The English weather summed up Saturday’s football in its own unique style. Grey clouds and torrential rain for Arsenal, whilst Chelsea enjoyed late afternoon summer sun.
André Villas-Boas claimed his first three points of the season, as the title challengers saw off a determined West Brom at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has excelled over the last few seasons by churning out powerful and disciplined performances, but the modern day premier league has evolved. Teams are now stronger, fitter, better disciplined and Chelsea’s powerhouses through age or injury have become less effective. If Villas-Boas, the much labelled “next Jose Mourinho,” is serious about losing this mantle, he must start moving Chelsea away from the DNA embedded in them by his compatriot.
Villas-Boas will also need to rediscover the knack of making Stamford Bridge a fortress. West Brom, buoyed by a strong performance against Manchester United last week, played without fear and had Shane Long’s pass to Somen Tchoyi been weighted a little better, they would have been two nil up at half time.
The Portuguese manager, who was staring a first home defeat full in the face, offered the viewing public a great insight into to his personality. After half an hour and having failed to implement one cohesive attack, Villas-Boas withdrew the ineffective Salomon Kalou and sent on Florent Malouda, it wasn’t an immediate game changing master stroke, but it proved that AVB will not bow to a player’s ego at the expense of the team. With West Brom defending deeper and deeper, AVB also withdrew a subdued Fernando Torres, who under the watchful eye of 40,000 Chelsea fans reverted to his 2010/2011 worst.
It was not champagne football which thrilled and exhilarated, but it was a first victory and proof that Villas-Boas is prepared to cut his losses when he has made a mistake and he possess a little slice of luck, which is always useful for a manager.
This weekend may prove to be a defining one in the career of Villas-Boas. There is the imminent arrival of Spanish winger and creative whirl wind, Juan Mata, and if a successful bid for Luka Modric is made, Chelsea will finally possess’ the guile and creativity that has been missing since Gianfranco Zola hung up his boots.
Across London, a man who has overseen major changes at Arsenal football club may also have been thinking about retiring. The Emirates Stadium is one of the finest stadiums in the country, but for those fans that bothered to turn up and stay to the end, they may have witnessed a defining moment in Arsenal’s history. The Gunners have now sold or lost four captains in six years and this lack of on field leadership echoes events off it.
The departure of Cesc Fabregas to his home club, Barcelona, was no great surprise, but the stark reality that Arsenal had no back plan in place is truly bewildering for fans and outsiders alike.
On Saturday, the fact that “want-away” midfielder, Samir Nasri, was installed into the Arsenal starting line up was a clear indication of the mess this club finds itself in. Arsenal has fundamental issues it must address otherwise its season will be over before the clocks go back. The squad that once boasted seasoned internationals and hot prospects is now frightfully thin. Not only has Wenger lost his talisman this summer, but he has failed to replace important squad players Denilson, Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue. Although not world-beaters, these three at least gave the club a solid foundation it could rely on.
Arsenal faces a crucial week, with trips to Udinese and Old Trafford, a setting where Wenger’s team once claimed the Premier League title. The solution to Arsenal’s problem is very simple: sign players; this however, has been the answer to the Arsenal’s problems for the last three years and each time Wenger has refused to move.
Perhaps the rows and rows of empty seats at the Emirates on Saturday will finally be louder than sixty thousand voices all screaming the obvious.