Arsenal v Chelsea: Maurizio Sarri, Unai Emery and the frenzied fight for fourth place

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 18 January 2019, 10:40

It's not often that we can point to Bananarama for a lesson in football management philosophy.

But ‘It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It’ sums up how Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri and Arsenal boss Unai Emery are winning their respective PR battles, if not that many matches.

Both are new to their jobs this season and there’s a distinct feelgood factor surrounding their clubs. This, despite the fact that Chelsea are just one point better off than at the same time last season, and Arsenal only two.

The two London rivals meet this weekend in a battle for fourth place - hardly enough to stir the loins - as they struggle to reassert themselves in the Premier League theatre after massive upheavals last summer.

Sarri is in the biggest job of his life; taking over a club once considered a ruthless monster in terms of trophy grabbing and sacking managers. His job is to restore calm after the turbulent two season reign of firebrand Antonio Conte, but it is also about success.

Conte won a Premier League title and an FA Cup. One major pot in each of his two years in charge. That’s a tough act to follow.

But it was interspersed with outbursts of petulance, irritation and frustration aimed at the board of directors - in particular head of transfers Marina Granovskaia and owner Roman Abramovich.

Conte was unhappy with the buying and selling policy and let it be known. However, Sarri is saying the same things as his predecessor but yet there is no hint of a fall out with his superiors at Stamford Bridge.


Sarri says every week that ‘I tell the club my opinion and then it is up to them.’

That is precisely what Conte announced week in, week out when challenged by journalists over transfers.

Yet Sarri’s demeanour of a man who couldn’t care less is keeping him on the right side of Abramovich despite the fact he has thrown in a few little barbs in recent weeks.

He said Cesc Fabregas should leave Chelsea because of strict rules offering just one year contracts to over 30s - a clear signal that he is unhappy with that.

He says he needs a replacement for him and he says that he is weak in midfield. Had Conte said this there would be cries of uproar and a declaration of civil war.

Up there in north London Emery has announced that Arsenal are skint. There is a solid chance his club won’t be buying anybody this transfer window.

The 11 game winning streak has cooled to a mish mash of wins, draws and losses. Were Arsene Wenger still in charge there would be an outcry that the guy had lost the plot and that Arsenal were finished as a football force.

The Gunners were sixth this time last year - today they are fifth. Wow. Chelsea were third and currently sit fourth in the Premier League table.

Emery has even admitted he has no idea if recruitment chief Sven Mislintat is still in the job - this in the middle of the January transfer window.

Wenger knew exactly what was going on at every level of Arsenal FC even if he didn’t always know what to do about it come the end of his 22 years there.

Yet because Emery straight bats every question and doesn’t rock the boat or blast referees he is viewed as a quiet revolutionary.

Kicking a plastic water bottle is as passionate as it gets and all the while Arsenal muddle along - beaten by West Ham last week and facing a treacherous FA Cup tie next week against Manchester United.

Nothing has really changed at Chelsea or Arsenal and we will see this tomorrow tea-time when they play each other at the Emirates with nothing more at stake than reducing each other’s chances of scraping into the Champions League next season.

PS: If you’re too young to remember all-girl trio Bananarama, ask your dad - odds are he’s bound to recall the girls if not the music.


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Dean Keates
Dean Keates
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