Many have been critical of Arsenal’s beginning of the season. The seeds of doubt have been ominous for some time, manifesting in the continued pre-occupation with youth and bringing through burgeoning talent, rather than more readily purchasing the more ‘finished’ articles. Arsene Wenger, maybe somewhat stubbornly, has persisted with this approach, but there is evidence from the continent that such an approach of youth and attractive football can be successful.
That example is Borussia Dortmund, the reigning Bundesliga champions. Managed by Jurgen Klopp, the team had the youngest average age, 24.3, of any team which had ever won the league title. The club had never finished higher than fifth in the previous eight years, and expectations for their eventual title winning season were only another fifth place finish. Proof then that experience is not always as wholly important as it is often made out to be.
As with any title winning side, there were stand-out players who have since become some of Europe’s most sought after. Mario Goetze, a tricky dribbler, has been with Dortmund since he was 8. Kevin Grosskreutz, an attacker, has local roots which are so strong that according to Four Four Two he still has a season ticket for Dortmund’s south stand. Mats Hummels has an amusing backstory. He was released by Bayern Munich due to the side wanting greater experience, yet now he is arguably the best german centre back, a mainstay in the national side, a league winner and still only 22. Like Arsenal, Dortmund also brought in promising young talent from foreign shores, with the most emphatic example being that of Shinji Kagwa, a Japanese forward signed for only £300,000. Apparently he’s caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Like Wenger’s Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund are financially astute, yet this is through no stubbornness or education of economics. It was through necessity. Dortmund stumped up the cash to become big name side in European football in the 1990’s yet this was felt a decade later with the real threat of bankruptcy. The club was saved but now is far more conservative financially. The choice was made to have faith in a group of youngsters, whose passion was high, yet had a financially low outlay.
Indeed, profit has been made, with the impressive Nuri Sahin making a big money move to Real Madrid in the summer transfer window. That is the sides only real loss, which is a testament to the management at the club who have ensured that this hungry ‘unit’ of players can stay together for another season and an adventure in the Champions League. A trip to Arsenal is even in the diary.
The players posses no big ego’s, which is arguably one of very few differences between Arsenal and Dortmund. Arsenal have proved in the shape of Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs that they can bring through players, and in Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott that they can progress and nurture it too. Arsenal too have the more experienced abilities of Van Persie and Vermaelen to call upon. Dortmund do not. Arsenal also have the capability to spend larger sums of money to compliment their youth. Dortmund do not. Therefore it would seem that if Dortmund can win the league in Germany, then surely it could translate that Arsenal may at least win a trophy? When this is taken into account then Wenger, in some way at least, could be vindicated in his approach.
Written by Adam Cresswell