Despite an early spate of trials and tribulations, Arsenal once again find themselves on the march to the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League. Standing in their way in Group F is Borussia Dortmund, with whom the Gunners drew at Signal Iduna Park back in mid-September.
The Borussians will be playing for their survival in group play, while Arsene Wenger's side will have it sights set on securing a spot in the competition going forward.
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
When: Wednesday, November 23rd at 2:45 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Soccer Plus, DirecTV, Sky Sports 2/HD, RTE 2, Sportsnet One, Sport TV3, Sky Sport 1 Germany, Canal+ Sport, Sky Sport 2 HD Germany, ESPN 2 Australia, SuperSport 7, SuperSport 2 HD
Live Stream: FoxSoccer.tv, ESPN3.com Australia
Player to Watch for Arsenal: Robin Van Persie
Robin van Persie is the Arsenal attack, simple as that. As the mercurial Dutch striker goes, so go the Gunners. He scored Arsenal's only goal against BVB last time around and will be expected to carry the load once again, this time in front of the Gooners faithful.
Player to Watch for Dortmund: Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze has drawn the doting eye of many a big-money club, including Arsenal, and for good reason. "Gotzinho" is a tremendous midfield talent with blinding pace and the sort of precise technical skill with which he has grown into one of the premier young players in all of Europe.
His speed and creativity gave Arsenal's defence fits last time around, and figure to do much the same in London.
Key Matchup: Robert Lewandoski vs. the Arsenal rearguard
The Gunners have been victimized all season, both domestically and continentally, by a leaky back line. Nowhere was that more evident than in Dortmund, where Arsenal surrendered an 88th-minute equalizer to Ivan Perisic to give back two points in the Champions League opener.
If anyone is to take full advantage of the Gunners' poor defensive play inside the box in this match, it's Robert Lewandoski, who leads BVB in goals (eight) and assists (four) in German competition.
The 23-year-old Poland international managed four shots, three on goal, against the Gunners in their first meeting. However, he may find shots a bit more difficult to come by now that Arsene's squad is defending better as a team, thanks in large part to the return of Thomas Vermaelen and the integration of Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos.
What They're Saying:
Whispers of transfer rumors are once again whisking their way around the Emirates Stadium as the winter window approaches.
Arsenal have been mentioned in connection with a number of intriguing names across Europe, including one who will be playing across from them on Wednesday—Dortmund's Kevin Grosskreutz.
The 23-year-old Germany international has expressed interest in a move to the Premier League, telling the Daily Mail:
"If I do ever leave Dortmund, I would like to go to the Premier League in England, and my favourite club there is Arsenal."
While Grosskreutz would be a solid addition to the Gunners' lackluster attack, if Arsene Wenger is to pursue a Borussian to add to his side, chances are it will be Mario Gotze, about whom he inquired with BVB boss Jurgen Klopp over the summer.
As far as the Borussians keeping their own players, talks with midfielder Shinji Kagawa about a new contract have been set aside until the end of the season. The 22-year-old Japan international has drawn interest from a number of big-name clubs around Europe of late. Said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc of the situation:
What will the result be?
"Other things have priority at the moment. Shinji does not want to talk about a possible contract extension at the moment. The talks have been put on hold."
Such a stance may be indicative of Kagawa's desire to pursue the next chapter of his football career with a wealthier side.
Prediction: Arsenal 2, Dortmund 1
Both sides have improved considerably since they last met. Arsenal, though, have grown by leaps and bounds in the intervening months as they've slowly integrated the likes of Mertesacker, Santos, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun into their midst.
Arsenal also have welcomed back Vermaelen, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song, whose help, particularly in defence, should be enough for the Gunners to grab three points while effectively eliminating BVB from reaching the next round of Champions League play.