Chelsea v Arsenal: A battle of new managers promising new erasby Andy Dillon / 17 August 2018, 14:17Tweet
THERE has been pushing and shoving, sniping and stamping, goals, bust-ups and outright personal abuse.
Chelsea versus Arsenal back in the good old days would pit Jose Mourinho against Arsene Wenger in a battle of characters that often led to as many duels off the pitch as on it.
Times have changed. Both clubs have changed. The two London neighbours meet this weekend at Stamford Bridge with new managers promising new eras.
The friction that occurred between Mourinho and Wenger was about individual personality but also about success. When two teams with genuine aspirations for serious trophies go head-to-head it generates sparks.
Think rutting stags in the mating season and you’ve got it.
It’s a sad reflection of the recent fortunes of both Chelsea and Arsenal that this particular London derby has come round again with not nearly so much edge as in the past.
Arsenal are undergoing a massive transformation of culture at dressing room and boardroom level. Emery is not going to be allowed to dominate and impose his will upon the club the way his predecessor did.
Emery has shown some bravery with his team selection - namely substituting the ineffective Mezut Ozil just five minutes into the second half of last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City.
The Spaniard’s most recent and most outlandish clash of personalities came last season in an argument at Paris St.Germain with record signing Neymar - who wanted to train more not less.
It’s hardly world war three. And it isn’t going to spice up the billing ahead of an important match against Chelsea.
So far Maurizio Sarri has seemed primarily concerned with trying to make his players happy while working out where his next cigarette is coming from because of the smoking ban at training ground and stadium.
Chilled Sarri is letting his players eat tomato ketchup, vinegar and HP sauce once more after scrapping the ban imposed by his predecessor Antonio Conte.
He also gave Eden Hazard an extra day off before reporting back for training. Gee whiz.
Listing listening to jazz as a hobby, Sarri is hardly going to get pumped up listening to Blue Note records before matches.
There is a distinct possibility that Chelsea and Arsenal are entering a period of detente, brought about by the fact that the clubs’ respective managers are too laid back to go looking for trouble.
But also by the belief that neither team will be seriously challenging for top honours this season. Mediocrity and friendliness at Chelsea in particular are uncommon values.
Let’s be honest, the rucks and the rows are big factors in why so many people troop to football matches in the first place.
Big derby games can sometimes let the fans down in terms of entertainment and quality. But the chance to be ringside and witness a good old fashioned tear up between players and/or managers is a big part of the pantomime.
Think Chelsea v Spurs a couple of years back and the battle of the Bridge; Diego Costa stamping on Laurent Koscielny, Mourinho labelling Wenger a ‘voyeur’ and a ‘specialist in failure’.
Conte did us proud last season with his attacks on Mourinho and vice versa. It made up for Chelsea and United’s ultimately feeble title challenge against Man City, while Arsenal were never in it but the criticism of Wenger kept everybody enthralled.
Spats between managers are childish, impetuous and set a terrible example to kids. But don’t we just love ‘em?
Arsenal's starting XI in Arsene Wenger's first ever meeting with Chelsea back in 1997. pic.twitter.com/d6UeXWLVuW— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) August 17, 2018