Arsenal’s trip to Stamford Bridge this Sunday will be a clash not only between the players on the pitch but between the contrasting philosophies of the two establishments as well. While the visitors will be led by a manager who values attractive and expansive football, Chelsea find themselves under the rule of a tactician who prioritizes solidarity and effectiveness.
Chelsea are never satisfied with anything less than perfection and their managers are invariably the ones who suffer the consequences, sometimes prematurely. On the other hand, Arsenal have almost grown accustomed to being ‘also-rans’ and are content with their long-standing manager’s values and vision rather than his productivity of late.
Most of all, the glaring disparity lies between the transfer values of the two London-based clubs and adds extra intrigue to what is already expected to be a captivating encounter.
From a business perspective, you have to admire the way Arsenal operate. Not many clubs make the transition to a new stadium, and a significantly bigger one at that, with the sort of ease and tranquility with which they have. Despite the added expenses, the North London outfit have consistently managed to turn a profit over what could have been a trying financial period for them.
You look at their infrastructure and there’s no doubt that they have a solid foundation. They’ve got a great fan-base, a fantastic youth set-up and now a magnificent stadium to go with all of that. They don’t pay over the odds for players and maintain a strict salary cap. In all probability, if it wasn’t for the trend of mega-rich owners entering the European football circuit, Arsenal could well have been one of the most dominant and successful sides in Europe at present.
As it turns out, times have changed, drastically. The reality is that they simply haven’t kept up and in the current climate of exorbitant wages and inflated transfer fees, they have consistently found themselves languishing far behind the more ambitious clubs, demoted from the class of the ‘elite’ to that of the ‘chasing pack’.
They have failed to hold on to their best players which has been one of their main drawbacks. Everytime Wenger looks as if he`s nearly completed the puzzle, a couple of crucial pieces go missing. They have only themselves to blame though, if you want to keep your best players, he needs to be a little flexible and meet some of their demands. Once you do manage to keep them and they bring you success, then the new batch of good players will want to stay for the success rather than the monetary gain.
But when you offer neither the success nor the competitive salary package, you can`t be surprised when your players go looking for greener pastures. Furthermore, none of their players have been `stolen` from them. On the contrary, clubs have paid good money to lure them away from Arsenal but the latter in turn has decided against investing some of that money back into the squad.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin Van Persie are just some of the players who were sold at hefty prices but the club haven`t come close to replacing them with players of similar pedigree. The board claims that they will start competing with the big guns once Financial Fair Play (FFP) sets in but you can understand the frustration from the fans who are tired of supporting a club `in transition` for nearly a decade.
The man who played a big part in exposing their flawed philosophy is none other than Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich. The Russian billionaire took over the West London club in 2003 and introduced a flawed philosophy of his own. His constituted spending above and beyond the norm to attract world-class players to build an empire that was meant to conquer domestically and on the European stage.
The employment of Jose Mourinho brought immediate success to the club and their fans were ecstatic while the rest of the English sides quickly developed an inferiority complex. However, while Manchester United eventually fought back to compete with the Blues for domestic superiority despite being riddle with substantial debt, Arsenal steered clear of the struggle and concerned themselves with merely staying in touch with the leaders.
Of late, Manchester City have taken Chelsea’s free-spending attitude and raised it to a whole new level which earned them the success they craved. Meanwhile, Arsenal are enduring an 8-year trophy drought and are slowly drifting away from the top three, now scrapping with the rest for that fourth spot.
However, despite their success over the years and their persistent ability to compete with the best, Chelsea’s philosophy has more than a few negatives as well. With 9 managers in 8 years, the stability of the club has always been a cause for concern. Managers are never afforded time to implement their methods and are destined to be shown the door from the moment they walk through it.
Last season’s division within the club during Andre Villas-Boas’ regime when the senior players did not see eye to eye with the Portuguese coach, was a prime example of the instability of the club. The owner has far too big a hand in matters affecting the first team. It’s no secret that Abramovich was the driving force behind extravagant moves for Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres.
The current contract issues with veterans Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole only serves to expose further cracks within the club. John Terry was the last youth academy product to break into the first team although Ryan Bertrand has been on the fringes lately. Their disregard for their youth system has forced them to buy new players rather than develop them and that has only further compromised the integrity of the club.
The unstable nature of the club has been tolerated by the fans thus far purely because they’ve been pacified with the silverware being won. However, despite bargaining their veracity and spending millions in the transfer market in the pursuit of glory, Chelsea have still been unable to deliver the kind of attractive football their owner craves.
The purists will continue to support Arsenal’s principle’s and believe in Wenger’s vision while the realists will condemn the lack of productivity and approve of Chelsea’s ‘by any means’ methods to achieve success. Which why the battles between these two sides are often symbolic of the clash between their varying ideologies.