Contrasting Approaches: Chelsea and Arsenal
Nine managers and counting since the Roman era at Chelsea F.C. began in 2004. Managers have come and prematurely gone at the hands of Abramovich, the latest being Roberto Di Matteo (262 days) who managed to outlast both Luis Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas.
The agenda of a modern day manager is far from what football should be about. Scouting talent, cultivating youth players, focusing on home grown players, etc. is no longer the outline for anyone given a new managerial post in English football. This new trend of impatience has been evidently set forth by Abramovich.
With eight managers trying their luck and eight different approaches being tested, it’s high time Abramovich sees that if these highly experienced managers couldn’t succeed with the squads given to them, then maybe the problem lies with the squad.
It is undoubted that the Chelsea squad possesses immense talent, so the lack of it can safely be ruled out. But all that talent is thrown away if the correct attitude isn’t present in the dressing room. The Chelsea squad provided to the various managers over the years comprises of some of the same key players who, over time, seem to have earned the ability to call the shots more than the manager himself. One of the key factors that has led to the downfall of many of these managers is the lack of respect from the senior members of the squad, and if your senior members aren’t going to set an example, the younger players are bound to pick up the same kind of attitude. At this particular London club, there are three to four players that have been at the club long enough to feel that they run the club.
With this, the managers being appointed are powerless to begin with.
John Terry, who has been quite an infamous figure in the world of football of late, always has the backing of the Chelsea faithful. Many a manager has had a problem with the magnitude of authority that Terry imposes over the team. The media in England have brought this to the surface numerous times, and it’s sure that Abramovich has taken note of this. But he’s left with a choice of taking out a world class centre back that has the support of all the fans or the manager himself.
Other senior figures like Frank Lampard more often than not, seem to have more control over the team than any of the coaching staff. With multiple authoritative figures present at the club, there’s bound be a clashing of ideas and without compromise, progress of any kind will be hard to make.
None of the managers so far have been able to tame these players so far and Abramovich is then given the choice of removing a group of talented players that could hit the squad hard or remove the manager himself. The end result of this is becoming too predictable now.
Let’s cross over to the other side of London.
The current situation at The Emirates is rather contrary to what is happening to their cross town rivals. Arsenal have entrusted themselves in Arsene Wenger for 16 years and counting. Wenger is now the second-longest serving manager in the top flight of British football. Wenger’s approach to football is everything football should be – spotting talent and nurturing it. The patience to do so, which the current world of football refuses to have.
The squad he now possesses is currently diminished in talent when compared to what Arsenal had a few years ago, but is far from lacking it all together. With the likes of Jack Wishere, Thomas Vermaelen, Santiago Cazorla, Theo Walcott etc, the potential in their current team is evident, although they seem nothing more than a shadow of any of the former squads Wenger had managed to cultivate. Even so, this current squad seems good enough for a top four finish, but beyond that, for them to bring home silverware, a certain catalyst seems to be missing.
What Arsenal lack is what Chelsea have in excess – a commanding figure from within the squad. Over the years, the Gunners have had natural leaders in their squad which was a vital part of their success. But selling them might have been too big a mistake which they are yet to recover from.
Wenger has managed to sell four of the club captains in the past seven years. The first one to leave was Patrick Vieira to Juventus in 2005. He managed to achieve instant success there with the Turin-based club retaining the Scudetto (which was later stripped, but none the less). The former French international was a dominant figure in the middle of the park and was influential in Gunners’ success in the early 2000s.
They then sold their next captain, Thierry Henry, to Barcelona in 2007. Arguably one of the greatest forwards that Arsenal have had in their history, the twice crowned PFA Players’ Player of the Year enjoyed success at the Nou Camp (Two La Liga titles back to back) following his departure from The Emirates.
Wenger went on to sell Cesc Fabregas in 2011 and Robin van Persie in 2012, both to European competitors Barcelona and Manchester United. William Gallas also left after spending four years at the London club.
With the sale of such prominent figures, Arsenal are left lacking an inspirational figure. Arsenal have now been left with two kinds of players in their squad:
One, the type that are too young to be given that empowering role and two, players who are too new to the club to be given that role. The more senior players like Mikel Arteta and Cazorla. are too recent to the club to force an impact similar to what Henry or Vieira had done. One can argue, saying that Fabregas, who was Arsenal’s youngest captain, did more than a decent job. But this doesn’t mean making a young player such a Wilshere would yield the same result.
Having already been at the club for five years prior to that and playing along side senior players like Henry, Sol Campbell, Pires, Bergkamp, etc, the Spaniard was mature beyond his years and Wenger was right in entrusting him with the captain’s armband.
As for their current captain, most of us can agree that Vermaelen is more of a tremendous center back than a center back and a captain put together.
In the current day, a football fan wants his club to be complete. A long term manager who is given job security, who is respected and knows what he is doing, talented players who know their place, a financially balanced situation, a productive youth system and most of all, trophies.
The current Chelsea and Arsenal squads are both capable of winning trophies; they have their respective up and coming youth players, and are financially stable. But what seems to be the problem here is extremities of the same case.
The Chelsea players must understand that with the appointment of a manager, they must pipe down, suppress their egos and listen to what the boss has to say. Having spent a significant amount of time at the club doesn’t mean a player gets to run it. Such a case when multiple players of this kind arise in the same squad will not spell growth in anyway. As for their trigger happy owner, Roman Abramovich, one would have thought he would have learned by now. You could use a little patience.
As in the case with Arsenal, patience has been aplenty. Even so, everyone has begun to blame the manager for the club’s misfortunes. It’s high time the senior players like Vermaelon, Rosicky and Arteta becoming more commanding, both on and off the pitch. Wenger is known to employ younger players more than most other managers and these young players need inspiration from within the squad. The Arsenal players have a manager who has immense faith in them and a fan following who has been with them through thick and thin. It’s about time they restore the pride the club once had.
Modern football seems to dislike the concept of patience, slowly phasing it out of the game. Owners refuse to wait for their team to be built, demanding nothing but instant success. Vince Lombardi Jr. was an American football coach and although he is concerned with a different sport, one of his quotes is apt here:
“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”