Under-pressure Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger reckons there’s only one team in London — and it’s not Chelsea.
Wenger was responding to suggestions Alexis Sanchez could quit the Gunners to move to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
So, who’s the only team in London?
Andrew Mangan: Wenger’s comment came across like a man playing to the crowd. He knows he’s under pressure, so why not try and alleviate that with a populist slogan that will go over well with fans who, for all the troubles at the moment, remain partisan?
The Arsenal manager is someone who has always highlighted the difficulties of having so many London derbies. Whether it’s Chelsea or Crystal Palace, Spurs or QPR, there’s always something a little more intense about a game against a team from the same city, so this soundbite was not something I take in any way seriously.
Mark Worrall: Wenger should have his own show on the Comedy Channel at the moment. He’s box-office gold. Over at Chelsea, we just can’t get enough of it. Wenger, Arsenal Fan TV … the weekly meltdowns are fantastic.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the serious business of winning football games and challenging for the title, Antonio Conte is proving how important it is for a club to have someone at the helm who can unify players and supporters alike. One big team together. That’s the buzz at Stamford Bridge right now. So, yeah, on that basis maybe there is only one team in London.
Who has had a greater impact on the Premier League?
AM: Chelsea have certainly had more success in recent years — the progression they made after Roman Abramovich came on board is impossible to ignore. Obviously I’m biased, but I think Arsenal have done what they’ve done more organically — and that’s not to suggest there’s only one way of running a club, but things have been built by the resources the club have generated themselves.
Although it’s been too long since the last title, there have been two doubles under Wenger, that unbeaten season, and going back to the late ’90s, early 2000s, the greatest rivalry in Premier League history, when Wenger and Arsenal were pitted against Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.
I’m giving this one to the Gunners!
MW: I’m old enough to remember the days when Chelsea couldn’t buy a win against Arsenal … they can buy everything now. Joking aside, I think Andrew’s right in respect of the fact the Gunners set a benchmark for success in the Premier League along with Manchester United. It’s worth pointing out that although Chelsea were on the verge of bankruptcy when Abramovich bought the club, they were already a decent team, and had been for the best part of 10 years since Ken Bates appointed Glenn Hoddle, who was the catalyst for change in respect of player recruitment.
Think Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, Marcel Desailly and so on. Chelsea were trend-setters. Abramovich’s money broke up the axis of domination that Arsenal and United enjoyed, which had to be a good thing for the game, and the Russian has continued to back the club and develop its infrastructure in a way that has brought a shed load of silverware. Arsenal seem mired in the past, and are getting almost Liverpool-like in respect of talking about history. Chelsea have been making history, not reliving it, for quite a while. I have to back my club here. Chelsea!
Which club has the greater pull for prospective players?
AM: At the moment you’d probably say Chelsea. Arsenal are a club that is almost always on the brink of crisis at the moment. The managerial situation is uncertain, the team look far from being able to compete for the biggest prizes and there’s an air of underachievement at times.
Chelsea are competitive, have an interesting and dynamic modern manager, and they have the resources to pay far more in wages than Arsenal. So on that basis, it’d be a tough job to convince a player stuck between the two that North London is the place to be.
MW: Arsenal and Chelsea are both top clubs, but a top player wants to play for a top manager, and right now in Conte, the Blues have a massive edge here. They also have a pay structure which is geared to attract and retain the best talent, and are in the habitual business of winning things. It’s a no-brainer.
Alexis: Come to the Bridge. You know it makes sense.
Alexis Sanchez or Eden Hazard?
AM: Sanchez. Hazard is a wonderful player, but it was clear last season he downed tools because of the Mourinho problems. He wasn’t alone, to be fair, but even as difficult as things have been for Arsenal, you always get 100 percent on the pitch from Sanchez.
MW: I’d love to see Sanchez at Chelsea. He’s the complete forward, can play on either flank or through the middle and can be relied on to tackle-back. Don’t get me wrong, I think Hazard’s a genius — that solo goal against Arsenal was world class — but the Belgium international has a habit of going through inexplicable fallow periods and losing interest. In an ideal world, I’d love to see Sanchez and Hazard lining up together for Chelsea, but if I could only go with one for next season, I’d take Sanchez.
What’s the greater achievement: an Invincible season or being the first London team to win the European Cup?
AM: If Chelsea had been the first English team to win the European Cup, you might have a case to at least debate this issue, but for me it’s not even close. I would dearly love for Arsenal to win the Champions League. It’s a trophy that’s missing from the cabinet for a club of this size, but the unbeaten season remains a unique achievement that nobody has come near repeating.
Someone wins the Champions League every year, and the year they did it, Chelsea had rubbish Bayern penalties to thank!
In seriousness, it is something they can always crow about until such time as Arsenal win it — don’t hold your breath on that by the way — but the Invincibles did something that nobody else has, so they win this one.
MW: I think that if Arsenal’s Invincible season could be transformed by Gunners fans into a wind-up chant as effective as Chelsea’s “We’re the only team in London with the European Cup,” or “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that,” then the football world would be regularly reminded about what an astonishing achievement it was.
It only came to the fore again this season when the Blues went on that 13-game winning streak; a lot of younger fans had no real sense of perspective about it. I tip my hat to Arsenal. Well done, you win, Invincibles is the best achievement … but remember: “We’re the only team in London with the European Cup.”