It's fair to say that Dortmund deserved to go through, based on their superb fightback. Their high pressing strategy worked wonders as Real were almost forced to make mistakes. Indeed, for the first goal, Marco Reus had foreseen Pepe to head the ball towards Casillas. He intercepted the pass, rounded Iker and tapped it in.
Dominating Real Madrid ain't easy, but Dortmund made it look so. Real were almost clueless with the ball, while Dortmund zipped through Real's defence with lightning-pace once they had it. Of course, home advantage at the Westfalenstadion helps a lot, but you can't help but applaud Klopp's tactics. Had Mkhitaryan been more clinical, Dortmund could have found themselves in the semi finals.
Possibly what made the comeback attempt all the more dramatic is that Dortmund didn't have half of their starting XI to play with. The likes of Subotiç, Bender, Gundogan and Schmelzer all missed this match through injury, yet Dortmund nearly achieved the impossible.
Perhaps this is what separates Jurgen Klopp from Arsene Wenger. While Wenger's Arsenal bottled their title challenge and pummeled to 6-0, 3-0 losses under the excuse of "injury", Klopp gelled his reserves and proved that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Tactically miles ahead of Wenger, Klopp somehow managed to replicate his triangle pressing tactics with reserves like Milos Jojic and Oliver Kirch.
That's the part I love about Klopp - the guy never gives up. While Wenger sulks under dubious refereeing decisions and uses injuries as excuses, Klopp defies the odds and tries to get stuff done. Instead of bemoaning sales of Kagawa and Goetze, he cleverly added Reus and Sahin as potential replacements. Meanwhile, in 2011, Wenger lost Cesc and Nasri for £60m and replaced them with Arteta and Benayoun, thus adjusting his sights for fourth. Mind you, Juan Mata was available back then.
Wenger had no alternative game plan once Wojciech Szczesny was sent off against Bayern Munich, two months ago. Yes, the red card was a dubious decision and Robben had made the most of the contact, but what’s the virtue in crying over spilt milk? Instead of shoring up the defence and shutting up shop, Wenger continued with his one-dimensional “pass and move” philosophy and got beaten 0-2 at the end.
It’s a far cry from Mourinho’s Chelsea, for instance. At the end of their famous 2-0 victory over PSG last night, John Terry told the press:
“I thought at 1-0 we always had a chance. We worked a lot all week on scenarios: 1-0, 2-0, 3-1, what would we do if Demba [Ba] came on. We planned to hit the big man and he has scored a great goal. For every scenario, we had a gameplan and once again we got it right.”
Does Wenger’s Arsenal do that? Probably not. Do Klopp’s Dortmund practice that? Evidently, yes they do.
Klopp is a winner. He has the taste for success despite financial constraints and injuries. Wenger, on the other hand, is a tactical dud way past his prime, who brought the greatest club in the world in 2004 to an embarrassing level, where Arsenal now find themselves on the back end of shameful humiliations.
I've seen Dortmund's financial conditions, and it's desperately meagre, much worse than Arsenal’s. With the finances Klopp has, he's implemented the perfect wage budget and has grossly overachieved. Some might point out that Wenger has done something similar, but upon close inspection, he's actually done the polar opposite.
It is true that at one point of time, Arsenal were short of money. However, that period was between 2004 - 2008, not between 2006 - 2013 as many wrongly believe. Arsenal pay around £20m as stadium debt to the Emirates per year, the same they gain from Champions League qualification. No profit, no loss.
Post-2008, the club has made £15m profits total owing to the sales of Hleb, Kolo Toure, Adebayor, Cesc, Robin, Nasri, Clichy and Song. While £15m profits in 6 years might not be considered much, let’s not forget that the money Wenger did spend was on flops like Arshavin (£15m), Silvestre (£1m), Squillaci (£6m), Gervinho (£11m), Park (£3m), Andre Santos (£6m), Arteta (£10m) and Giroud (£10m), all of which amounts to a massive £62m. Wouldn’t one argue that given the circumstances, Arsene Wenger should have spent that money more wisely?
To use an instance, Wenger publicly stated in October 2009 that he passed up an opportunity to sign Xabi Alonso and Gareth Barry. Why? Because according to him, buying players of Alonso’s pedigree would ‘kill’ the potentials of Denilson and Diaby.
As a football fan – not an Arsenal fan – I ask, isn’t it better to have one world-class player than two mediocre players? Isn’t it more practical and useful to put Xabi Alonso on £100,000 salary p/week than to keep average players like Denilson and Diaby on £50,000 + £50,000 salaries respectively? When under supposed financial conditions, wouldn’t it have suited Wenger to keep a squad small in quantity yet filled with “top top quality”?
Of course, there would be side-effects. Instead of a large squad filled with depth, the squad would be less in number and overplayed. The wage budget would be tight, scope to buy players would be low, and the players (due to frequent overplaying) would suffer injuries.
What Jurgen Klopp has done is absolutely the right thing. Wenger, when given less funds to spend, completely lost the plot by keeping average talents like Squillaci, Park, Bendtner, Santos, Mannone, Almunia, Eboue, Senderos, Gervinho, Arshavin, etc. on high pay packets. To make up for the losses, he sold true world-class players and slowly left the club bereft of top talents and filled with average overpaid players.
Klopp, on the other hand, revolutionized German football under less money, winning the Bundesliga twice. With money as low as Wenger’s Arsenal, he put Dortmund on the global map by reaching the final of the Champions League. He followed a much more useful wage policy than Wenger’s socialist wage structure. Today, Dortmund are competing with Arsenal even though Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis has earned Arsenal £140m as cash reserves.
If Klopp were to come to Arsenal, his worries would be put to rest. He wouldn’t have to worry about the squad depth, because at Arsenal he would have the funds to buy quantity as well as quantity. He would also get his space to upgrade on Wenger’s outdated passing philosophy to his blitzkrieg pressing strategies. Most of all, he would have a chance to be the manager of a club that has done what Dortmund are trying to do – achieve success through stability.
I, as an Arsenal supporter, thank Wenger for building a fantastic foundation for the club to push on from. However, he evidently doesn’t have it in him to take the club to the next level. He’s been given plenty of chances and failed at every single one for 6 years now.
Maybe it’s time for fresher ideas now.
-Santi (Follow my blog 'Gunning From India' and my Twitter account: @ArsenalBlogz)