Arsenal's Gervinho continues to frustrate as his team-mate Sébastien Squillaci just baffles – while at City Maicon is looking ponderous and Scott Sinclair clearly lacks self belief
After his hot streak at the start of the season when he scored five goals in as many games, the Ivorian, a victim of the capricious nature of form throughout his Arsenal career, began to labour before an ankle injury took him out of the fray. Here again he oscillated between the clinically effervescent and the hapless, the twin hallmarks of his typical performance that so exasperate Arsenal fans. At times he seems to play at the very limit of his capability, running at full pelt, never quite convincing that the ball is wholly under control. It is then that he often takes an extra, unnecessary touch that prods the ball into a patient defender's path instead of forcing him to retreat. He did this twice in the first-half, much to the frustration of the lively Marouane Chamakh. And then he confounds those he has recently infuriated with the kind of sharp sprint, clever turn and precise roll-back that set up Tomas Rosicky's opener and the cute flick to put Andrey Arshavin into space to shoot. The brilliance is irregular, but nonetheless genuine. Little wonder he has not yet exhausted his manager's confidence.
Maicon has not enjoyed much respite from criticism since joining Manchester City from Internazionale and, admittedly, at first he did look rather ponderous and paunchy. But to imply, as many did, that the Brazil right-back was a liability defensively, that he could not, in the game's evocative phrase, tackle his own mother in a cupboard, seemed in recent weeks to be a ludicrous extrapolation of the evidence of Gareth Bale's performance against Inter in the Champions League two years ago. But against Borussia Dortmund there was somewhat of a regression. Of course he impressed when going forward but too many times he let Ivan Perisic go past him and any real sense that he was doubling his effort to recover was absent.
Scott Sinclair also singularly failed to shine when given an opportunity to start. He was purchased from Swansea because he had performed so admirably, could beat a defender with a trick and crucially because he had the kind of pace that Adam Johnson and James Milner lacked. But where was it? He moved from the left flank to the right midway through the first-half but every time he had a chance to break on the counter-attack, he tacked across the field towards the touchlines where he allowed himself to be boxed in or was forced to retreat. His lack of confidence is evident and he looked not so much daunted by the opposition as inhibited by self-doubt. Whether it takes a kick up the backside or a pat on the back to cure this, City need to administer it quickly.
With Arsenal fielding a makeshift back four comprising Carl Jenkinson, Sébastien Squillaci, the captain Thomas Vermaelen and the debutant Jernade Meade, it was barely surprising that there was a lack of understanding and, consequently, solidity. They were hardly helped by a midfield that gave the ball away too frequently in the second half but the two most experienced members of the back four were at fault for both goals. Squillaci has this dangerous habit of letting a dipping ball bounce before he deals with it and looks very slow to react to forwards changing direction. He did nothing to persuade that he remains Arsène Wenger's most baffling signing since he bought a clearly past-it Mikaël Silvestre.
There is a verve and swagger to this Borussia Dortmund side that, when they really turned it on after half-time, looked ominously good. Technically very assured, they used the thrusts of Marcel Schmelzer to good effect, pushing City on to the back foot and utilising the unsettling ploy of Perisic and Marco Reus cutting in from their wings to ping in shots. For the last half hour of the game, their manager, Jürgen Klopp, was enraptured by his players and flashing TV-evangelist smiles. As were any neutrals watching.