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Arsenal aim to set the standard

Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 18.00CET
Arsenal FC put a stunning home record on the line against BV Borussia Dortmund.

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Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 18.00CET

Arsenal aim to set the standard

Arsenal FC put a stunning home record on the line against BV Borussia Dortmund.

By Kevin Ashby

After establishing themselves as the dominant force in English football, wresting the mantle from Manchester United FC, Arsenal FC begin their quest to set the standards in Europe on Tuesday with a home Group A fixture against BV Borussia Dortmund, the champions of Germany.

Quicksilver style
Whereas Arsenal teased their way to the Premiership crown last season, dazzling all with their unique brand of quicksilver attacking football, Dortmund's capture of the 1. Bundesliga was somewhat more difficult - a final-day 2-1 success against SV Werder Bremen enough to clinch the German crown at the expense of Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

'Fantastic fluidity'
Arsenal, the Premiership leaders, have shown no signs of relinquishing their title in six unbeaten outings this term. In addition to being their 22nd away match in succession without defeat, equalling an English record set by Nottingham Forest FC in 1978, Saturday's 3-0 success at Charlton Athletic FC left Arsenal just 180 minutes away from another long-standing domestic mark: Chesterfield FC's record of scoring in 46 consecutive matches, set in 1931. Wenger said of his side's showing at the The Valley: "The fluidity of the game at moments was fantastic."

Draw specialists
In contrast, Wenger's opposite number, Matthias Sammer, was scathing of Dortmund's weekend display - a 1-1 draw against FC Schalke 04 - which, though extending the draw specialists' unbeaten start, left Dortmund six points behind the leaders, FC Bayern München, with five matches played. "If we keep dropping points we can say goodbye to the championship very quickly," Sammer said.

Victory in Manchester
Dortmund were last in England in 1997, defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford en route to eventual Champions League success under Ottmar Hitzfeld. Ironically, that was the same season Arsenal were beaten at Highbury by Teutonic opposition for the first and only time, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach winning 3-2 in the UEFA Cup.

Rosický misses out
One Dortmund player with experience of playing in London, Tomáš Rosický - a scorer at Highbury for AC Sparta Praha in the 2000/01 competition - did not travel to England after injuring his left thigh against Schalke. Jörg Heinrich stands by to replace the gifted Czech playmaker, while Sammer is confident Christian Wörns will be fit to play.

History counts for nothing
Despite Ray Parlour and Lauren struggling for fitness, statistics point to a winning start for Arsenal: their last 18 home Champions League matches have yielded just one defeat, RC Deportivo La Coruña winning 2-0 last season, while Dortmund are without success away from the Westfalenstadion in this tournament since December 1997. As another German club, Leverkusen, proved last season, however, history counts for little at this level.

Last updated: 18/09/02 20.42CET