Does Florent Malouda have a point?


For better or for worse, the modern English game is littered with oft-repeated preconceptions and clichés.

‘Arsenal lack steel in the middle of the park.’

‘The Premier League is the greatest league in the world.’

‘Peter Crouch has a great touch for such a big man.’

Whilst lamenting the failure of the media to afford his Chelsea side much-deserved praise, Florent Malouda inadvertently stumbled upon another. Despite a tally of 29 goals for and none against during the course of the Blues last six Premier League games, the Frenchman feels his side are still not considered to be the league’s entertainers.

“It is difficult to know why people still seem to think Arsenal and United play the best football,” said Malouda.

“Even when we finished on top of Arsenal, people said they played better than us. If you want to win the league, you have to be efficient, but when you look at how many goals we are scoring, you surely have to recognise there is real quality about us.

“The manager has worked at making sure we control games and you are seeing an evolution in our play. We are keeping more clean sheets but also scoring a lot more goals.”

Although Malouda’s sentiments may fail to garner much sympathy outside of Stamford Bridge, his words do poignantly allude to the persistent media veneration of Arsenal’s style and principles – even the most casual observer of English football would describe Arsenal’s style of play as the most aesthetically-pleasing. Why is this the case?

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side of 2010 are almost universally synonymous with short, quick, measured, ‘passing’ football, and are considered to the foremost proponents of this approach within English football. Across the continent, the overwhelming success of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side and the Spanish national team has helped to exacerbate the veneration of ‘passing’ football. Admirers and fans alike have eulogised such methods by stating that the aforementioned sides play football ‘the way it is supposed to be played’ and that they play ‘proper football’. Why is this style of football considered to be more valid than other methods? Surely all approaches to playing football are as valid as each other?

What’s even more baffling is the way in which managers who insist on sticking to their free-flowing ‘ideals’ and ‘principles’ to the detriment of their side’s fortunes are often subject to a diminished sense of responsibility and criticism. Take for example Tony Mowbray during West Bromwich Albion’s ill-fated Premier League season of 2008/09. Lingering in the drop-zone for most of the season, Mowbray refused to compromise his side’s tactics and style for the sake of Premier League survival. Speaking after a 2-0 defeat against Everton in February 2009, Mowbray stated, “There is naivety in our defending, but I enjoyed watching my team play.”

Similar ‘ills’ appear to be plaguing Wigan Athletic at the moment. After conceding ten goals without reply in their first two Premier League games of the season, the DW Stadium side already appear to be in deep trouble. Former Latics midfielder Michael Brown has suggested that Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, another proponent of ‘stylish’ football, will “not change his style of football.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely winning is of greater importance for those working within the game than entertainment? Were Mowbray and Martinez enlisted to entertain themselves and ultimately lose, or to improve their club’s fortunes at the highest level? Unfortunately for both Mowbray and Martinez, it appears as though the two aims in question are mutually exclusive.

This article is not a criticism of the way that sides such as Arsenal, Barcelona and Spain play – far from in fact. But Malouda and Mowbray’s comments seem to hint at the fact that a certain style of football is almost more valid than all other forms, and this cannot be the case. Measuring the entertainment value of a tangible item (in this case, style of football) is undoubtedly a subjective matter, so who has the authority to state that Sam Allardyce’s tactics are less legitimate (and by deduction, less entertaining) than those of Arsene Wenger?

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  • Suminder Sandhu says:

    Zarif, I agree that we’re reluctant to give Chelsea the same kind of praise. When they win by these ridiculous margins we’re left saying it’s ‘efficient’ football instead of ‘aesthetic’ football. Maybe that’s just a media bias.

    On the point of a more valid/right way to play the game: hoofing a ball long and getting it in the back of the net within 5 seconds of a goal kick requires a certain skill set and it isn’t easy (reacting to the situation, creating something from very little, being clinical etc) but I think it’s more hopeful than it is proactive in intent (bounce of the ball or a ricochet, that kinda thing).

    But a passing oriented style – it doesn’t have to be as consummate/strangulating as Spain’s – requires technique as its most important factor. And I think that’s what any sport should be about; cultivating a style or ideology based on improving/extolling technique above everything. And for our youth especially, once you’re proficient in that dept, everything else can follow.

  • Futbol Madness says:

    Malouda is absolutely right. U wanna know the entertainment of football? it is the goals. Everyone wanna watch the goals. A goaless draw is often the worst result. Gimme goals and thats what counts. If the method u play makes you score, then it is the best entertaining football. Thats what makes football very interesting, the so many methods to score goals. Thats why I agree with malouda. Chelsea’s football is the most entertaining, cuz they score more. it’s that simple.

  • I have watched both of Chelsea’s opening games and they have been by far the most boring games of football I have ever seen. Even the 8-0 win at the end of last season was a dull affair. Sure they are scoring a lot of goals but how is it possible to have a high scoring match and STILL be boring to watch. In all honesty I have to give credit to Chelsea for doing that. What they do is contradictory and oxymoronic but I guess its just a part of Chelsea’s ideology now. As teams like Arsenal and Barcelona are renowned for their fantastic entertainment factor Chelsea have created a new unthinkable ideology of boring high scoring games.

    Chelsea are the kind of team that Blackburn and Stoke aspire to be. Chelsea are the kind of team that Blackburn and Stoke aspire to be. Chelsea are the kind of team that Blackburn and Stoke aspire to be.

  • Rob says:

    Chelsea score a lot of goals, but also play entertaining football at the same time.

    AM I the only one who watches Chelsea’s football and notices that all plays come primarily from the class of passing play within the midfield (lampard, essien and mikel)

    It also has been noted that in the last 8 league games (including 09/10 season) chelsea completed more passes than Arsenal. And had a much greater adverage in posession.

    I for one feel that Chelsea are far more entertaining than their rivals.

    Although I am a Sunderland fan!

  • Sandman says:

    The reason is because people are still biased about Chelsea. Also they say that Chelsea spends a lot of cash in buying players. This is not true because from the past 3 years not many have come in and there has not been too much spending. Its just the Chelsea are treated because people are not ready to accept change. But in time everything will change. The thing I am most happy about is the manager is here for more than a year.

  • chris says:

    Pritpal: If you say it enough times, it still wont come true.

    Chelsea under ancelotti are awesome and will get better.

  • Robbo says:

    Pritpal: Chelsea are the team that, at this moment in time, everyone aspires to be, including Blackburn & Stoke.
    How can football be contradictory? You are the only oxymoron & your ideology is that Chelsea shouldn’t be successful.
    Well sunshine they are & if all you want to write, is nonsensical jealous ramblings then don’t bother. You are an idiot!

  • Olly says:

    Pritpal – get a clue from somewhere u mug. how can 2 6 nils be the most boring games you have ever seen?
    We may not string 45 passes together everytime we score but hell, we do score a lot of goals in a ruthless,efficiant and entertaining way.
    Call me arrogant but it is out title to lose, in Carlo we trust.

  • daddyblue says:

    Pritpal I have read both of your paragraphs and they have been by far the most boring paragraphs of text I have ever read. Even the 3 repetitions in the last paragraph were a dull affair. Sure your use of language borders on the pretentious but even so your narrative is STILL too boring to take seriously. In all honesty I have to give credit to you for doing that.

    What you have written is infantile and moronic but I guess it’s just a part of your ideology. As supporters of lesser teams carry on winging and bitching about Chelsea their supporters have been burdened with a new unthinkable ideology – watching their team win whilst playing exciting and entertaining football.

  • Alex says:

    Pritpal: You are just jealous that what ever team you support can not be entertaining and efficient at the same time. If it continues this way chelsea 10/11 could be called in the same breath as the legendary Ajax sides, or barcelona that played superb footy and won all before them. Did anyone watch man u v Fulham for me the star of that side is Fergie for bringing out the best of a very mediocre side, as for Wenger he is doing nothing with his extremely talented but toothless side.

  • Zarif says:

    I’m sorry, but in my eyes, to warrant the status of being a great club, a side must win the European Cup. In order for Chelsea to be mentioned in the same breath as those Ajax or Barcelona or AC Milan sides that you speak of, Chelsea must win at least one, if not more (to attain a legendary European status within English football they would have to emulate the efforts of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest).

  • Zarif says:

    *must win at least one, if not more than one European Cup.

  • Ill have you all know that I am a Chelsea fan. Why else would I sit through these games. I am entitled to my own opinion.

  • Gurbir Sethi says:

    Pritpal, I have nothing but contempt for your opinions.

  • Suminder Sandhu says:

    Pritpal, I agree with Gurbir.

  • William says:

    Chelsea’s failure to receive Arsenal-levels of praise for their goalscoring exploits could be a legacy of the Mourinho era, when function undoubtedly came before form. The spine of Chelsea’s side is exactly the same as it was under their former manager. The combined experience of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba in playing together raises the idea that Chelsea play almost on auto-pilot against the likes of West Brom and Wigan, which is a far less romantic notion than that associated with Arsenal and Barcelona.

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