ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has hailed his current team as far better than the Gunners side that beat Borussia Dortmund two years ago, as they prepare to renew hostilities this evening.
Wenger’s men took four points from their Champions League group matches against the Germans in 2011, including a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium, where they meet again in a potentially decisive clash.
While Arsenal’s trophy drought has only been prolonged since then, Dortmund retained their Bundesliga title that season and were only denied on three fronts last term by all-conquering Bayern Munich.
Wenger believes Jurgen Klopp’s swashbuckling outfit have proven their quality both domestically and in Europe, but says they are not the only ones to demonstrate improvement in recent months.
“I believe we are much better and our young players have gained experience and maturity, and the consistency of our results since 1 January 2013 shows that,” said the Frenchman, whose team have lost just once in 24 games.
“We are capable of being consistent and that is always a sign of quality, especially in the Premier League.”
Arsenal have won both of their games so far in Group F, at Marseille and at home to Napoli, and Wenger admits extending their 100 per cent record tonight would “80 per cent” guarantee their progress to the knockout stage for a 14th consecutive season.
“It is not a decider but an important one,” he added. “If we win the game we know if we win our other home game we are there.”
Olivier Giroud’s six goals this season have illustrated the Premier League leaders’ all-round flourishing, to the extent that Wenger does not feel he has to resume his search for a striker in the January transfer window.
“Giroud is doing exceptionally well. He is one of the players who improves always and he is showing that in every single game,” said the Arsenal boss.
“I’m honestly not focused on any transfer policy at all. At the moment, I am spoilt for choice. We have plenty of players when everybody is back.”
Wenger is without Mathieu Flamini, however, as the midfielder is deemed unfit to play after suffering concussion on Saturday against Norwich.
Arsenal have only ever lost three times when hosting German opposition, but two of those defeats came last season, when both Schalke and eventual winners Bayern Munich triumphed at Emirates Stadium. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay netted as Schalke won 2-0 in the group stage, while Bayern thumped the Gunners 3-1, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic scoring in the last 16.
Dortmund made headlines by reaching last season’s final but their run came despite some less than convincing displays on the road. They lost 2-0 at Real Madrid, albeit having won the first leg 4-1, and only drew at Malaga, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City. Having lost their Group F opener this term in Napoli, they are on a two-match losing streak on the road and without a win in four European away fixtures.
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s recently-acquired £42.5m record signing, may not be a welcome sight for Dortmund stars, having struck an 89th-minute free-kick to snatch a 2-2 draw for Real Madrid in the Spanish capital during last season’s group stage.
The Germans may have shipped three goals in two fixtures against Arsenal two years ago, but all were scored by Robin van Persie. The Dutchman departed for Manchester United at the end of that season, where he joined up with Shinji Kagawa, who scored for Dortmund in their 2-1 defeat at Emirates Stadium in November 2011.
Dortmund’s idiosyncratic manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted he fancies a stint in the Premier League one day, but he will have to wait to appear on English touchlines for now as he is starting a two-match ban for raging at the fourth official during defeat to Napoli last month.