When Arsenal take on Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this week there are perhaps more comparisons between the two than may have originally thought. The Germans won their first league title since 2002 last year and could this be the blueprint for success that Arsene Wenger needs to follow?
Both sides have youth at their core and have lost influential players over the summer but the evidence is there to suggest that there is life after past greats if you put your faith in a system and stick with it.
The German club went through a period of re-building, much like the one Arsenal are currently going through, after the break-up of the team that won the 1997 Champions League final and under the guidance of coach Jurgen Klopp the club have once again reached the summit of German football.
With a team based around youth and astute transfer purchases they dominated last year’s Bundesliga and at times dismantled teams and at one point led the league by 12 points. The club unlike Arsenal has faced financial difficulty and six years ago almost went bankrupt due to the lavish spending of the club’s previous regime.
Though thanks to the new rules implemented by the German football association which declared all clubs in the top two divisions must have academies Dortmund have flourished. They have produced players such as Mario Gotze, who was rumoured to be the subject of a £30m bid from Arsenal this summer, Kevin Grosskreutz, and Nuri Sahin to name just a few.
Like Arsenal going into last season the club had gone a number of years without winning a trophy, eight to be exact, and since the 2002 Bundesliga triumph hadn’t finished higher than fifth in the league. Though Klopp masterminded somewhat of a renaissance at the club and guided his young team to the championship.
Perhaps the most remarkable statistic about this Dortmund side is the fact that the average age of the team that won the league was just 24.3, the lowest of any championship winning side in Bundesliga history.
Though with the season over many feared that Europe’s major clubs would begin to swoop for these extraordinarily talented youngsters and similar to Arsenal Dortmund would lose their talismanic Captain. Nuri Sahin left the club for the riches of Real Madird and the belief was that players such as Gotze would follow, but they didn’t.
Dortmund began their title defence against with a 3-1 destruction of Hamburg, which promoted lavish praise about the harmony of their play. Since this win they have lost their first match at home in 18 games, a 2-1 defeat to Hertha Berlin, and as a result questions are already starting to be asked about their title credentials.
This is something Wenger is all too familiar with and it is prudent to think that on the basis of one result the team is in trouble. The same can be said for the North London club, although they have lost the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri it is unfair to blame a manager that has proven over the years he is more than capable of rebuilding his team.
Wenger can take a great deal of inspiration from Dortmund, he has been criticised for a lack of experience in his team and humiliated by the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford but Dortmund’s story proves that having faith in youngsters and not spending millions can lead to triumph.
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