A clash of ethos at Wembley

Photo: John Cooper CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ARSENAL AND CHELSEA face each other at Wembley on an afternoon that will crystallise the different approaches of two fierce London rivals.

Arsenal would probably never hire the likes of Jose Mourinho or even Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s current owner would not tolerate the lack of sustained success at the Emirates for the past decade. It is doubtful if the Gunners would stop a game after 26 minutes to allow a player to milk the applause from his last appearance. And Chelsea would never allow the bad feeling that has surrounded Arsene Wenger to persist for so long without taking decisive action.

Chelsea’s fans lap-up success as something that has come to them after countless years of underperformance, they have all the swagger and new-found arrogance of a pools winner splashing the cash or a self-styled businessman becoming head of state. Arsenal’s supporters, a heady mixture of Hornbyesque addicts and media-luvvies, become more anxious as every year goes by without the title, talking about their current situation as a slump when they have actually endured far worse. It is old money versus new money, marble halls versus marble ash-trays, and Chelsea – to Arsenal fans – represent the unacceptable face of the modern game – an inflated club that has been artificially successful since 2003.

It has been almost 14 years since the Roman empire was installed. Ironically, and not coincidentally, Arsenal’s decline has come at a time when Chelsea’s star has ascended. You cannot blame Arsenal for getting bent out of shape about this for they largely had London to themselves and until 2004-05, Chelsea had one title to their credit and Tottenham two.

But claims from Arsenal of relative poverty have little substance and are more a reflection of how Arsenal have spent their money over the past years. Just compare the financial position of the two clubs.

  Arsenal Chelsea
Deloitte Money League Position (2017) 7th 8th
Total Revenues EUR 468m EUR 447m
Matchday revenues EUR 133.6m EUR 93.2m
Broadcasting revenues EUR 192m EUR 191.1m
Commercial revenues EUR 142.9m EUR 163.1m
Net profit/loss 2015-16 £ 2.9m (£70.6m)
Average League Attendance 59,980 41,500
Net transfers 2016-17  (£80m)  (£22m)
Wage bill 2016-17 £200m £218m

Arsenal’s revenues are greater than Chelsea’s but the Blues seem to be better at leveraging commercial activity. Arsenal have spent more in transfer fees than Chelsea over the past three seasons, Chelsea’s net transfer figures coming to minus £2m over the past three campaigns, while Arsenal have a negative of almost £150m.

There’s not much between the clubs in terms of wage bills. The gap has also closed in the past four years, with Arsenal now paying £200m and Chelsea £218m. There are only four clubs in the Premier who pay £200m or more, and Manchester United and Manchester City are the others.

On paper, Arsenal are actually a bigger club than Chelsea, in terms of revenue generation and in their current audience. But when Chelsea get their new stadium, this will almost certainly change. But at the moment, the differences between the two clubs are not significant. Arsenal cannot claim they are financially disadvantaged to any large degree. The playing field has been levelled by the investments made by Roman Abramovich, for sure, but Financial Fair Play means that the gung-ho approach of the early years of his ownership have gone. It is arguable that Chelsea have bought better than Arsenal over the past few years and the creative tension that the constant change of management brings has enabled the club to keep reinventing itself. The Wenger regime at the Emirates has been allowed to become stale and hence, the club has been comparitively unsuccessful, but the word relative is important here. In any walk of life, long-running sagas eventually become complacent and lacking in invention. Therein lies the difference between Arsenal and Chelsea – they are managed (rightly or wrongly) very differently.

The road to Wembley

  Arsenal Chelsea
Round Three January 7: Preston NE A W2-1 January 4: Peterborough H W4-1
Round Four January 29: Southampton A W5-0 January 28: Brentford H W4-0
Round Five February 20: Sutton United A W2-0 February 18: Wolves A W2-0
Round Six March 11: Lincoln City H W 5-0 March 13: Manchester United H W1-0
Semi-Finals April 23: Manchester City W2-1 (at Wembley) April 22: Tottenham W4-2 (at Wembley)
Goals 5 – Walcott; 2 – Giroud, Ramsey, Welbeck, Sanchez; 1 – Monreal, Perez, Own goal. 4 – Willian, Pedro; 2 – Batshuayi; 1- Ivanovic, Costa, Kante, Hazard, Matic.


That said, the FA Cup final is a one-off and if it is to be Wenger’s swansong, the Frenchman will want to write a happy ending to this still remarkable story. On the other hand, Chelsea have the chance to win a second double, which closes the gap on Arsenal in the silverware stakes.

Arsenal’s run of UEFA Champions League qualification has ended, so it is Thursday night football at the Emirates in 2017-18 whatever happens at Wembley. Chelsea may be less neurotic as they have already secured the big prize, but they will be aware that Arsenal have beaten them. A victory for Chelsea in this season of turmoil in one half of north London will go a long way to confirming the changing of the guard in the capital’s football hierarchy. It will certainly be an intriguing afternoon at Wembley.

The honours list

Up to 2003-04 League FA Cup FL Cup Europe
Arsenal 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004 (13) 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015 (12) 1987, 1993 (2) 1970, 1994 (2)
Chelsea 1955 (1) 1970, 1997, 2000 (3) 1965, 1998 (2) 1971, 1998 (2)
Since 2004-05        
Arsenal 2014, 2015 (2)
Chelsea 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015, 2017 (5) 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 (4) 1995, 1998, 2015 (3) 2012, 2013 (2)




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