Is this rivalry causing more harm than good at Arsenal and Chelsea?

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Arsene Wenger (6)

Iain Anderson, of Why Say Anything fame, gives his take on how the Premier League’s top managers are currently conducting themselves.

It was almost a wonderful week!

I am from Manchester, but I am not biased. Arsenal and Chelsea both lost in the Champions League, United and City both won. At the weekend Chelsea lost in the Premier League, City won and Arsenal proved beyond any doubt that their players can only be bothered to turn up for selected games.

If you are an Arsenal fan you must be disgusted particularly when you know that it won’t happen against Bayern Munich. In fact, I heard it said that Arsenal are looking for an early exit from the Champions League so that they can concentrate on qualifying for next year. United were abject and proved that, when you play against a half decent team, you can’t play wingers at full back and midfielders at centre back.

Questions are being asked, quite rightly, of Arsene Wenger. His refusal to play Petr Cech in exactly the type of game he bought him to play in has caused one or two eyebrows to be raised, particularly when you see the confidence the defence had when he was back against United. Along with Wenger’s general inactivity in the transfer market, his tactics are being questioned, (yet again!) saying in interviews that he has no responsibility to explain his choices to the fans. Arsene is not getting it right at the moment.

Questions are being asked, quite rightly, of Jose Mourinho; his refusal to get his team playing anything resembling football, not picking the great white dope JT until the Southampton match, saying in interviews that his team’s demise is all down to the referees, who won’t give Chelsea any decisions. Jose is not getting it right at the moment.

The really strange thing about all this is that these two managers, who have so much in common, actually can’t stand each other. They are both in charge of big-ish London clubs, they both have experience of being champions and winning trophies, (one a lot more than the other), they are both regular representatives of the Premier League in Europe, but they can’t stand each other.

I am not aware that this hatred of each other is a contributing factor to the results they are achieving but it cannot be helpful.

Alex Ferguson, at various times, hated and then liked Wenger. He disliked Mourinho at one stage, then they became friends. None of this appeared to affect him, but then, he is a one-off.

I have no idea what Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pelligrini think of each other. They may be firm friends. They may dine out together. Then again, they may dislike each other intensely. The point being that their relationship is not important in the grand scheme of things.

When there is a Manchester derby, the focus may be on the managers at some time but it will not bring to light any ill feeling. They will talk about the game, the players, the press, but not about each other. If one is asked about the other the response will be polite and respectful, nothing more.

What is happening at present is that the managers are taking the spotlight off the teams. This is no bad thing when they are playing as badly as Chelsea in particular.

The problem is that the players of both clubs don’t really want to listen to their managers having a go at each other in press conferences, the fans don’t want this either. They want to hear about how well the team is doing, which players are injured, who is going to be selected, etc., etc.

When the term, “the manager has lost the dressing room” is being heard, this is usually because he hasn’t been paying enough attention to what has been going on with the players, or he has been making some strange selections, or he has been using some odd tactics. All of the above can be applied, at one stage or another, to Arsenal and Chelsea.

It has been suggested that the dressing rooms at both clubs have been lost. I don’t agree and I don’t think it is that serious just yet. Mourinho, if he is not careful, could find himself in that position very soon. Wenger is more likely to “lose” the fans the way Arsenal are performing at present, particularly in the Champions league.

This is uncharted water for Wenger and Mourinho. Wenger has come in for criticism before, of course, but now it is getting really serious. Mourinho is now finding out that wanting to stay at a club for many years and actually doing it may very well be the impossible dream, particularly with an owner like Roman Abramovich

I wish them both all the best.

Like this article? Read more at Iain’s personal blog.

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