Chelsea Dagger

22 Aug

Chelsea are simply awesome. Not awesome in the way a teenager were to describe the definition of ‘cool’ but awesome in the sense that their wanton goal sprees against West Brom and Wigan have left many people shaking their heads in wonder and with an impending dread for the months that will unfold. It has left no doubt that the Premier League is merely a series of mismatches between expensively acquired and technically assured Goliaths and expensively acquired but nevertheless limited Davids. Can anything further be read into Blackpool’s annihilation by Arsenal at the Emirates after their opening day jubilation, other then a sense that this is a League comprising a small elite of technocrats and artisans putting lesser mortals to the sword on a weekly basis?

The arguments for parity are worthy. If there was a cap on how much a club can spend on new players or what they pay their current staff, perhaps we would see a more level playing field. Players would consequently make their career choices based on a club’s prestige and history rather than the promise of weekly fortunes and extravagant luxuries. Or they might even seek the challenge of playing for an unfashionable side and see how far such an endeavour would take them? A West Ham supporting friend of mine this week lamented the club’s current predicament when compared to the truly exciting clutch of young players that came up through their ranks in the early part of the last decade. He was clear in his belief that had the likes of Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, and Frank Lampard stuck around and developed a sense of team loyalty and a sense of thumbing their noses at the bigger beasts, then maybe the club’s recent history would have been very different to the stagnant quagmire they currently reside him.

As ever though, these players left for the twin promises of riches and trophies. And when these can be easily achieved at clubs with greater and more tellingly faster means to attain honours and bankroll expensive lifestyles, young men who are brought up in a culture which lauds the swiftness with which success is attained will always go for the easier option. It is no accident that the X Factor has returned to our screens this week, as eagerly anticipated as ever with its illusions of fame and celebrity whilst Big Brother reaches its climax with a showdown comprising the ‘best’ housemates in its infamous history all eager to squeeze a last ounce of fame juice from their brief moments in the public glare.

If we were to be truly honest about the reality of equality, we would realise that Blackpool and Wigan and West Brom will never be considered equals by broadcasters or football writers. Firstly, because these are provincial clubs that have no international appeal and therefore cannot be marketed with any great zeal to the hungry markets of Asia and North America. But more importantly, these clubs cannot be accepted or compete at the big table because as a species, human beings have a need to order the world along hierarchical perspectives. So as I mentioned last week, the Premier League can be easily divided into a series of mini-leagues and at the top of the pyramid we have the twin juggernauts of Manchester United and Chelsea.

When we have all-out dominance by an individual or ideology, we as human beings justifiably cry foul. Hence the inherent unfairness and horrors perpetrated by one-party totalitarian states and dictatorships. Rupert Murdoch is vilified for his ruthless pursuit of a all-encompassing dominance of the media. It seemed tennis would be dominated by Roger Federer for years and as a result many of us yawned. What we desire is competition. Dialogue. Friction. And this has generally manifested itself in duopolies. The twin ideologies of communism and capitalism shaped the latter half of the twentieth century precisely because they offered two radically different worldviews. Rupert Murdoch’s rivalry with Robert Maxwell allowed for a more intense battle for the Fourth Estate’s heart and soul. And nobody can deny that Rafael Nadal’s emergence and challenge to Federer’s all-conquering achievements has been nothing but a force for good for the game.

However much we may say we need more voices and more say, we always settle for these duopolies. Hence, the reluctance of the coalition government to make significant strides to cement the urge for proportional representation which was so audible in the days following the hung parliament but has subsequently receded in the memory with the onset of more pressing political concerns. Labour and Conservative. Adam and Eve. Salt and Vinegar. Hoddle and Waddle. The list goes on…

Which brings us back to Chelsea. Chelsea as a club is the manifestation of the New Money which entered the country at the beginning of the last decade. Their success was borne out of a need to achieve results with little thought for cultivation and sophistication. There is no real reverence for traditional hierarchies for this club and this nonchalance has allowed them to remain at the game’s pinnacle for the best part of a decade. Where Manchester United have built their reputation upon history, tragedy and a dedication to youth development, Chelsea have bought and outfought their opponents. Two ideologies. Everybody else therefore, has to pick a template from which to model their blueprint for success under the current hegemony of the Big Two. You can either throw money at your quest in the hope that it will garner trophies like Chelsea and Manchester City or you can build from within like Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.

Until a new philosophy emerges to challenge and break the stranglehold it will remain the same for the foreseeable future. Thesis plus antithesis equals synthesis. Like I said, Chelsea are awesome. West Ham are in the firing line in two games time. It could have been so different.

6 Responses to “Chelsea Dagger”

  1. Kev August 22, 2010 at 15:09 #

    Great post Greg. Whilst I agree with the idea of the two opposing cultures within clubs (Chelsea and Man Utd) i’d say that this is a flexible/moveable culture in the case of Chelsea.

    My point is that a club like Chelsea whilst qualifying for the Champions League pre Abramovich needed a huge cash injection to cement their place at the top table – they simply couldn’t sustain that level of performance/over-achievement against the bigger clubs Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd and to a lesser degree Spurs and Everton.

    The cash injection lifted expectation within the club and built a platform on which to compete with the big guns. Any club wanting to break into the elite group needs this.

    Now that Chelsea have built an infrastructure/culture within the club to consistently challenge for titles they are looking to develop younger talent. The subs bench yesterday included Borini, Van Aarnholt whilst Kalou (who was and still is essentially a prospect) scored twice. These are the youngsters coming through the ranks. It seems that the focus is on developing talent rather than buying big named players (Ramires excluded but id really a big name yet?).

    I don’t think there is any other blueprint/option for clubs with ambition. Cash injection first and then build a sustainable plan is the only way. If you look at the biggest spenders over the last two years (I think) I’d be right in saying Man City and Spurs are the two biggest spending clubs in the league. Spurs more successfully than City – but that will no doubt change this season with the squad depth City have.

    You are right competition is essential in marketing the league but I don’t think there is any argument that these cash injections have made the league a more competitive place than when it was just Man Utd dominating the league. I can see 1 of 4 teams potentially winning the title this year.

    It may not be to everyone’s taste but the Chelsea blueprint is the only blueprint clubs can follow to achieve similar success.

  2. Dagorath August 24, 2010 at 03:10 #

    Excellent post and may I say very impressed with the blog as a whole; good to read about football and matters important to football instead of whether Bob of the Athletic is getting drunk on a Friday night or not.

    I have to ask a question, and that is, do you believe that the current state of the EPL – with clubs seemingly so firmly divided into “wills” and “will nots” – is due to Manchester United’s forward thinking in the 70s and 80s, and their ensuing dominance in the 90s?

    If they had not dominated so much in said 90s, do you feel we would have a different league, with less spending and more emphasis on loyalty?

    Or do you believe that the state of the current game was inevitable, as an outgrowth of social change in the UK (as we so strongly see with the ridiculous reverence for celebrities who neither earn nor often deserve it)?

    • gregtheoharis August 24, 2010 at 17:36 #

      You raise some good questions and it’s hard to pinpoint one particular reason as to why the Premier League finds itself in the malaise it currently does. Manchester United were probably the first club to fully appreciate the appeals of globalisation and despite the obvious loss of geographical identity and a sustained pursuit of wealth, they as a club have by and large sustained success through youth development which can only be commended.
      The problem we have generally with footballers is the need for salacious gossip and an obsession with celebrity culture. This is more endemic of society as a whole and football alas holds a mirror up to it. It is doubtful that we will see the likes of Tony Adams, Matt Le Tissier and Trevor Brooking again; players who remained at one club. However, a little humility would not go amiss. All is not lost though, we still have Ian Holloway for want of a better phrase, ‘keeps it real’. Thanks for the comment and keep reading and contributing to the debate.

      • Kev September 3, 2010 at 18:11 #

        Bollocks – the reason Man Utd were so successful in the 90’s was that they floated on the stock exchange before anyone else and raised capital to dominate. Before that they hadn’t won the league for 25 years. They turned the football game into business.

        They then picked up the best players in the country at youth level because of this success. Beckham comes from East London and supports spurs if I remember rightly. If it were not for the floatation he would have started his career at spurs/arsenal not Utd

        If you want to blame anyone for turning the game into a business like marketplace and the league into financial ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ then look to the club who started it all.

      • gregtheoharis September 3, 2010 at 18:41 #

        I admire your objectivity, Mr McDougall!

  3. Andy September 3, 2010 at 22:31 #

    This is very complex debate which has many levels too it.

    Idealy all clubs would be run on a strictly business level which would still see the historiacally larger clubs have the lion share of sucess but would allow well run clubs to periodically crash the party on a more regular basis. However any club wishing to ‘gain a level’ will always need a cash injection to do so.

    What I can say is that the large well run clubs will allways find themselves competing at the right end of the premiership and the likes of Man City and the other clubs with the bankrolling chairman could find themselves back where they were and in a worse postion once their big buck owners depart. Teams such as Blackburn show it can be done who were one of the first to splash the cash in the nineties.

    Chelsea are trying to lay down a structure post Roman we will if this is sucessful in the long term.

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