Why It's Chelsea & Man City Who Bottled The League, Not Arsenal
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Chelsea would be seven points clear at the top of the table and all but sure of the Premier League title had they beaten Aston Villa, Crystal Palace & Sunderland in the past month.
At the crucial time of the season, Chelsea and Manchester City’s much revered home form let them down, with bottom of the table Sunderland ending Jose Mourinho’s 77 game unbeaten home record, after taking a point at the Etihad on Wednesday.
In both games, City and Chelsea threw away leads, but were unable to respond to setbacks; Chelsea managing only one goal against the afore mentioned bottom half sides.
As the two richest clubs in the league, Man City & Chelsea had by far the highest net transfer spend last summer (£74m &59m respectively), while it was also revealed this week that City pay the highest average wage in the entire world of sport, with Chelsea ninth.
The two clubs were always regarded as the clear favourites for the Premier League, and can undoubtedly call upon the deepest and most coveted squads of players – Chelsea were even able to sell their two-time player of the year, Juan Mata, to defending champions Manchester United, while City’s Stevan Jovetic has barely featured in the league after his £25m transfer last July.
But it looks increasingly likely that Chelsea could end the season trophyless, unless they can repeat their European success from two years ago, while City have only won the Captial One Cup. Surely this does not equate to value for money for the country’s biggest spenders?
Arsenal have been widely criticised for capitulating in a series of big games this season, and ultimately falling out of the title race into another scrap for fourth place; this time with Everton.
But with only the two financial giants and a reinvigorated Liverpool who don’t haven’t had the added distraction of European competition throughout the season ahead of them, surely fourth is true to Arsenal’s level.
On face value, this also doesn’t consider that they led the league for long periods, qualified from an exceedingly tough Champions League group, have reached the FA Cup final and are only one game away from ending their nine year run without a trophy; while also set to significantly improve on last year’s final points tally and quite possibly finish within three points of both City and Chelsea.
Arsene Wenger has been slaughtered by all sections of the media and the majority of his own fan base for not signing a striker in January, with Olivier Giroud exhausted from leading the line in over 40 matches and counting thus far. Chelsea’s lack of goals from misfiring Samuel Eto’o & Fernando Torres is well documented, also; while Mourinho has recently been publicaly very critical of his under-performing front-men. But with practically unlimited funds, why was the Portugese not able to add a striker in January? It was clearest their area of most pressing concern, and yet he has almost entirely escaped the public crucifixion Wenger has had to ordeal.
Both City and Chelsea have struggled with the loss of key players in recent weeks. Yaya Toure and Eden Hazard would be glaring omissions in any team in the world, and have both quite rightly been nominated for PFA Player of the Year.
But in a system where one point is awarded for every week that one player misses through injury, Manchester City have tallied only 130; while Chelsea have suffered just 95 weeks of injury, the second lowest in the league. Arsenal, on the other hand, have been without players for a combined 263 weeks of the season; by far the highest in the league.
And while serious questions have to be raised over the cause of such repeated injuries - with Arsenal themselves, unlikely to be blameless – it is an enormous factor in the Gunner’s abject slide down the table.
Star performer Aaron Ramsey has just recently returned from a four month lay-out, while Theo Walcott’s season was curtailed on the first Saturday of January.
For a period of over a month, Arsenal were without both Ramsey & Walcott, as well as Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere & Laurent Koscielny. With the possible exception of Santi Cazorla & Bacary Sagna, these are Arsenal’s five best players. To be missing key players to such an extent at a vital time of the season, is always going to have a negative effect on performances.
While I am not naïve enough to believe that Arsenal could have sustained their title challenge should said players have remained fit throughout the year, I do think their criticism has been largely unjust. Arsenal simply do not have the same quality as Manchester City & Chelsea at their disposal, and it is the latter two who should be looking at themselves when football fans nationwide face the indignity of conversing with unbearably delighted Scousers for the year ahead.