Robert Lewandowski’s 82nd-minute finish to a smart Borussia Dortmund counter-attack was all it took to turn Arsenal from odds-on Champions League Group F jollies to 13/5 outsiders in danger of bowing out of the competition at the group stage for the first time this century.
Arsene Wenger will keep faith in his Premier League-leading side after they suffered defeat for the first time since the opening day of the season, but cracks are certainly appearing at Arsenal and their mettle will be sorely tested over the next few weeks.
Arsenal face Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Borussia Dortmund in their next five fixtures.
Palace have lost seven of their eight matches since promotion to the top flight in May so the Eagles ought to be despatched with some ease at Selhurst Park, but the visiting Blues and Reds will fancy their chances in north London as Chelsea took six points out of six off Wenger’s side last term and Liverpool left the Emirates with a point.
Arsenal have lost on their last four visits to Old Trafford, which is their next destination after facing Brendan Rodgers’ side, but before that they must travel to Dortmund needing a positive result to keep their Champions League dream alive this season.
The Gunners overreliance on Mathieu Flamini was laid bare at the Emirates against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Flamini is expected to return against Palace after suffering from concussion in Arsenal’s last domestic fixture at home to Norwich, but the Frenchman is currently the only naturally defensive-minded midfielder Wenger has any faith in with Emmanuel Frimpong yet to make an appearance in 2013/14 and Abou Diaby constantly injured.
Mikel Arteta was deployed in Flamini’s deep-lying midfield role against Jurgen Klopp’s side and won a much lower percentage of aerial duels than the former AC Milan man did in Arsenal’s previous Group F matches.
Aaron Ramsey’s form this season has been a huge plus, but the Welshman has not been as effective in recent matches.
Ramsey may have taken a little too much of the blame for his side’s defeat against Dortmund after being punished for dallying outside his own box before Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener, but his remarkable scoring rate this term has tailed off in Arsenal’s last few fixtures.
After rippling the onion bag eight times in as many matches following the Gunners opening day defeat to Aston Villa Ramsey has found the back of the net just once in his last four games for the club and could be made to play in a more defensive role if Flamini suffers from further injury problems or suspensions.