One prefers a robust pressing game, the other a refined possession model, but while the differences between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal are immediately obvious, the similarities between the pair and their respective coaches are perhaps not so blatant.
The two teams are arguably the most exciting in Europe at the moment and will face each other for the second time this season on Wednesday, as Dortmund welcome Arsenal to the Westfalenstadion following a 2-1 win in London for the Germans a fortnight ago.
The fixture in the English capital was an entertaining spectacle as many anticipated and though the Bundesliga outfit deserved the win, Arsenal came back strongly in the second half to push BVB all the way.
The two sides strive to produce an attractive brand of football and have become renowned for their fluid and expressive styles of play.
Both men also acknowledge the vital role young players have at a club. They have a keen eye for talent and the know-how to nurture youngsters coming through the ranks.
Both coaches have been lauded for the way they have built their squads on strict budgets. The financial structures at both clubs are impressive and that’s in no small part down to the men calling the shots on the pitch.
Dortmund have made a remarkable comeback from the brink of bankruptcy as recently as 2005 while Arsenal have done exceptionally well to manage debt while they built the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger has completed 17 years at Arsenal and his longevity has enabled him to plan so far ahead and take upon the task of introducing a new stadium during his tenure. He recognised that the club was growing and that Highbury was simply not big enough for their ambition.
Klopp meanwhile, has spent just five years at Signal Iduna Park but having recently signed an extension until 2018, he’s well on course for a lengthy stay with the Black and Yellows.
What likens Wenger and Klopp to each other most though is their single-mindedness, conviction and belief in their philosophies and principles. Their unwavering dedication to the same has earned them many plaudits as well as the respect of their players.
However, what separates them in equal measure is their approach to achieving their goals. Wenger is calculated, focused on the long-term and sees the bigger picture while Klopp is usually overcome with his fierce aggressiveness and sometimes that shows in their team’s displays as well.
This is not to say that Wenger is a man bereft of passion. That would be a grave misinterpretation of the man and his demeanour as we’ve all seen him vent his frustration on innocent plastic water bottles on the touchline over the years. However, he does know how to compose himself and put things into perspective.
On the pitch, that wild aggressiveness of Klopp is as evident in Dortmund’s frantically-paced high-octane performances as Wenger’s idealistic artistry is in Arsenal’s beautiful passing game. The former’s approach however came up trumps when their teams played each other last month.
In that second half, Arsenal dominated possession in their trademark manner for long spells and played some very neat passes that led to a few opportunities. However, they were hit hard and mercilessly by a trademark Dortmund breakaway. Kevin Grosskreutz darted forward from his full-back position and received the ball from Jonas Hoffman. He drove on and whipped in a cross for Robert Lewandowski to score the winner.
Even the first goal typified what Dortmund are all about as Marco Reus won back possession on the edge of Arsenal’s penalty area and Lewandowski played the loose ball into the path of Henrikh Mkhitaryan who finished off the move. Their aggressive style of pressing the ball high up the pitch is a prominent feature in their game and something that Arsenal don’t have in their locker.
As Klopp so eloquently put recently, “He [Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes … it’s like an orchestra. But it’s a silent song, yeah? I like heavy metal.”
It’s that intensity that has seen the German land four major trophies with Dortmund in the last three seasons, fighting the mighty Bayern Munich tooth and nail for honours in German football as well as on the continental stage.
As a result Klopp’s stock has soared in recent times with several European powerhouses vying for his signature, while Wenger’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years after the Gunners’ eight-year trophy drought.
Nevertheless, Arsenal’s form this season has renewed the faith of supporters in Wenger and they head into Wednesday night’s meet as one of Europe’s most in-form sides. Another intriguing battle of wits awaits.
Looking back on Nigeria/Ethiopia: We’ve come a long way Featured World Cup 2014 Should Spain be allowed to pick Costa? 5 Related Stories Editorial Ethiopia vs. Nigeria: The History of a Contest Editorial Five key battles that will define Ethiopia-Nigeria Nigeria Enyeama, Nwofor arrive camp for Ethiopia game Nigeria Ethiopia announce squad for Nigeria game Previous ……0
We remember the Africa Cup of Nations Group Stage clash between the Super Eagles & the Walia Antelopes ahead of their upcoming World Cup Qualifier in Addis Ababa.
Ahead of the Cup of Nations clash between Nigeria and Ethiopia back in January, there was an atmosphere of concern and nervous trepidation among Super Eagles fans.
In our first two group games, against Burkina Faso and Zambia, we remained unbeaten, but had thrown away leads, suffered damaging suspensions and had looked stodgy and uninspired in the final third. Ethiopia, on the other hand, had looked brave and proactive, if naive, unfettered by expectation and buoyed on by their partisan travelling support.
Nigeria were there to be slain and humiliated, Ethiopia there to make history.
For 80 minutes such an outcome might well have been realised. Eventually, however, class told, and a new star was born.
Victor Moses had been slow to get into the rhythm of the Cup of Nations, and had previously delivered subdued, forgettable performances.
Here, however, he was primed to reveal his glorious ability, in a vivid multicolour, before the watching world. After not featuring too prominently in the opening stages, he came to life as the game gently petered out. His direct running and searing pace clearly terrified the Ethiopian backline and twice he was brought down, twice winning crucial penalties, and twice showing the composure of a much more experienced player to convert.
Perhaps, history will remember those final ten minutes as a turning point; for Moses, they were the moments that catapulted him firmly into the hearts of a nation, identifying him as one of the continent’s elite forwards; for Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles squad it provided the confidence, the platform and the foundations to go on, to challenge Cote d’Ivoire and the others, and to bring him the top prize.
Moses vs. Ethiopia: Welcome to Africa
For Nigerian football in general, taking a broader perspective, that ten minutes of devastation prevented the traditional post-disappointment meltdown and bought Keshi the time and the opportunity required to develop the various, young, talented strands of this excellent Super Eagle generation.
Looking back on that fixture, on the eleven figures who stepped onto the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, on the fortunes and euphoria that have touched them all since, it is fair to say that they, we, all of us, have come a long way.
The personnel hasn’t changed all that much, only Ike Uche and Joseph Yobo, of those who featured that day, haven’t been seen since the Cup of Nations. Fegor Ogude and Kenneth Omeruo, both of whom have suffered recent injury, are also absent for this weekend’s clash, but both will be confident of making the World Cup squad should we make it.
One of the many sub-plots that preceded Nigeria’s return to the continental high table in 2013 was the tangle between two goalkeepers, both keen to prove their worth to Keshi and justify their spot in the starting line-up. It wasn’t exactly Bell and N’Kono, but both Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide were sturdy stoppers keen to guarantee their place behind the side’s back four.
In the end, an injury to Ejide before the tournament ensured that Enyeama would continue as the side’s Number One. There have, naturally, been a few stuttering performances between then and now, but heading into this international weekend, the Lille keeper has kept more clean sheets than any other gardien in Europe’s top five leagues so far this term.
Enyeama: Leading the Pack
His inspirational performances during our run to the Afcon title, not least the way he kept out Saladin Said in that group stage clash with Ethiopia, have seen a reassessment of his worth to the side. Enyeama is one of the continent’s finest custodians and will be looking to affirm this reputation next summer in Brazil.
John Obi Mikel is another who played that evening in Rustenburg and whose reputation has improved tenfold since that 2-0 triumph.
In my review of that fixture I suggested that unlike his Chelsea teammate Moses, Mikel was still to find his niche within the national side. I argued that Mikel was still caught in an unhappy compromise between being the side’s defensive rock and its creative maestro, he was trying to do too much, to straddle the inspired play of his youth and the conservative play of Stamford Bridge, ultimately achieving neither and failing to live up to his name and the expectations bestowed upon him.
Step forward Ogenyi Onazi.
Anyone who has kept even a cursory eye on my writing over the last six months will know that I am in utter adoration of Lazio’s defensive midfielder. Indeed, I don’t believe that he has received enough credit for the way he altered the course of our Afcon sojourn.
Onazi: Changing the Complexion of Nigeria’s midfield
Following that performance against Ethiopia in January, and the imbalance of our central midfield, Ogude was jettisoned and replaced with the youngster, Onazi. The midfielder’s discipline, tactical nous and energy provided the perfect platform for Mikel to work from; knowing that Onazi was covering the defence, Mikel was allowed to let his creative wills flourish—to such memorable effect.
That Ethiopia game represented, therefore, a turning point for Mikel—it was the last time that the Chelsea man was torn between two stalls for Nigeria. The subsequent introduction of Onazi has set John Obi on his way to finally realising his potential influence with the Super Eagles.
Once again, as fate would have it, the time for turning points and thresholds brings us back to Ethiopia, one of African football’s great fallen giants, gently rising once more to prominence, and a World Cup place, glistening and gleaming before us both.
Following that clash back in January, reviewing the game for this website, I wrote the following: “I, for one, hope that 2013 marks a permanent end to the Walias’ exile from international competition, and that this talented, underrated collection of players are soon gracing our screens once more.”
I still hope that some of these hopes are realised. Just not quite yet.
Given that the beginning of Arsenal‘s now eight-year trophy drought coincided with the loss of one of the finest, most domineering midfielders in Premier League history, it is perhaps easy to see why supporters have associated the absence of a player of Patrick Vieira’s ilk with the growing layer of dust in the Emirates trophy cabinet.
As Arsene Wenger continues to harbour something of a blind-spot with regard to finding a true heir to the Frenchman, and as the Gunners’ wait for silverware extends, the need for a defensive midfielder has been magnified.
But Arsenal do not need an atypical defensive midfielder. A specialist anchor, patrolling in front of the back four and biting at heels in the middle of the pitch is totally at odds with the fluid, interchanging system advocated by Wenger. Additionally, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Gunners are already brimming with players capable of recovering possession.
Almost every team in the Premier League had some form of deeper-lying duo last season and of the most-used defensive pivots, the combination of Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta was the third-best at winning back the ball in the entire division – something which certainly aided their mammoth, league-high average possession of 58.2 per cent.
The Arsenal pair recovered the ball 320 times, which was only bettered by Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva (326) and, top of the pile, Southampton combo Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork (422).
Arteta’s tally of 108 tackles was bettered by just five other midfielders last term, while the dominant Schneiderlin was the only midfielder to record more interceptions. With Arsenal’s deceptively defensive Spaniard sidelined at the start of the new season, the protective responsibility placed on Ramsey has increased.
And, in Arteta’s absence, the Wales international has shone. Of Premier League midfielders, only Lucas (29), Fabian Delph (25) and Mile Jedinak (20) have recorded more tackles and interceptions than Ramsey (19). Arsenal’s spine is far less brittle than it is often given credit for.
In the north London derby, against a hulking trio of physical enforcers that the Gunners might have been expected to struggle against, the 22-year-old came out on top; his eight tackles, by far the most of any player on the pitch, was more than Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Mousa Dembele combined. Arsenal did not just come out on top through their brain, but also their brawn.
On that day, Arsenal’s supremacy over the middle third was, it should be noted, aided by Santi Cazorla. His role only nominally on the left wing – where he can expect to be spending a lot of time following the arrival of Mesut Ozil – saw him regularly foray into the centre of the pitch, creating an extra man advantage which outnumbered even Spurs’ monstrous midfield.
Ramsey, who has arguably been the club’s stand-out performer this season, manages to marry his defensive duties with an attacking exuberance and penetration that is far removed from the restraint and inflexibility shown by the out-and-out defensive midfielders Arsenal fans crave, such as Spurs’ clobberers. The same was true of Vieira too. Much of the Frenchman’s best work, lest it be forgot, was driving forward, attacking space and bursting towards goal. He was much, much more than just a defensive shield.
Recently, a fine understanding and balance has been born within the Jack Wilshere-Ramsey axis; when one moves forward and attacks, the other withdraws and protects. The latter has bagged three goals and an assist in his first five games this season as a result, while the responsibility of a more fixed role for the England national team had a contrasting and negative affect on Wilshere.
This absence of specialists means Arsenal have two players who can attack and defend, create and destroy, and that lends itself to more expansive play.
Meanwhile, the kind of ‘luxury’ players that would normally necessitate a destroyer are becoming less common as more teams defend from the front, a recent trend that owes a lot to the trophy-sweeping pressing football employed by Barcelona in the early years of Pep Guardiola’s tenure and which continues to have success, most notably the high-tempo style favoured by Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.
That urgent pressing style, coupled with the fluidity and interchanging of positions employed by Arsenal, means crisp, quick-witted distributors are required, but there are few defensive players who fit that particular bill; often the players who exclusively win possession are the slowest to distribute it.
Even Arteta, possessed of the ‘La Masia‘-reared Catalan creative gene and who averaged more passes per game (80.9) than any other player in the Premier League last term, can have a tendency to dally and delay on the ball. But Arsenal cannot accommodate any hesitancy, especially as speed, predominantly on the counter, will become even more crucial with Ozil in the side.
If Arsenal can survive without a brutish counterbalance to the raw power of Tottenham’s destructive trio, then there are few teams against whom such mettle will be required. Their current dynamic allows for freer flowing football and, should ever more aggression be needed to close out games, Mathieu Flamini offers a suitably belligerent option off the bench.
I could do a better job than Wenger… I’d start with a bid for Bale, then buy Ibrahimovic, Silva, Fellaini and Cesar (oh, and I’d never ever have sold RVP to United)….0
I could do a better job than Arsene Wenger.
I certainly wouldn’t have sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United.
And this summer I would have destabilised Spurs, signed big players to build a new spine of the team and prepared properly for the new season. It’s not rocket science.
Manchester City, Chelsea and United were all installing new managers after last season ended but instead of using his years of experience to get involved in the market ahead of his top-four rivals this summer, Wenger did nothing.
He seems to have got it into his head that the season starts when the transfer window closes. That means no money was spent and no signings made to strengthen the starting line-up.
I would have done the following things: firstly, mess Spurs up. As soon as the summer started I would have made a massive bid for Gareth Bale, well aware it probably wouldn’t have been accepted, just to make sure Tottenham’s best player was unsettled all summer, give them a headache and potentially put players off moving to White Hart Lane.
I would have met Marouane Fellaini’s release clause at Everton and stiffened up the midfield with the big-haired Belgian.
Julio Cesar would have been moving across London from QPR – that was a no-brainer.
And I would have made a move for Thiago Silva, who was clearly unsettled at PSG at the start of the summer (everyone I spoke to in Rio de Janiero thought he would be leaving the French capital).
Had the board put obstacles in the way I would have threatened to resign and gone public so the fans knew I had tried to do the best for them.
I would then have had a wanted list of good players to beef up the squad (having got rid of the seemingly endless list of overrated, overpaid players brought in by Wenger).
These players would have been in ready for pre-season, and would have travelled on the summer tour. They would also have been a better bet to beat Aston Villa on day one, and there would be no nervousness ahead of the Champions League crunch tie with Fenerbahce.
I would have done all of this because the team needs to improve and needs to be challenging for the title and the Champions League again. It’s what the fans deserve.
This summer Wenger and Arsenal Football Club have pursued a policy that has left them uncompetitive. The club is taking advantage of the fans’ love for Arsenal and that is appalling.
Villa manager Paul Lambert gave Wenger a lesson in management this weekend: he somehow stopped Christian Benteke signing for Premier League rivals this summer and one of his new signings, Antonio Luna, scored a goal at the Emirates.
The side Wenger fielded on Saturday wasn’t fit for purpose – the fans paid good money and deserve some sort of refund.
Arsenal had a goalkeeper who looks bereft of his biggest asset – confidence. In front of him was a fragile back four left unprotected because the manager hasn’t replaced defensive midfielder Alex Song who left last year.
The best player, Jack Wilshere, faces another season of being completely rinsed because the squad is too thin to cope without him. Overplaying Wilshere leads to injury – I know that so why doesn’t Wenger?
The thin squad also meant that Santi Cazorla couldn’t be fully rested after his mammoth trip to Ecuador in midweek, and Wenger was forced to call on the Spaniard from the bench when the game was slipping away.
And up front, Olivier Giroud is decent but he’s not RvP and he’s not Sergio Aguero. The Gunners are desperate for a truly top-class striker.
I would have done all of this, so why didn’t Wenger? Why wasn’t he ready for the start of the season – again (remember the 8-2 at United in 2011 a few days before the window shut that led to panic buys like Andre Santos)? Why has he put in bids for players he knows will not be accepted? It’s an embarrassing way to run Arsenal.
The manager has a duty of care to the club, the team and the fans. The club are earning interest on the huge amount of cash in the bank but the team is mismanaged and the fans are being ignored, or even worse, taken for granted.
I honestly believe I could manage Arsenal better than Arsene Wenger.
He used to be brilliant, but he isn’t any more.
But Everton midfielder Ross Barkley was even better. He showed the same ability, but he had leadership as well. He did everything, including scoring a stunning goal. In fact Barkley’s performance reminded me of one of the greats – Patrick Vieira. That’s a big comparison but the similarity struck me as obvious.
He needs to do it consistently, of course, but on Saturday he showed all the attributes necessary.
I drove home happy that two English youngsters shone so brightly amidst a sea of expensive foreign talent (Fellaini, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Nikica Jelavic, Steven Pienaar and others).
Maybe the future for England isn’t so bad after all.
I was in a pub with the in-laws in plush Richmond, south-west London, watching Manchester City destroy Newcastle United on Monday night. Mr and Mrs P are not big on football, so they thought it was weirdly hilarious that the adult male at the next table was in full City kit cheering on his heroes, getting exasperated with every penalty denied by the ref.
At the end of the game he stood up, turned to us, and said in a rich Manchester accent: ‘That’s what you’re gonna get from City all season. Pure class.’
It was a fantastic performance but here’s the question: was it more about City being good, or Newcastle being bad?
From what I saw there were clear issues with Alan Pardew’s side that he seemed unable to resolve. Newcastle were torn apart on their left time and time again, but I didn’t see Pardew even try to address that.
I actually rate Pardew – the season Newcastle had in 2011-12 showed he’s got something about him. But this whole Joe Kinnear madness seems to have affected him badly.
City were a joy to watch. But it was like Usain Bolt racing against Big Daddy.
Let’s see if City can play that way against an organised team and a properly run club.
Let’s see if full-kit Mancunian is still bringing excitable chaos and appalling fashion sense to the posh suburbs of London later in the season.
ARSENAL SEASON PREVIEW: Lack of summer signings again sees Wenger under pressure… can they maintain top-four spot?0
Story of the summer…
Despite talk of multi-million pound war chests and stellar transfer signings, nothing has yet materialised at the Emirates. Arsenal’s very public pursuit of Luis Suarez has dragged on, and it seems as if they might miss out on him as they did on another top target in Gonzalo Higuain.
Wenger will want to challenge for the title but hanging on to their top four place is a more realistic target – others have strengthened while Arsenal have waited. But, despite injuries, problems and crises, Wenger always seems to get his team over the line.
Hiccups on horizon…
If the club fail to make a major signing in the next two weeks, Wenger and the Arsenal board will have some seriously angry fans on their hands.
First name on the team sheet…
Jack Wilshere – the youngster may be injury prone but he is the heartbeat of Wenger’s side.
Youngster to watch…
Serge Gnabry – Age: 18 Position: Midfielder/Winger Twitter: @SergeGnabry
During Theo Walcott’s contract wrangles last season the suggestion was Arsene Wenger believed this dynamic winger could fill any potential void. The Germany youth star with an Ivorian father is a direct runner with a powerful shot and has already played Premier League and Champions League football despite just turning 18.
‘We finished strong last season and we want to transfer that strength into the start of the new campaign. If we manage to do that then we will have a chance.’ – Arsene Wenger
Lukas Podolski (@Podolski10) – Keen sight-seer, shares selfies with his followers.
Ins: Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre, free)
Outs: Andrey Arshavin (released), Denilson (Sao Paulo, free) and Sebastien Squillaci (released), Martin Angha (Nuremberg, undisclosed), Craig Eastmond (Colchester, free), Conor Henderson (released), Jernade Meade (Swansea, free), Sanchez Watt (Colchester, free), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, loan), Vito Mannone (Sunderland £2m), Andre Santos (Flamengo, free), Francis Coquelin (Freiburg, loan), Joel Campbell (Olympiacos, loan), Chuks Aneke (Crewe, loan), Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace, free), Ignasi Miquel (Leicester, season-long loan), Gervinho (Roma, £8m)
The Gunners are in their final season with Nike and before the partnership ends after 20 years, the American manufacturer has looked back on arguably the club’s greatest moment during that period – the ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04 – for this season’s away kit.
With the home kit poised to remain the same as last season, this is set to be the final offering from Nike before Puma takeover in a record £30m-a-year deal.
Away kit cost: £50
Stats from 2012-13 season…
- Arsenal won their final five away games, their best such run since 2004.
- Lukas Podolski was taken off 23 times in the Premier League in 2012-13. Only Steed Malbranque – 26 times for Sunderland in 2009-10 – has been substituted more often in a single Premier League campaign.
- Four different Arsenal players (Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski) scored 10 or more goals in the Premier League in 2012-13, meaning the Gunners were only the fourth side in history to have four players reach double figures in a single PL campaign.
- Theo Walcott scored two of the five goals scored inside the first minute of a game in 2012-13.
- The Emirates Stadium saw more goals than any other PL ground (70).
- Arsenal won a higher percentage of duels than any other team in 2012-13 (52.55%).
- The Gunners scored a league-high seven goals on the break in 2012-13.
- Arsenal were forced into making 22 last-man tackles in 2012-13, more than any other side.
- Arsenal averaged 58 per cent possession in Premier League games last season; the highest in the league alongside Manchester City.
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