EPL 2005: Day 23 (Bolton 1 – Arsenal 0)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
January 16th, 2005 • 1:42 am

I don’t know how Manchester United supporters feel about this, but to me the season is pretty much over. It’s not just that 10 points is an insurmountable lead. (Mathematically, it isn’t, but it’s hard to imagine Chelsea dropping so many points and Arsenal and Manchester United not dropping any.) It is the manner in which Arsenal and Manchester United are dropping points.

The Gunners were totally ineffectual yesterday at Bolton, and it seems that Arsène Wenger simply does not have the answers at this point. I am hoping he will find them soon, either through the purchase of new players or through a complete change in strategy. But any new system that he might try to establish will take time, and, simply put, there isn’t any time left.

Manchester United are dropping fewer points, but they were extremely lucky to get one last week against Tottenham, and only got all three points yesterday at Liverpool thanks to yet another goal-keeping blunder.

And then there is the fact that everything seems to be going for Chelsea. They don’t have any serious injuries, which basically means that they have way more players at their disposal than they even need. They get refereeing decisions in their favour almost on a weekly basis (a dubious penalty decision yesterday again, against Tottenham). And they get innocuous yellow cards ultimately leading to innocuous one-match suspensions where other players in other teams would see red.

I am afraid there is not much that can be done about this. In cup-type competitions, other teams still have a chance because of the randomness of the draws and the possibility of a costly off-day. But in long-term competitions such as the English Premier League, I don’t see what can stop a team that has an unlimited supply of top-class players at its disposal.

To Chelsea’s credit, Mourinho appears to have been able to achieve what Ranieri couldn’t, i.e. a disciplined work regime that produces results on a regular basis. But there is still no denying the huge advantage of being able to purchase pretty much any player at any time.

I simply cannot bring myself to supporting or even accepting this kind of approach. It totally distorts the game, which, even before the Russian tycoon era, already relied on a very delicate balance of money management and team building, often to the detriment of the latter. But what Chelsea have been able to do is create some kind of “all stars” team — with current stars, that is (not former greats). I don’t call that team building. And there’s little to admire here. Yes, it is probably a bit of challenge to get all these players to “gel” — but let’s face it, even if they don’t gel, they’re still going to get results. A team is more than the sum of its parts, but the sum of much bigger parts is still going to produce a bigger team, even if it doesn’t achieve that chemistry that less fortunate clubs have to try and achieve through team building.

The only hope at this point, as far as I am concerned, is either self-destructing hubris — or another Russian tycoon buying another team and doing the same. I am certainly hoping for the former, because the latter would surely destroy the last remnants of footballing spirit that can be found in the game today.

3 Responses to “EPL 2005: Day 23 (Bolton 1 – Arsenal 0)”

  1. LoonyPandora says:

    Here we go… now Man U aren’t number one, people start on Chelsea… They have had a lot of injuries lately – admittedly not to ‘crucial’ players, like Terry, Lampard, etc – but they have had injuries – I recall when the transfer window opened, there was a lot of discussion that Mourinho only had 16 first team players at his disposal.

    Every team get’s lucky decisions all the time – however, people only seem to notice it when the leaders get the breaks…

    I have a lot of respect for Mourinho, he could have gone out and bought an all-star team, like Real Madrid and their ‘Galticos’ – but he didn’t. OK, he had a lot of ‘stars’ that were purchased by Ranieri, but the only major singings that I can think of straight away, are Drogba and Cech. (Robben was purchased last year, but didn’t arrive until this year) – He has also sold a lot of players.

    If anyone can handle the pressure, and responsibility of having unlimited money – I’d say Mourinho can :)

    Don’t give up just yet – similar leads have been pulled back in the past, with teams looking just as invincible…

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I have no doubt that some of what I said probably sounds familiar… But on the other hand there’s still something obscene about the amount of money that Chelsea have at their disposal. That’s my basic fear — that this unlimited supply of funds ultimately distorts the game irreparably.

  3. LoonyPandora says:

    I would agree, if I thought Mourinho was using those funds to just buy the best players in the world. However, nothing I have seen so far has convinced me that he is going to do that.

    We’ve not yet seen him dip into those funds so far in the transfer window, and I doubt we will. The acid test will come in the summer – If he spends another £20-£30 million, then I guess I’m wrong

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