Three concerns for Arsenal
BORUSSIA DORTMUND v ARSENAL
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
Jack Wilshere will be feeling pretty pleased with himself this week, and rightly so.
His performance against Manchester City was an emphatic response to those who had publicly criticised him in recent months.
He was dynamic, he was inspirational, he took the game to the champions and boldly led his teammates into the fray.
If he can do that again, Arsenal will have a real chance of a result in their first Champions League group clash with Borussia Dortmund tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
But perhaps Wilshere would do well to reflect on the motivation for the criticism.
While some fans will claim bias or lazy journalism, the truth is that Wilshere attracted the attacks because the critics knew that he was capable of more.
They had seen enough of him in the past to know that he had that performance lying dormant within him.
He will now need to offer displays like that on a regular basis. If you seek to hold a position at the top, you must renew your reputation on a game-by-game basis.
There was much to admire about Arsenal's display at the weekend, and much to despair of too.
The Gunners fought back against one of the best teams in Europe, turning a defeat into a lead and refusing to fold as they did in the past.
But they shipped a silly goal at a set-piece too, something they've done in the past all too often. It was one step forward and one step back last Saturday at the Emirates.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Arsenal are a better team than last year, at least in terms of quality.
Alexis Sanchez is settling well, Danny Welbeck offers so much more in the final third and there is more of that most un-Arsenal like quality, mental strength, now.
But there are three concerns tomorrow morning.
The first is the lack of protection afforded the fullbacks by Sanchez and Mesut Oezil ahead of them. It was no surprise that City exploited this weakness at the weekend.
The second is the lack of cover at the back, a situation worsened by the loss of Mathieu Debuchy with an ankle injury.
But Arsenal's third concern will be the effect that Shinji Kagawa will have on Dortmund.
The Japanese playmaker lit up the Bundesliga between 2010 and 2012, but he flopped in England and left Manchester United in a cut-price deal last month.
Having failed to score in 30 appearances last season, it took him 41 minutes to put the ball in the net for Dortmund last Saturday.
His strike helped his injury ravaged club to a 3-1 win over Freiburg and lifted them to fourth place after three games.
"I had only 15 players available for the game," said Klopp, "so I couldn't just say to Shinji, 'Hey, why don't you sit in the stands and take in a bit of the atmosphere.'
"He will be needed, I can't wait a few weeks."
Klopp's absentees include the gifted Ilkay Gundogan, another Dortmund returnee in Nuri Sahin and the coruscating winger Jakub Blaszczykowski.
But his biggest loss without question is striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored more than 20 goals a season for three consecutive campaigns before joining Bayern Munich in the summer on a Bosman move.
The powerful Pole has been replaced by Adrian Ramos, so prolific for Hertha Berlin last season, and two goals in two games is a promising return, but there's no doubt that Dortmund will need time to adjust to the change.
These are interesting times for the club from Westphalia. Having risen gloriously from their financial collapse in 2005, when they were within days of bankruptcy, they might have expected to lose more than just their star players.
But, despite interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs, Klopp's loyalty has remained strong. He won't rule out a move to England at some point in the future, but for now he has no intention of leaving.
He would, of course, make a perfect replacement for Wenger at Arsenal, something that the directors are certain to have considered.
But Wenger isn't going anywhere just yet. And with Wilshere back on his game, he'll be confident of proving that he has plenty of time left at the top.
Dortmund's rising son
Borussia Dortmund received a big boost just ahead of the kick-off of their Champions League season at home against Arsenal, with Shinji Kagawa's return to Germany easing the injury loss of Marco Reus.
Dortmund, the 2013 Champions League runners-up, had bad news when Reus went down with a sprained ankle and partially torn ankle ligament on international duty last week, sidelining the German star for four weeks.
Helping compensate for his loss was the arrival of Japanese international Kagawa, who came back to Dortmund after an unsuccessful run with Manchester United.
And, after just two weeks of training, the 25-year-old reminded the Dortmund faithful exactly why they loved him so much before his departure for England.
At the weekend, Kagawa assisted on Adrian Ramos' goal and then scored a goal himself before coming off after 64 minutes with cramps in Dortmund's 3-1 win over Freiburg.
The 80,200 crowd, unfurling Japanese flags and banners, gave Kagawa a standing ovation and hoped it will not be the last one.
NOSE FOR GOALS
"We already knew that Shinji can kick a bit and create a special atmosphere," said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, who put him alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Kevin Grosskreutz in the familiar 4-2-3-1 system. "He still has a nose for goals."
It was Kagawa's first competitive goal since May 2013.
Dortmund have also seen captain and World Cup winner Mats Hummels return to training - though he will not play against Arsenal.
"We want to have a good start. We want a home victory," said Hummels about the start of the Champions League.
Arsenal come into the Group D encounter after a 2-2 draw at home against Manchester City, in which they conceded an 83rd-minute goal.
"The only frustrating thing for me is that we didn't manage to keep the lead and gave a cheap goal away," said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger.
"We conceded two goals and I believe we are an offensive team. We go forward a lot but at the moment that's where we can improve."
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere is expecting an entertaining game with Dortmund.
"They're always good games when we face them," he said. "It's a tough game and we go there first this time, so the hardest match of the group will be the first one.
"We can put a marker down in that game to say we're here to win this group. Even if we don't win the game, we don't want to lose it."
Arsenal have collected four draws in their first six competitive matches this season, while Dortmund have won three of their four matches.