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Arsenal v Chelsea – which club strategy has worked better?

Comparing the Gunners keeping faith with Wenger to Chelsea’s succession of managers.

FOOTBALL 02/01/18 13:10
Arsenal v Chelsea – which club strategy has worked better?

Sticking or twisting. Staying put, versus moving on. It is a question for many walks of life, not least football.

And few encapsulate it better than the contrasting approaches to managers of Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger, and Chelsea, with, at present, Antonio Conte.

Here we look at which strategy has worked better.

No exit versus revolving door

Antonio Conte
(Nick Potts/PA)

Wenger has spent 21 years as Arsenal manager. Yet since his most recent Premier League title, in 2003-04, when Claudio Ranieri was Chelsea boss, even the genial Italian has a championship winner’s medal (with Leicester in 2015-16), while the Frenchman’s wait continues. Ranieri was the boss owner Roman Abramovich inherited and since seven permanent bosses have been hired. Jose Mourinho was appointed twice and won the league three times (2004-05, 2005-06 and 2014-15). Conte, the incumbent, won the title in his first season in 2016-17.

Chaotic Chelsea? Maybe not

John Terry
(Mike Egerton/Empics)

The absence of a managerial dynasty at Chelsea may, from the outside, be perceived as a flaw. But while the Blues had numerous changes at the top, their team was reasonably consistent, with a formidable spine: Petr Cech in goal, John Terry in defence, Frank Lampard in midfield and Didier Drogba up front. Since becoming the only London club to win the European Cup, with their Champions League triumph in 2012, those four and those in significant supporting roles (Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, John Obi Mikel, to name a few), have left gradually. Terry’s departure last summer was the last, but there are overlaps between his and the current generation. Meanwhile, Wenger’s autocratic regime has shown numerous cracks. His team began breaking up after the 2004 title and he is still trying to replace them.

Trophy cabinet

Theo Walcott
(Nick Potts/PA)

Chelsea’s has been full to bursting at times since 2004, while Arsenal’s moved from Highbury to the Emirates, where it was empty for years. Mourinho called Wenger “a specialist in failure”, which was disingenuous, but the Frenchman’s Gunners did endure a nine-year trophy drought between FA Cup wins in 2005 and 2014. Two more have followed (in 2015 and 2017). Since claiming the prize they most coveted, the Champions League, the Blues have won the Europa League, two Premier League titles and one League Cup. Bar 2016-17, Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League, which Arsenal are absent from this season for the first time since 1997.

Going good for Gunners

Conte has won one of his five matches against the Gunners, including the 2017 FA Cup final loss and last August’s Community Shield defeat on penalties. After drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge last September, Arsenal will on Wednesday look to go unbeaten against Chelsea in a Premier League season for the first time in six years, since 2011-12. The last time they stopped the Blues scoring was in 1998-99. Arsenal’s 3-0 win at the Emirates in 2016-17 prompted the change in approach for Conte which delivered the title for Chelsea. With Manchester City well clear, that prospect is slim this time, but Chelsea are seeking to be the best of the rest, while Arsenal are aiming to stay in top four contention. Arsenal and Chelsea play each other twice more this month, in the two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final.

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