An open letter to Chelsea and Jose Mourinho from an Arsenal fan
Chelsea take on Arsenal in the Community Shield on Sunday
Dear José Mourinho and various Chelsea fans,
I gotta hand it to you. You've won this thing before a minute of football has even been played. No matter the actual outcome, you've got the inside angle on winning. If Chelsea win, of course, the story is simple: Arsène Wenger continues to be a specialist in failure.
If Arsenal win, however much this complicates the plot, you can dismiss it in your snide, sneering self-serving way. It's only the Community Shield, after all. No one takes it seriously anymore – that is, if anyone ever did take it seriously in the first place.
Yep. That's right. You and Chelsea are in the enviable no-risk position of going into a match whose outcome means nothing. Do whatever you want. Win, lose, it doesn't matter. And yet...
In any other season, this might all be true. Then again, this is the season in which you've lost a power-struggle against your own sugar-daddy, with club-legend Petr Cech leaving Chelsea to join Arsenal. Had you found a way to win the EPL in 2014, we could entertain a debate about what the Community Shield might mean in light of Cesc Fabregas's return to the wrong side of London. But you didn't. Manchester City did. Right off the bat, then, we have several layers of an onion to unpeel.
For one, Roman Abramovich seems to have overruled you regarding Cech's destination. Whereas you refused to sell or loan us Demba Ba in 2014, fearing he would give us the firepower to win the EPL, you've now had to watch helplessly as one of the best goalkeepers in the EPL, if not the world, has crossed over. Cech, by John Terry's own estimation, could help us claim another 10 to 12 points.
To what degree will his departure undermine Courtois' performance? Yes, Begovic is a fine keeper, but it's open question as to whether he'll challenge or mentor Courtois to the same degree that Cech might have.
That other layer refers to last year's Community Shield, the one in which we shellacked Man City 3-0. As with this season's competition, it's seemingly meaningless, a bit of silverware that represents little else other than a glorified friendly, but we do have to consider if only for a moment the fact that Arsenal, after thrashing City 3-0, went on to take four points from two EPL fixtures against that squad – our best haul in four years.
Oh. Sorry. I'm using "history" – a term that in this situation refers to what a club has achieved in what is colloquially known as the "past" – another term in need of definition. Taken together, "history" and "the past" refer to a time period that variously refers further back than, say, five or ten years. While it's true that you all have enjoyed some glory of late, that's quite a bit different from achieving or enjoying success over the long term.
I'd venture a guess at the notion that many of Chelsea's fans are new to the game, having "pledged" their "loyalty" to Chelsea after a quick gander at the table. After all, it's easy to support a club that's enjoyed so much success. No one, after all, supports clubs that never win, which explains why the only clubs that fill their stadiums are – oh. As it turns out, there are plenty of qualities that inspire loyalty; success is but one on a list.
Also on that list might be tradition. Class. Style. Philosophy. I'd go into defining each of these, but the definitions might involve other long, difficult-to-pronounce and impossible-to-understand words. Suffice it to say that it might be difficult, if not impossible, to understand what follows. I'll try to keep it monosyllabic.
The club that wears red is more good than the club that wears blue.
Sorry. Hemmed in too much. Arsenal are better than Chelsea. Confused? I'll use Mourinho's own words:
“If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years, I think maybe you will find a surprise. If you put Özil plus Alexis Sánchez, plus Chambers, plus Debuchy, you will find a surprise. Get a calculator.”
Yep. We've spent a bit in the last two windows. Özil (£42m) and Alexis (£35m) were a bit pricey for a club that hadn't ever spent more than £12m before splurging for Özil. Fair point. Clubs that spend a lot should expect to succeed by a commensurate amount.
While it's true that Chelsea have been very quiet this summer, it's hard to ignore the fact that the club has bought no fewer than 13 players at transfer fees above £15m, to the tune of some £281.7m in transfer fees (to say nothing of weekly wages) over the last four to five years. Perhaps I've been a bit unfair in including 2010/11, but the point, I think, stands. We'll set aside the numerous transfers that fall below this £12m threshold. To delve too deep might prove embarrassing. To Chelsea.
Why haven't you lot won the EPL and FA Cup every year since 2011? Given the enormous spending Chelsea has indulged in, I would expect much, much more than has been delivered. We at Arsenal have come to expect, for better or for worse, more bang for our buck. We have had to sell key players, time and time again, but we've still fought well enough to matter – at least on the margins.
Now that the tables have turned, well, all bets are off. Chelsea are now in an impossible situation. Should you lose on Sunday, the chattering class will talk about how Arsène has finally slain the demon that is Mourinho. Gone will be the 13-match winless streak. Begun will be the debate over how best to run a club. Given the choice 'twixt the two, I'd choose the latter: hard, patient work that proves its own quality over sudden, unsustainable splurging that begs uncomfortable questions.
Should you win on Sunday, everyone will shrug: "Yes, yes, Chelsea have added another...yawn." Should you lose on Sunday, tongues will wag: "What does this mean for the EPL?". Time will tell. Will this be another meaningless friendly, or will it signify something for the EPL?
Either way, something in me suggests that Chelsea have backed themselves into a bit of a corner.