The downfall of the London clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham
It seems such a long time ago since the end of the season but what a fantastic way for it to finish! It kept us guessing right to the end as to who would be left heartbroken, as they exited the top flight. The biggest surprise was Birmingham City who won their first piece of silverware since 1963 but now face life playing Europa League football in the Championship. Wolves won’t miss their Midland rivals despite (in my opinion) being the luckiest team on “Survival Sunday” to avoid the drop. Not many teams can claim to lose a make or break game at home, and still be able stay in the league – if the score had stayed 3-1 against Blackburn and Birmingham had kept their nerve, it could have been very different. Premier League favourites Blackpool narrowly missed escaping relegation, however, a 74th minute own goal by Ian Evatt against Man Utd effectively condemned the Seasiders to life back in the Championship. And the less said about West Ham the better but good luck to Sam Allardyce as I think he’ll need it.
Having deviated away from the main topic, my article looks at the key stages of the 2010-2011 season for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and why their seasons, which promised so much, delivered so little.
Arsenal finished their season in the worst possible fashion, placing fourth in what was essentially a two-horse race. An end of season run of 3 draws, 3 loses and 1 win has left the Gunners needing to start their campaign earlier to qualify for the Champions League. But where did it all go wrong?
A fortnight to forget effectively ended any hopes of gaining some silverware with a shock defeat to Birmingham in the League Cup final, a Champions League exit to Barcelona having taken the advantage to the Nou Camp and a lifeless performance in the FA cup against Man Utd. With just the league to focus on, it almost seemed that the players lost the belief that they could win anything. However, will the Arsenal faithful tolerate a 7th season without a trophy? Even Arsène Wenger’s position at the club looks precarious with “fans” regularly calling for his resignation…
The future certainly looks uncertain for the North London outfit with Fabregas looking like he’s on his way to Barcelona (or Real Madrid depending on what you read) as Arsenal finally decide to cash in their chips. Man City have also closed a deal on Gael Clichy to leave the defence even more fragile and Samir Nasir is set to depart as well. With every season that passes another one of Arsenal’s talented squad depart for success elsewhere at the peak of their career; the list includes Hleb, Flamini, Touré, Adebayor, and Eduardo…
Moving south of the river (the Thames, incase you hadn’t worked it out), Carlo Ancelotti suffered the wrath of Abramovich, when Chelsea finished the season trophyless after a “double” on his debut season. After a blistering start, thumping teams 6-0 (West Brom and Wigan), 4-0 (Blackpool), Chelsea looked unstoppable but they suffered from a mid-season slump, which they never recovered from. Coincidently, this happened roughly around the same time as the ill-timed sacking of Ray Wilkins during a reserve game in the middle of November. Surely there’s no such thing as a coincidence?
From what we can establish Ancelotti received a not too disimilar elbow from the club at the end of the season. It seems that Roman Ambramovich’s rotten influence at Chelsea has reared its ugly head again, as demonstrated by the megabucks purchase of the flop of the season, Fernando Torres (an accolade followed closely by Mario Balotelli – my favourite striker!). Part of the problem is also rooted in Chelsea’s aging squad, which has carried over from last season when they released several senior players including Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Ricardo Calvalho. Currently, Cech, Terry, Essien, Lampard, Drogba and Anelka are approaching their twilight of their careers and several “big” signings have failed to live up to expectations – Jon Obi Mikel and Solomon Kalou are two that spring to mind.
Chelsea may have got their man in André Villas-Boas, with Roberto Di Matteo as his number two. However, Villas-Boas has had relative success in his first year as the Porto coach (running away with the league title and winning the Europa League), but will his lack of managerial experience at the very top be a hindrance in the unforgiving Premier League?
This finally brings me onto Tottenham Hotspur and their rollercoaster season. They were the darlings (or overachievers some might say) of the Champions League, taking surprising scalps from AC and Inter Milan, as well as a favourable run of results in the group stage. However, there were doubts as to whether their success in Europe could be replicated in the domestic league and unfortunately they proved their critics right.
After losing the first leg of their Champions League quarter final, all the gusto had been taken out of the once confident team. Following the start of April the club could barely keep up with Man City and nearly lost out to Liverpool on a much “coveted” Europa League spot. At lot of criticism was aimed at Harry Redknapp as it showed all his weaknesses as to why he shouldn’t be the next England manager, after all the hype and praise throughout the season.
Spurs have learned a very harsh lesson in that the financial benefits of being in the Champions League (as well the players you can attract) far outweigh an exciting cup run with an abrupt exit. And now Tottenham are struggling to keep their best players with big money offers being tabled for Luca Modric. Fears are that if Modric leaves, it will set a precedent for all their other star players such as Gareth Bale and Peter Crouch (only joking!).
With Liverpool and Man City building up their squads and consolidating for the start of the next campaign it should make the race for the top four even more interesting…roll on next season!