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.