The Arsene-Jose Conundrum
Do Arsenal get away with the idea that they don’t spend big money?
"This is the easiest thing to do – I don’t do it. Get a calculator. That is the easiest things, it leaves no space for speculation. If you want to be honest, objective and pragmatic it is the easiest job for a manager or journalist to do. If a manager is interested he can do it. I am not. But Diego Costa plus, Fabregas plus Begovic; Schneiderlin plus; Alexis Sanchez plus this one; Benteke plus Balotelli plus this one. It is easy and objective."
This was Jose Mourinho responding on being asked if he though Arsene Wenger gets away with the notion that Arsenal don’t spend unlike Chelsea who “buy” the premier league. Without getting into the argument of whether what he said was factually correct, the underlying notion is that Jose was trying hard to dispense that clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City only win because they are able to splash the cash where as clubs like Arsenal are able to build upon their youth system and aren’t dependent on Russia or Dubai financed money.
Let’s get something straight though- it’s impossible to buy an English Premier League. You can buy a squad worth 500 million but at the end of the day it’s the players who need to perform, stay motivated till the fag end of the season, endure 6-7 matches during the holiday weekend in Christmas and this can’t be bought with money. Case in point-Angel Di Maria. With a price tag of 60 million pounds, on paper, he should have taken the league by storm but off he goes after just one season to PSG for another big money move, albeit at a lesser price tag. A manager might be able to assemble an expensive squad but that’s no guarantee for success and it’s unfair to the emergence of Chelsea and City to just ‘oil money’.
But Arsenal fans do have a point right? Wenger doesn’t pay obscene amounts of money just to buy a player he likes- and there are scores of players Arsenal pulled out of because the player/agent/club demanded more than what he felt was appropriate. And if at the end of this season, Jose win another premier league and Arsenal flatter to deceive, you can be rest assured the barbs will continue between Jose and Arsene, between Arsenal fans who will accuse Chelsea of playing boring football just to win and of buying another title only for Chelsea fans to respond with memes of Messi at the age of 5 and comments on how old Messi was when Arsenal last won title.
In essence, Jose and Arsene belong to two completely different footballing schools of thought and it is a crime to suggest one is better than the other.
Boring versus tiki-taka?
When Schurrle finished an attractive goal assisted by Fabregas (a former Arsenal player some will add) in last season’s opener against Swansea, when Chelsea went on a run of 10 wins and 2 draws during the first 12 games playing flowing attractive football, there was the expectation that Jose had finally met his goal- of manufacturing a footballing machine which was capable of ‘marauding’ it’s opposition ‘beautifully’. But come Christmas, injuries and suspensions meant, it was back to 1-0 and 2-1 wins.
Would Arsene in the same situation have settled for such victories? You can’t imagine Arsene sending on Mikel in place of Costa with 30 mins left to play leading 1-0. He would do the exact opposite and send on some 15-year-old academy winger who can run like Bolt to replace Matic and try to finish off the game. Both alternatives might result in disaster but who’s to argue against Jose who has made it a habit of winning and closing out victories? Who’s to deny Wenger when he has millions of fans who will rather enjoy a 4-3 home victory for Arsenal rather than a boring 1-0 win? Neither is better than the other and one can criticize that Chelsea lost last season against PSG in the champion’s league simply because Jose was too conservative in the away leg only to lose the tie by reckless defending in the home leg.
One can also argue, Wenger would have won more titles by being a little more pragmatic.
Money versus academy?
The last player to graduate out of Chelsea’s academy was Terry and he looks to be the last for some time to come. The same cannot be said about Arsenal. But consider this - last season Jose had a chance to retain Lukaku as his primary striker and to build a squad capable of challenging and winning the league or sell Lukaku and buy a top notch proven striker in Costa. Jose chose the latter and it’s not hard to venture a guess - Arsene would have done the former.
Jose seems to have made the right decision - he is someone who lives in the present and needs ready to break in players. He needs his wards to die if he asks them to. Maybe Lukaku wasn’t ready for that. Wenger’s decision would have been to have him the squad and mould him into the final product he requires. In 10 years time, Chelsea might have an academy full of players who are nowhere near to the first team and a senior team with 3-4 titles and Arsenal would have excellent bench strength with maybe 1 title to show. Who’s to deny an Arsenal youngster an opportunity if he wants to move to a club which challenges for trophies – a.k.a Fabregas, RVP, Nasri etc.
You can always argue Van Pursestrings and Cashley had other reasons to move also, but the fact remains, they have won the league title more than Theo Walcott or Gibbs. Chelsea too could have a serious problem in that no one would want to come to the club as a teen as you chances of breaking into the first team are near nil.
Trophies versus philosophy?
At the end of the day, Jose is a trophy hunter. All he cares about winning and he doesn’t care about how his team does it. If at the end of 90 mins his team has even 0.1 goals more than his opponent, he would swear his was the better team. And you dare not doubt his position among the great footballing managers of all time. To win league titles in 4 countries and the champions league with 2 different team (and possibly few more), is no mean achievement. And he has done it with oil money, with Italian owners and under a maniac in Madrid and in a small club like Porto.
"That team plays really well and the ball goes and goes and goes and the quality of the ball possession is really beautiful, but no goals.
"And they ask the international board of FIFA to play like this, but they were told that it was not possible, that the bigger percentage of ball possession doesn't win matches and they were not champions."
And we all know what Arsene Wenger would say his philosophy his. He feels a commitment to playing attractive football and to entertain fans at the same time compete for trophies and he would never sacrifice his ideals just for a win. He is an old-school manager and he might have lesser league trophies than Jose but will always have his respect intact as among the best in the business.
As fans though, we do enjoy these battles and we are only richer to witness such an era in football (like a Federer vs Nadal - finesse vs power).