Lowdown on Arsenal’s possible Champions’ League Opponents – 2
After the lowdown on Barcelona and Bayern Munich, we now have a look at Borussia Dortmund and Juventus.
The Team - Like Bayern, Dortmund boast of a strong German core. German internationals Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender, Marco Reus and the highly rated Mario Gotze, combine with experienced campaigners Sebastien Kehl, Croatian Ivan Perisic and the Polish trio of Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski, to form a formidable force in German football, and now in European football. They may have lost a key player in Japan international Shinji Kagawa, but stunned the football world by topping a tough group comprising Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax. Defensively solid, they have an extremely talented midfield, with goal machine Lewandowski leading the line. They are defending Bundesliga champions for two years now.
The Manager - Jurgen Klopp is Dortmund’s version of Arsene Wenger in his prime. Charismatic and charming, he likes the beautiful game, and has successfully integrated the club’s youngsters into the first team, while also having to deal with departures of key names. He has turned Dortmund from an under performing team in 2008, to two-time German champions in just 4 years. A mark of a great manager.
The Arsenal Connection
The strongest connection is that of Tomas Rosicky, who joined Dortmund in 1998, as a fresh faced 18 year old. He went on to make 145 appearances in the space of 8 seasons, and left with the nickname of “Little Mozart” for his ability to orchestrate attacks. Rosicky’s time at Arsenal however has been injury stricken, making 168 appearances in over 6 seasons. Another player previously on Dortmund’s books is young German midfielder, Thomas Eisfeld, already rated very highly by Arsenal’s coaches. And, in the not too distant past, 2003 to be precise, Arsenal snapped up Jens Lehmann from Dortmund. He had helped them win the Bundesliga in 2001-2002, before helping Arsenal win the league in the historic 2003-2004 season, and single-handedly won the FA Cup a year later. He made 179 appearances for Dortmund, and 200 for the Gunners.
1) Arsenal 2-0 Borussia Dortmund, 17th September 2002, Champions League Group Stage, Highbury
Arsenal produced an efficient display to beat the German champions, thanks to a fine strike from Dennis Bergkamp, which went in off a Dortmund defender in the 62nd minute, and a Ljungberg tap in 15 minutes later.
2) Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Arsenal, 30th October 2002, Champions League Group Stage, Westfalenstadion
Arsenal suffered their 4th defeat in a row, when they went down 2-1 in Dortmund. The Gunners went ahead through a Henry free-kick in the 18th minute. Soon, they were pegged back when a Rosicky free-kick was deflected in by Gilberto. And, in the 63rd minute, Jan Koller made most of an onrushing Seaman, to earn his side a penalty. Who else, to score, but Rosicky?
3) Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Arsenal, 13th September 2011, Champions League Group Stage, Westfalenstadion
A new look Arsenal side, stuttering in the league, began their European campaign in Germany having beaten Udinese in the qualifying stage. The Gunners went ahead at the stroke of half time through Robin van Persie, despite being on the backfoot for the entire half. The Germans applied the pressure, and finally got their equalizer in the 88th minute, Ivan Perisic scoring a great goal.
4) Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund, 23rd November 2011, Champions League Group Stage, Emirates Stadium
Arsenal ensured their progress into the knockout stages, as well as dumped Dortmund from the Champions League with a 2-1 win at the Emirates. Alex Song and Robin van Persie combined for the first, before the Dutchman doubled the advantage in the 86th. Kagawa’s consolation was too late to spark any sort of a comeback.
Played 4, Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 1
Dortmund have proved their pedigree this season, by topping the Group of Death, after their poor performance in the group stage last season. Their vibrant young squad has already attracted eyes of top clubs across Europe scouring for their players, and are a force to be reckoned with at home, especially with their strong home support. If drawn, it will be a clash that will be very hard to predict, considering the teams almost can match each other. Could be two very edgy clashes, with Dortmund having the slight upper hand, because they play the second leg at home.
Two similar philosophies, two similar managers, and a similar style of football. An intriguing football battle, that could entertain or even turn out to be a match where both sides cancel each other out. Surely, Arsenal fans would do better than to wish for drawing Dortmund.
The Team - The Italian champions matched Arsenal’s record of going 49 games unbeaten in the league, but like the Gunners in 2004, fell 1 agonizingly short of the magical 50 mark, when they lost to rivals Inter Milan. Blessed with a strong, typical Italian defence, in Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci, they also have one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon. They aren’t too short in midfield either. Andrea Pirlo, probably the world’s best playmaker, joins forces with the likes of Simone Pepe, Emanuele Giacherini, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. Up front, Montenegrin hot shot Mirko Vucinic is ably supported by Italian internationals Sebastien Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella.
The Manager - At the helm of Juve’s affairs is one of their own legends, Antonio Conte, who spent a succesfull 13 years as a player. He is known to be obsessed with the tactical side of the game, something which has seen him win key games over the past two seasons. His approach is very Un-Italian, and he prefers flair and fluidity, often going for 3 strikers up front. He won the league title in his very first season in charge of the Turin club, in 2011/2012, a feat they accomplished without losing a single game, to be known as Italy’s Invincibles.
The Arsenal Connection
Arsenal’s connection with the Italian giants go back into the late 50?s, when Juventus visited Highbury for a friendly game. After the Gunners knocked out Juventus in the 1979/1980 European Cup Winners Cup, Juve extracted a bit of revenge by purchasing Arsenal’s star midfielder and club legend Liam Brady. Brady played in the famous stripes for two seasons, before making further moves around Italy to Sampdoria, Inter, Ascoli, and seeing out his playing days back in England, with West Ham United. Arsenal then made the best signing in the history of the club, when they snapped up some random French chap named Thierry Henry. Of course, that guy would go on to score a meagre 228 goals, and become arguably Arsenal’s best ever player. In 2005, Juventus managed to snap up another legend, in Patrick Vieira. However, Vieira’s stay at Juventus was short, as they were relegated to Serie B, as a result of the Italian match fixing scandal of 2006. More recently, Juventus were one of the clubs interested in signing Robin van Persie, but had to settle for Danish Smartypants, Niklas Bendtner.
1) Arsenal 1-1 Juventus, 9th April 1980, European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg, Highbury
Juventus started confidently and took the lead through a rebound penalty from Cabrini, after Roberto Bettega was bought down in the box by Brian Talbot in the 11th minute. The Italians pursued their physical game, and David O’Leary had to be stretchered off, when tackled by Bettega. Minutes later, Tardelli was sent off for hacking Liam Brady, as the card count continued to rise. Arsenal piled on the pressure and camped in the Juve half. The pressure finally told in the 85th minute, when the ball went in off Bettega’s shoulder, under pressure from Frank Stapleton.
2) Juventus 0-1 Arsenal, 23rd April, European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg, Stadio Olimpico
In an edgy game, in front of a packed stadium, the game seemed destined for a goalless draw. Juventus would have gone through on away goals. Terry Neill bought on young 19 year old striker Paul Vaessen. A mazy run by Graham Rix resulted in a cross, and Paul Vaesen outjumped 38 year old Italian goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff to bundle the ball home, with just 2 minutes in normal time to go. Arsenal became the first English team to beat Juventus in Turin. Unfortunately, Arsenal lost to Valencia in the final, and it marked the disintegration of the talented team. Paul Vaesen had his career cut short, and died tragically, aged just 39.
3) Arsenal 3-1 Juventus, 4th December 2001, Champions League Second Group Stage, Highbury
An in-form and confident Juventus were beaten by an Arsenal side, that showed plenty of attacking intent on the night. Fredrik Ljungberg opened the scoring in the 21st minute, and Henry made it 2-0 with a fine free kick. Juventus finally got one back when 3rd choice keeper Stuart Taylor conceded an unfortunate own goal. But, Dennis Bergkamp played a brilliant pass to setup Ljungberg who sealed a 3-1 win for the Gunners.
4) Juventus 1-0 Arsenal, 20th March 2002, Champions League Second Group Stage, Stadio delle Alpi
Juventus, already out of the competition were playing for pride, while Arsenal needed a win to have a chance of securing qualification to the quarter finals. But, the Gunners missed a host of opportunities, including a penalty, and were made to rue their luck when Marcelo Zalayeta scored the winner for Juventus with 14 minutes left.
5) Arsenal 2-0 Juventus, 28th March 2006, Champions League Quarter Finals 1st Leg, Highbury
Arsenal’s young side produced a master class against a strong and star-studded, but ageing Juventus side. The buildup of the match was overshadowed by the return of former captain Patrick Vieira, months after he had left. But, he was out shined by his successor, as young Cesc Fabregas ran the Gunners’ show in midfield, and scored the opening goal in the 40th minute. Arsenal piled on the pressure, and took a decisive 2-0 lead, with an acrobatic Henry finish.
6) Juventus 0-0 Arsenal, 5th April 2006, Champions League Quarter Finals 1st Leg, Stadio delle Alpi
Arsenal had an easier game than expected, as Juventus, two goals down produced a toothless performance in their own backyard. Arsenal had more chances, but failed to score. Juventus barely managed any proper attacks, and even saw 3 players sent off over the two legs. Arsenal would reach the final that year, but lose narrowly to Barcelona in the final.
Played 6, Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 2
Juventus showed their class when they thumped defending European champions Chelsea 3-0, with some brilliant tactical football. What sets them apart is their strong pressing and strong defending. The flair in midfield is what makes them a dangerous side. Andrea Pirlo can destroy any midfield with his passing, and will be a major threat to Arsenal’s hopes. The Gunners surely have the quality to qualify over two legs, and if history is anything to go by, it is most certainly possible.
The Gunners wouldn’t mind a draw with Juventus, as they would be happy to prevent facing Barcelona or Bayern. But, underestimate the Italian champions at your own peril. Tactically astute, it could ultimately be a battle of wits between Wenger and Conte.
The Sportskeeda Blogger of the Year Award 2012 is here. Sportskeeda is one of the fastest growing Indian sports networks, with a global reach. It’s nomination time in the competition, and I’d be extremely happy and honored, if you, my esteemed reader, nominate my blog under the ‘Club Fan Site’ category.
So, would you prefer Borussia Dortmund, the German champions with a burgeoning reputation, or Juventus, the Old Lady who can still bite vs Arsenal, in the next round? Leave your comments below!