to the less-than-tigrish Mikel Arteta and onto the reduced abilities of Mathieu Flamini.

It was Arteta's turn yesterday and his performance served as a further reminder that he still isn't the right man for the role.

Arsenal need a Javier Mascherano-type figure, or even a Lucas Leiva, someone who selflessly bites into the underbelly of the opposition, who gets the ball and immediately gives it to someone better.

Someone like that might have been able to stem the flow of German attacks.

As it was, it was down to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to man the battlements, and for Wojciech Szczesny to do what he could when their lines were breached. The resistance was always doomed to failure. When Ciro Immobile ran almost the length of the pitch to open the scoring on the brink of half-time it was nothing less than Dortmund deserved.

Aubameyang's well-taken effort three minutes after the break effectively ended the game. Positives were few and far between for Arsenal.

In the middle, Jack Wilshere toiled manfully with little fortune.

Up front, Danny Welbeck at least managed to get into position to take a pair of excellent chances, but he wasn't able to take advantage.

Elsewhere, there were familiar scapegoats.

Mesut Oezil was withdrawn after an hour, his face telling you all you needed to know about his state of mind.

The next morning, one German newspaper would award him the lowest mark available to them.


There were less familiar villains as well, with Aaron Ramsey offering one of his most ineffectual performances of the season and Alexis Sanchez practically anonymous throughout. Arsenal have to bridge the gap between themselves and the best teams in Europe.

They have to have a Champions League campaign that promises more than just a retention of the status quo.

But, for now, it's the same old problems, the same old failings and the same old results.

No other team would give a performance like this an accolade as generous as "average".

At Arsenal, it seems all too appropriate.

This article was first published on September 18, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.