Champions League clash between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund features two managers who have much in common
In the buildup to Borussia Dortmund's Group F match against Arsenal on Tuesday Jürgen Klopp has told the German press on at least one occasion that he has "a good feeling" about the trip to the Emirates. He is, it seems safe to say, far from alone on that score. On the face of it Arsenal against Dortmund is not just the match of the week, a gorgeously intriguing clash of high-intensity attacking styles, it is in its own way a meeting of minds too, a clash of the uber-hipsters.
Arsène Wenger and Klopp have much in common: polyglot tendencies, university education, footballing styles. But it is the almost reproachfully puritanical belief in continuity, team-building and fiscal good sense that links them most clearly. If there is a sensible way to run an elite-level football club in what is at times a bafflingly overheated industry then this – Wenger's Arsenal, Klopp's Dortmund – is perhaps it.
For Arsenal the first instalment of back-to-back meetings with last year's losing Champions League finalists is an opportunity to all but seal qualification to the knockout stages. Beyond this there is something here for everyone, a meeting of the Premier League leaders and the Bundesliga's second-placed team, both of whom have in the past calendar year produced some gorgeously fast-paced attacking football – plus of course another chance to study on English soil what Klopp himself, unburdened by false modesty, has described as "most exciting project in European football".
Perhaps, in their most heated dreams of managerial succession, it is even a glimpse of what may yet be for Arsenal's supporters. Certainly it is hard to imagine a more perfectly formed successor to Wenger, who will be 64 on Tuesday, at Arsenal. Klopp has denied being approached by Manchester City and Chelsea in the summer and recently committed himself to Dortmund "definitely for the next couple of years".
These things rarely work out as they might, and disappointingly for those with an eye on these things Klopp will not even be present on the touchline at the Emirates as he serves the second match of a ban, but for now he has a confirmed admirer in Arsenal's manager.
"He has done extremely well and given a new lease of life to Dortmund," Wenger said on Monday. "Like every passionate guy, he has gone a little overboard in Naples and is punished for that. Overall, you can only congratulate him for the quality of the job he has done, it is exceptional.
"When we played against [Dortmund] two years ago, I felt they have quality. After they beat Bayern for the championship, that proved their level of confidence so I was not too surprised they got to the final last year."
It is in the quality of their attacking options that Dortmund perhaps shade their hosts. Olivier Giroud has scored four goals for Arsenal in this competition over the last two seasons. Robert Lewandowski scored four against Real Madrid in last season's semi-final and is well-equipped to provide Arsenal's defence with its most potent and relentlessly mobile test of the season so far.
Elsewhere the absence of Mathieu Flamini is a significant blow against a team that play with bewildering speed and precision on the break and that have, in Marco Reus, a player who can be devastatingly effective in Flamini's in-between territory.
For their part Dortmund have an expert midfield shield of their own in Sven Bender. His ability to close down the space around Mesut Özil will be key, as will Wenger's deployment of his own prized German. It may well be an ideal moment for Özil to rove a little to the right, as he did at home against Napoli.
Not that Arsenal will be entirely cowed by opponents who, for all their recent success, often tend to play in spurts. Dortmund kicked off the season with seven straight wins but at the end of last season they went five matches without one, and they have won just three of their last seven going back to the 2-1 defeat in Napoli in September.
This is the start of a vital period: in the next five weeks Dortmund will play Arsenal twice, Schalke, Bayern Munich and Napoli. Perhaps surprisingly, there has already been some talk of player fatigue, even some gripes from the manager about a lack of time with his players. At the weekend Klopp asked his players to "take a deep breath" before the Emirates. This might be good advice all round.