By Tony Attwood
If you run a business, its one of the first things you have to learn: to manage the expectations your customers have. If you don’t manage expectations and you allow your customers to expect far more than you can actually deliver for the price, you get complaints, demands for refunds, and legal action in the county court for supplying goods that have been falsely advertised.
As a result you spend far more time trying to solve problems that customers have imagined, and less time doing the things you should be doing – such as making sales.
The problem for football however is that expectations are not in the hands of clubs. They probably were at one time – and indeed if you go back and read Arsenal programmes from the first half of the last century you’ll see expectations were in keeping with reality. The club was positive, but realistic. But gradually the press and radio took over, and of course more recently TV and then the blogs. Everyone can create expectations and then moan like mad if their club doesn’t reach them.
What makes it worse is that 99% or more of the commentaries are either invented and at best a magnification of a story.
For example the Daily Telegraph today runs with “Mourinho ‘given final chance’ by Abramovich” and one is bound to ask, “how do they know?” The clue comes in a later statement that “Chelsea owner is said to be mulling over replacement for the embattled Portuguese coach.” “Mulling over” is a little different from the implication of the first headline.
The problem for Chelsea supporters at the moment is twofold
a) There is an assumption that money can buy trophies
b) There is a belief that Chelsea have some sort of right to win trophies.
To a degree a) is true – money can buy trophies. Man City and Chelsea had a long term history of only moderate success (Chelsea not winning their first league title until they brought in ex-Arsenal man Ted Drake as manager and he gave them the title in 1955). Man City have only won the league four times (1936–37, 1967–68, 2011–12, 2013–14) to Chelsea’s five (1954–55, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2009–10, 2014–15).
But money is not an absolute guarantee. Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003, so has won the league four times as an owner in 11 years. Not as good as Arsenal who won the league five times in eight years in the 1930s – and without anything like the financial dominance that Chelsea now have.
What’s more, as the earlier articles on the subject showed, even the more simple link between buying expensive players and success is not at all a certainty. The figures we used in the articles on the subject suggested that only 25% of big purchase players make it in their first year, and even if given time only half of the mega-costly players live up to the high profile expectations.
If we turn to Manchester United there is a different issue. They have been in the big money league through their successful world-wide marketing activities since the 1960s, and have also always been able to maximise the income from the large stadium. But that has not automatically brought success. When Man U brought in Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986 they had not won the league since 1967 despite huge crowds and loads of money.
In other words the assumption that money can buy trophies is only partially true.
But point b) above – the assumption that a club has some sort of right to win trophies is the more dangerous, because it can never be met.
As I have pointed out several times before there are three domestic trophies to win each season and in the last two years Man C have won two of them, Chelsea two of them and Arsenal two of them. And yet, as we see even on this site, where we do try and ask for evidence to back up claims, there are often people who write in claiming that Wenger is useless and must go. Seemingly trophies are no longer the issue – one has to win the right trophies.
So when we come to an analysis of Arsenal we now have
a) There is an assumption that money can buy trophies – and Arsenal have lots of it so should spend more and so win trophies. (As the Venky’s said when they bought Blackburn, “How hard can it be?”)
b) That Arsenal have some sort of right to win trophies.
c) That the FA Cup doesn’t count as a trophy any more.
Managers and fans can react in all sorts of ways to the view that their club has a right to win. Mourinho, without citing anything remotely like the sort of refereeing statistics that we produce each week on Untold Arsenal, claims now that all the refs are against Chelsea. The fact that Costa (despite all his previous) yet again escaped even an FA hearing, let along FA action after he was seen to kick out at Skrtel shows just how wrong his assumption is.
A further belief, which feeds into fans and only serves to take expectations upwards is the belief that changing managers will always help. After Mourinho left in 2007 Chelsea had seven managers in six years. And yes they had success – winning a trophy on average once a year. A good run indeed.
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