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Arsenal and Chelsea will clash at the Emirates on Monday evening in what will arguably be the most important match of the Premier League season so far.
While the result will have a huge effect on who will top the league at Christmas, it will also be the next chapter in the long-running rivalry between two clubs of vastly different ideologies.
From managerial models, to transfer strategies – Arsenal and Chelsea are two differing entities on the world stage; and Monday’s encounter will surely spark off yet another debate over club ownership.
‘Is being self-financed or billionaire-fuelled a better model for a professional football club?’
From the Arsenal standpoint, Arsene Wenger has been entrusted with the on-pitch welfare of the club for the last 17 years, and has guided them through good times and bad, all the while enjoying the full support of the Arsenal board.
One of the top English sides since the Premier League’s rebranding, and participants in the Champions League in every year of Wenger’s reign; Arsenal’s financial model is arguably one of the great successes of modern times.
Wenger’s penchant for nurturing young talent is symbiotic with the club’s self-financing model; but has led to much discontent among the Gunners fans ever since the trophy-laden success initially experienced began to abate.
The Arsenal board have been heavily criticised for their over-protective economic standpoint in the face of the changing financial atmosphere in football. Gunners fans everywhere have been baying for a transfer budget applicable to a side challenging for the top honours.
Money earned from inflated ticket prices, commercial deals, and the sales of major players have seen Gunners fans apoplectic for years, as there has been no real return made in terms of squad development.
The £42.4m summer signing of German midfielder Mesut Ozil was as sensational in it’s last minute timing as it was in that Arsenal had lavished so much in one player! The jubilation of the Gunners faithful was evident, but it is highly doubtful that such extravagance will continue, with such an overwhelming precedent dictating procedure.
Chelsea on the other hand have a history of real extravagance in the transfer market. Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the club in 2003 made them the envy of the Premier League, and he has since embarked on a long-term project so as to propel the Blues to the highest rung of European and domestic achievement.
There has been an abundance of criticism for this financial model, with Chelsea recording only their first annual profit at the end of 2012 since Abramovich’s arrival. The Blues have had to adhere to Financial Fair Play regulations ever since its inception, which was created to prevent the overspending of clubs.
There are also fears that this cut-throat environment is detrimental to the improvement of the English game, as well as to the general stability of the clubs.
A good example of this is the fact that the Chelsea owner has hired and fired 9 different managers in just ten years, with current boss Jose Mourinho in his second term at the helm.
However, the high-pressured environment at the Bridge has heralded a consistent flow of silverware for the past decade. Indeed, Chelsea became the first team in history to hold both the Champions League title and the Europa League (albeit for a very short length of time!)
So which club has the better ownership structure in place?
Chelsea fans will point to the success experienced over the past ten years; while many Arsenal fans believe that if the club can follow-up the signing of Ozil with further reinforcements, without constraint, then they will have the best existing model for an English football club.
Arsenal’s dependence on self-funding and selling of top players has seen them fall behind other top sides in the Premier League in the eyes of many, but their recent form has taken them to the top of the league.
Vindication for the likes of Wenger and majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke?
Perhaps, but the January window may highlight the old issues of budget and funds; something the Chelsea juggernaut, while abiding by the new restrictions, will surely have no issue with as they continue their relentless ascent to the top.
What do you think? Which side is better run? Let me know in the comments below…