by Bulldog Drummond
The Specialist in Failure League
- A win for Arsenal would leave Arsenal top of the league
- A defeat for Arsenal could leave us as low as third… two points behind the leaders.
- A win for Chelsea would leave them 13th or 14th.
- A defeat for Chelsea would leave them 14th, 15th or 16th.
Chelsea have in fact been doing rather well of late, unbeaten since Guus Hiddink replaced the Specialist in Failure José Mourinho in December. And yes they have got ten points from six league games, which is a significant improvement.
Ah… Mourinho the man who laughed at everyone else because he always won and always got it right, became the person they had to sack just to ensure they didn’t drop into the second division. The aftermath is still going on – unbelievably Chelsea are still fighting their ex-medical officer in the employment tribunals.
Thus we have the interesting spectacle of the owner not accepting any blame for having appointed Mourinho and not accepting that Mourinho did anything wrong in the way he treated Dr Eva Carneiro. One wonders if the owner ever takes any blame for anything. Ever.
Mourinho and Abramovich are thus two of a kind: neither accepting any blame for anything. In Mourinho’s case he still won’t accept the fact that he was not good enough to motivate his players and achieve over a 2.5 year period what Arsene Wenger did over a 19.5 year period – keep them in the top four.
True of course he did win the title last season, and there are undoubtedly Arsenal supporters who would argue that since Fourth is not A Trophy, and playing every year in the Champs League is an irrelevance, and since two FA Cups in succession is also not A Trophy, Mourinho is the better deal. However some of us would sooner have what we have – the stadium already built, and a self-sustainable club. For me, quite how they got into this mess with so much money at their disposal, 30+ youth players on loan, and the self-proclaimed best manager in the world, is hard to imagine.
Coming fourth does not get a trophy of course, but it would have been nice to see Mourinho not get it.
Now there are some authors who have published football books arguing that the removal of Mourinho is irrelevant for it is not the manager who makes a difference but a club’s total wage spend. The more you spend on players the higher up the league you get. Different authors argue for all sorts of numbers between 81% and 89% of the impact on where a club ends up in the league is dependent on the wage spend. The rest is down the the manager.
Except that even if this claim were true (and there are severe doubts about the argument) there are problems. It is not just how much you spend but who you spend it on. Lots of papers have covered the story that when Liverpool! bought Mario Balotelli they did so knowing perfectly well that he was not the right player for them. They bought him anyway because they couldn’t get anyone else. They just felt they had to spend, spend, spend.
This is of course the reverse of Mr Wenger who always says he will only buy if the player is an improvement on who he already has.
And besides, the Chelsea problem is not so much that Mourinho didn’t buy enough, but rather that he bought wrong – in the sense that the team were unable to meld together this season. Of course Mourinho did win lots of things with the clubs he has managed – but this time however he just got it very wrong. Much more wrong than the man he labelled the “Specialist in Failure”.
The simple fact is that changing managers over and over again isn’t a recipe for success. Between September 2007 and June 2013 (ie Mourinho leaving to Mourinho arriving) the club previously known as Chelsea (now renamed Abramovich’s Toy – has had as manager Grant, Scolari, Wilkins, Hiddink, Ancelloti, AVB, Matteo, and Benitez. Despite it having unimaginable wealth, wealth far beyond anything that Arsenal could even dream of, it only won the League once.
So how could Chelsea have been very good indeed, and then slip from the desired aim of winning everything all the time, and tumble down the league?
One explanation is that the team that Mourinho gathered wasn’t actually that good, but they would always play far above their abilities for him. Except that this can only carry on for so long, until the real ability of each player is seen and understood – the third season when Mournho’s sides start to fall apart.
Another explanation is that somehow suddenly Mourinho lost it and couldn’t manage any more.
A third explanation is that Mourinho spends his time telling players how good they are, and they respond as we all do to this praise and do better and better. But eventually this approach slips – players are told they are so good for so long that they believe it too much, and they stop trying quite so much, because they are just naturally So Good.
Personally I go for the last explanation, but with the caveat that for this weekend’s match the players will be extra motivated. They are after all playing Arsenal.
Cesc Fabregas, the man with the curious and mixed DNA and blood relationship has looked fairly awful this season, but he will want to do everything right and if possible score several times. Apart from his desire to do it against us, he’ll also want to do it anyway either to secure his place at Chelsea or get himself a decent transfer fee when he is shuffled on in the summer.
But let’s return to this point that actually the Chelsea team is not that good, but that Mourinho was a superb motivator. The WhoScored analysis of players is particularly interesting on this point: they list players by a rating system widely accepted in football, showing the contribution of players in the team.
Here’s the top 20 list of players from Arsenal and Chelsea. SpG is shots per goal. PS is pass success.
What we see here is that the top eight in the 20 are all Arsenal players, and 11 of the top 12 are Arsenal.
It is not just that Arsenal have the better players and are higher up the league, it is the fact that while Chelsea are in general decline of late, Arsenal’s players are getting ever great accolades
We’ve heard so much about Ozil I don’t have to repeat it, and of course there has been the total about turn by the media over the worth of Giroud. But also sneaking up in the list is Nacho Monreal. The BBC web site says of him,
“The Spanish full back has recently signed a new deal at Arsenal and deservedly so. In a season where Arsenal have suffered their usual injury crisis, Monreal has been a steady and excellent performer. He is arguably one of the best full back in the league, and will be crucial in keeping the rejuvenated Chelsea side from scoring.”
So overall, Chelsea have slipped down the league because their players are not so good as ours, but they will try harder today because they are playing Arsenal.
OK, not especially profound… I’ll try harder in the second part of the preview.
Two more anniversaries.
- 23 January 1971: Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 1 (FA Cup 4th round), en route to the first Double. The replay was on 1 February. See Arsenal in the 70s part 3. Storey scored with a penalty.
- 23 January 2002: Leicester 1 Arsenal 3 – the match postponed from 1 January. League match 23 of the third Double season. Van Bronckhurst, Henry and Wiltord scored.