Tuesday, 22 November 2011

On Borussia Dortmund and their fans

I didn’t see much point in doing a comprehensive Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund preview, given that it would essentially consist of the usual worries about Arsenal's defensive frailty, our occasional inability to win Champions League groups (a bad habit that started in 2007/08), and concerns that Borussia Dortmund in fact represent the future of football (a result of reading an excellent article on their recent history, as featured in issue number two of The Blizzard).

Suffice it to say that the opportunity to secure qualification with a game to spare and also to put ourselves in a good position to progress as Group F winners surely dictates that Wenger will play a strong line-up. Therefore, although he could rotate I suspect he probably won’t, and the team that runs out tonight will be the same one that beat Norwich – with the possible substitution of Arshavin for Gervinho (just a hunch).

Other news is that Abou Diaby is available, but he will surely not appear given that he hasn't played competitive football since May 22nd. Unfortunately Tomas Rosicky again misses out against his old club due to a thigh strain, while Laurent Koscielny is once more likely to step into the breach at right-back.

It’s a must win game for Dortmund, who are a good side in good form (having beaten Bayern Munich 1-0 at the weekend), and therefore the Gunners will need to go all out to get the vital three points. We got a bit lucky last time round at the gargantuan Signal Iduna Arena, and will need to play much better than we did that night. But recently we have been, so fingers crossed. Arsene Wenger certainly seems confident, anyway. Oh, and if Perišić lines up another shot in or around the 88th minute, then let's close him down.

And that’s it. Such brevity might be because I’ve recently developed a bit of a soft spot for the German side, who seem to share Arsenal’s philosophy when it comes to the way the beautiful game should be played. They've got great players such as Götze, Lewandowski, Kagawa and home-grown hero Kevin Großkreutz. Hopefully it will be a cracking match to watch – and I’ll probably get to experience their famously mental fans at close-range, since I’ve got a seat in the Clock End.

Incidentally, here’s an observation on their fans, in the form of a slightly rambling anecdote…

I suppose I should set the scene. Well, I had my lunch in St. James' Park yesterday. The Thames-side one that is, next to Westminster Abbey, not the Tyneside one that's now known as 'The Stottie Cake Sports Direct Arena'. Actually the link here is strangely apposite, since in aforesaid park I was working my way simultaneously through a sandwich and Harry Pearson's excellent book The Far Corner, but already I digress.

Now, the Borough of Westminster isn't somewhere I spend too much time, and it was nice to be out of the office for once, so naturally I took an interest in the surrounding environs. As I surveyed the scene from the vantage point of a park bench, I spied two rather unusual-looking herren among the assorted tourists feeding the ducks, runners setting their lunch-hour PB's and politicians dumping confidential reports in litter bins. One was dressed head-to-toe in yellow and black stripes, while the other, along with the obligatory scarf, sported a yellow-and-black pointy jester's hat, of the sort that have invaded football grounds in the last half-decade. "Ah, Dortmund fans", I thought to myself. They ambled past and subsequently asked a park attendant for directions, very politely and in impeccable English, which he duly gave them, albeit with a bemused stare at their costume (not a football fan, evidently). They wandered off happily, presumably to absorb a bit more of the sights and sounds of London before heading back to the hotel to apply Borussia Dortmund face-paint ready for the big match.

The German football fan is evidently a strange animal, but you can't begrudge his devotion to the cause. Getting dressed up a full 24 hours before the game is pretty impressive, particularly when your team colours have the visual appeal of a hazard warning sign.

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