Klopp identifies Arsenal's danger men, not Ozil, not Ramsey

Laurent Koscielny

The Borussia Dortmund manager appears concerned that the Gunners possess a couple of in-form players who can quieten the home side's best player.

Perpetual accolades are bestowed upon Arsenal's glamour players such as Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey but the team has an unheralded partnership whom they rely on just as much as their sublime forwards.

Traditionally defenders are deemed to be amongst the least sexy of all the positions. It is rare for a centre back to win the Ballon d'Or and consensus opinion on continental playgrounds is largely built on the foundation of fool be the kid who grows up wanting to be the next Thiago Silva when Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi control footballs as well as they do.

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Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, though, was not one of those kids. Granted, his initial position of choice was a striker, where he returned a career-total 52 league goals for Mainz, but the ever-quotable 46-year-old adapted to a new role, that of a defender, mid-way through his playing years and continues to spot talent there today.

And it is Arsenal's defence who seemingly most concern Klopp, for it is they who managed to quieten Dortmund's greatest attacking asset - Robert Lewandowski - for much of the match a fortnight ago and it is they who will build their own 'red and white wall' in defiance of the yellow one made famous by Der BVB fans when the two sides clash later, Wednesday, November 6 at Signal Iduna Park.

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'This will be a great fight and there will be a lot of man-on-man tackles,' Klopp is quoted by the Daily Mail to have said. 'It will be tough for Lewandowski against Mertesacker and Koscielny. He will have to impose his game.’

Indeed, the pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny has foiled many an attacker, not just because of their ability to intercept, block and tackle, but also because of their combined nous when it comes to beginning passages of play and retaining possession.

In Premier League football, both are noted for their tackling success rate (77.5% combined), their prolific clearing and intercepting, and, somewhat crucially, how they rarely concede a foul.

But the pair, who recently helped Arsenal keep a clean sheet against English football's most on-form strike partnership - Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez of Liverpool, have maintained their Premier League form in the Champions League, enjoying a 96% combined pass completion stat.

While both have enjoyed a mercurial rise in appreciation, their ability was never lost on Gunners legend Tony Adams, who remarked earlier in the year that the root of their success is not just because of talent, but also familiarity: 'Mertesacker is a zonal defender and Koscielny is a man-to-man marker. They got to know each other's game because they played with each other week in, week out.'

Can Mertielny/Kosacker keep Lewandowski at bay in Dortmund? Let us know in the comment section below…

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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