Ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s potentially eye-catching encounter with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp’s admiration for the work of his opposite number, Arsene Wenger, was clear to see. And it is easy to understand why.
An increasing rarity among Europe’s elite, both Dortmund and Arsenal have achieved success on relatively modest budgets. They have also had to deal with their better players repeatedly being seduced by the glory and riches on offer elsewhere. For the likes of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie for Arsenal, with Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze and imminently Robert Lewandowski for Dortmund.
After several barren years and much criticism, Arsenal have started the season in sparkling form. The Gunners sit atop of the Premier League and go into the meeting with Dortmund knowing that a win would all-but secure a place in the knockout stage. Klopp is certainly a fan.
“Arsenal have kept their style despite the criticism,” the charismatic Dortmund boss said. “I feel their style has always been modern and now I feel it is working well. I've been impressed with Arsenal's development and it will be two teams playing very well playing each other.”
Of course, Arsenal’s success this season has been sparked by the club obliterating its transfer record with the £42 million purchase of German attacking midfielder Mesut Ozi. More unheralded, though, has been the role of Mathieu Flamini. The Frenchman arrived in a more traditional piece of Wenger business, on a free transfer. His performances since returning to the club mean his absence from the clash with Dortmund, with a concussion suffered at the weekend, is a significant blow. Flamini joins the likes of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines, though Santi Cazorla returned to action in the weekend win over Norwich City.
Arsenal have also profited from not having to sell one of their star men this summer, a luxury not afforded to Dortmund. The loss of the young icon of the team, Gotze, came as a bolt from the blue. Once again, though, Klopp has immediately moved on.
With the money raised from the midfielder’s transfer to Bayern Munich, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis have arrived to give the squad more strength and provide realistic expectations that for the first time the team can flourish both in the Bundesliga and Champions League.
Klopp, who will be absent from the touchline on Tuesday as he serves the second game of his ban for his maniacal rant in the defeat at Napoli, has to cope with several injuries, however, for the trip to London. Polish right-back Lukasz Piszczek is a long-term absentee, while midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Sebastian Kehl remain on the sidelines. The absence of the latter two is likely to mean a starting role for Nuri Sahin. The Turkey international, who came close to joining Arsenal on loan last season, is a sign that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Bundesliga Player of the Year for 2010-2011, Sahin got a big move to Real Madrid, but things failed to work out and after a disappointing loan move to Liverpool he came back to the Westfalenstadion on loan.
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs
M: Arteta, Ramsey
Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla
Borussia Dortmund (probable)
D: Grosskreutz, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer
M: Bender, Sahin
Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus
Where to watch: The Champions League Group F match will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.