Early Doors

Same old Arsenal?

Early Doors

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Last night saw further proof that no one does capitulation quite like Arsenal.

Two minutes away from sealing a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory at Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund in their opening Champions League group game, substitute Ivan Perisic scored a stunning volleyed equaliser to peg back the Gunners and see them continue their habit of relinquishing leads from last season.

Arsene Wenger would probably have taken the point before the game, but he could be forgiven if his head dropped as he sat on high in Block 27, Row 24, Seat 63 at the Westfalenstadion due to his seemingly perpetual touchline ban.

The goal looked inevitable from the early stages as the home side played through an Arsenal midfield - featuring Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun - and caught the defence flat-footed with balls over the top almost at will.

Per Mertesacker may yet prove to be the answer to all of the Gunners' defensive problems domestically, but the reigning champions of his home country appeared to have him sussed.

With the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, it was left to Robin van Persie to do all the leg work up front for Arsenal, with a little help from fellow 'old boy' Theo Walcott.

For so long it looked as though they would grab the victory and go joint-top of group F with Marseille before Perisic blasted in the kind of dipping volley you would usually only see in an episode of Captain Tsubasa.

That strike meant the Gunners have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 Champions League away games, since their 2-0 win at Milan two and a half years ago.

But that late dropping of two points should not be the cue for all and sundry to tut, roll their eyes and put it down as 'typical Arsenal'.

Given the club's tumultuous start to the season it is easy to take a result such as this in isolation and project upon it greater significance than is worthy. That kind of verdict should be saved for, say, losing 8-2 at Old Trafford.

Dortmund were indeed able to play through the heart of the Gunners team in the first half, but Alex Song was positioned between two players both making their second appearance for the club. Benayoun has joined Arsenal on the back of a season in which he only played 401 minutes of club football, a little less than four and a half full games.

Both the Israeli and Arteta grew into the match as it went on as they began to work together more efficiently. When the creative heart is ripped from a team as it was for Arsenal this summer, it is bound to take time for the replacements to settle, not just into their new team and a different system, but also to each other.

Another late summer arrival, Andre Santos, only made his debut from the bench in the closing stages last night, while Gervinho may have been at the club for almost two months but his lively appearance in Germany was still only his fourth competitive one for the club.

Early Doors is no Wenger apologist, but under such circumstances coming away with a draw from what is on paper Arsenal's toughest game of the group is not to be sniffed at, especially given this is a team in transition. However, it is vital that the old habit of relinquishing leads is one that the club's new signings must help to break.

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Still, at least Arsenal get to share the weight of expectation across the entire team. Fernando Torres seems to be the sole focus of attention when it comes to Chelsea at the moment.

Admittedly the Spaniard helped keep the spotlight on him courtesy of a recent interview in which he appeared to criticise the Blues for lacking youth and pace.

That may have been a bit rich coming from a striker who had scored just one goal in 22 games following his £50 million move in January, but Andre Villas-Boas decided to give Torres the chance to justify his words by dropping John Terry and Frank Lampard for the visit of Bayer Leverkusen and picking Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge in attack with him.

A lot has been made of the fact that David Luiz and Mata both scored against the Germans while Torres did not, and that both the aforementioned players have each scored more goals in a Chelsea shirt than the most expensive player in Britain.

However, Torres did set up both those goals, teeing up Luiz for the first before scampering down the wing with real purpose, drawing the keeper out of his goal and unselfishly laying on a tap-in for Mata.

Had the roles been reversed for that second goal, with Mata making a great run with the ball before giving Torres an easy chance to convert, the former Valencia man would have been the one getting all the plaudits and Torres's goal would have been written off as one anyone could have scored.

He may still have a long way to go to get back to his best, but at least Torres gave another flash of the form that once made him the most feared striker in England.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The similarities are that the boy has great courage, he wants to play all the time, he has incredible stamina. These are added extras to the talent he has. If you look at Pele for instance, he was a very aggressive attacker also who could look after himself, so can Rooney. They have similarities that way: strength, speed, determination. But he's white, completely white." - Alex Ferguson adds a rather unnecessary caveat as he compares his striker to the Brazilian great.

FOREIGN VIEW: "If you have the judge's decision which gives the order to UEFA that FC Sion can play, and UEFA fails to comply, then that means that the judge (can now follow) penal proceedings. Then, the police will go and find Mr Platini. Now we've given Platini time to fix this - if he doesn't fix it, then there's prison." - Sion president Christian Constantin wants UEFA chief Michel Platini arrested and imprisoned after the Swiss club's exclusion from the Europa League was confirmed. No, really.

COMING UP: Live coverage of all eight of this evening's Champions League group games, including Benfica v Manchester United, Manchester City v Napoli and Dinamo Zagreb v Real Madrid at 19:45.

Elsewhere on the site today we will be putting another Premier League player Under the Microscope, and the will be the latest blogs from Jim White and Andy Mitten.

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