Arsenal v Chelsea
The Boys were Blue
When I was a kid growing up, Chelsea were a good side with plenty of top players like Peter Osgood RIP, Peter Bonetti RIP, John Hollins, and they had George Graham before us plus the legendary Jimmy Greaves RIP graced Stamford Bridge. They had the Indian sign over us in the ‘60’s, beating us most times, a bit like when Mourinho was in charge.
Their flair centreforward - he was good
But Arsenal didn’t choose me until the late 60’s and by the 70’s our record against them was pretty good. That continued into the 80’s and 90’s. And so they didn’t haunt my nightmares and I didn’t worry too much about playing them. They didn’t win trophies as their only league title was in 1955, before my time. They won a league cup in 1965, but it was very much a minor trophy then. In short, they weren’t big boys at all and nor were any London teams other than ourselves. We were the only southern team to challenge the complete dominance of teams north of Watford but in the 60’s we were an average side, living on past glories, and unable to push for the top.
George Graham played for Chelsea when he had hair
The Blue Demon awakes
And so it is shocking how Chelsea have risen. Since the millennium shifted they have been the best team in England, notching up trophy after trophy, leaving us, and most teams, trailing in their wake. By some metrics they could even claim to have surpassed us as the 3rd best team overall in England. I will get to the metrics later. Even at our height, under Wenger, we could not claim a long time as the best team in England as some Scottish guy’s team were often better than us. Chelsea better than us? It seems so hard to take as they were like the other London teams when I was growing up and indeed long after I became an adult. They would be beaten when necessary. Only Arsenal could take on the big boys as equals. We could sneer at the others, let you enjoy your little cup runs, or winning minor trophies. Arsenal were the kings of London, it was as simple as that. And now Chelsea are.
The Blue Demon is worse than the Red Devil
We were so far ahead of them it was unreal. But now? 13 league titles to 6, yes we are better. 14 FA cups to 8, again better. And then it all goes wrong. 2 League cups to their 5. 1 Uefa cup to their 2 including when they destroyed us a few years ago. 2 Champions leagues to our, well, none. 2 Cupwinners cups to our one. A Fifa club world cup and 2 Uefa Super cups to our none. And on the pitch? Our recent record is not too good since the millennium. A lot of losses and draws as the new Chelsea emerged. The only chink of light is Arteta’s record is pretty good including beating them at Wembley, 3 wins, a draw and 2 losses.
I would love this trophy Chelsea have
The Devil changed the ball game
Roman Abramovich changed the way football works. He, almost by himself, raised the bar in so many ways that it is staggering. The extraordinary prices charged at the Emirates? Down to him. The unbelievable wages paid to top players and even average players? Down to him. The belief that buying a football club can transform your image worldwide? Down to him. The belief that using money wisely in terms of who you buy, but to extravagant levels that can never be paid back? Down to him. All those titles that are mentioned up above? Down to him. Arsenal and the others are like towns caught in the wake of a tornado, battered, and having to change they way they are built not to be destroyed. All the big teams do things the Abramovich way, or they go nowhere. He wanted to buy Arsenal, they wouldn’t let him. It is reasonable to assume that if he had, we could have won even more than Chelsea, coming from a stronger base. We would probably be vying with Real Madrid now in terms of international revenue.
He changed football. But for the better?
This is the background to our rivalry. A giant that has risen from the bowels of the earth, devouring all it can as it rises. Making us look small. We are the Arsenal, we should make you look small, not the other way around. And this is the position we need to get to. Back on top.
One Man, One Team
Probably, the end of the Abramovich era is going to help us. I have never seen an owner have such a direct effect on a club’s fortunes as Abramovich. Win or be sacked worked for him. Replacing managers if things dipped slightly. And yet there were other factors, the academy is superb, and the amount of players out on loan is staggering. The fact that only 11 players could play doesn’t seem to hinder them. But Roman is gone, presumably never to come back.
And is this where Arsenal are now? Needing outside factors to impact our league position? At the top, one thing is certain, your rivals will not fall apart. If you don’t win matches, you will not win trophies. It is not about hoping rivals will lose, they rarely will. It is about you winning. When you are scrambling lower down the league, as we are, it is about your opponents losing.
And so we know what we need to do to beat Chelsea. We need to win and keep on winning. Can we do that? I hope so. Because whether we like it or not, they are now the new kings of London. They are the first target to overcome and I would prefer to beat them on the pitch, become winners again, than hoping Abramovich being ousted is how we leapfrog them. Arsenal must go back to being Arsenal.
We need those days again