September 24, 2010
The Premier League's biggest spenders go head to head on Saturday when Manchester City host Chelsea, but apart from lavishing huge amounts of cash on their respective projects the approaches of the clubs' owners vary wildly.
Roman Abramovich: Eight trophies for £720 million investment
The most obvious example of this can be seen in their attendance at matches. While Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich can invariably be seen in the VIP seats with his shirt sleeves rolled-up, living every moment of his team's games with a dead-pan expression, it took Sheikh Mansour two-years to even attend his first home match - last month's 3-0 win against Liverpool.
Current Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has waxed lyrical about how Abramovich is a man who lives and breathes football and even revealed in his book that the billionaire held two clandestine meetings prior to his appointment to sound out the former AC Milan coach about his plans for the future of Chelsea.
Even though Abramovich's eagerness to be hands-on may have back-fired on occasion - signing £30 million flop Andrei Shevchenko and hastening Jose Mourinho's exit with his attempts to become involved in team matters - at least his obvious interest in the sport offers plausible reasons for becoming involved in football.
It is hard to imagine Sheikh Mansour being knowledgeable enough to grill his new manager on tactics and transfer targets. And his motivation for buying Manchester City, a team he presumably had no interest in when they were in the second tier of English football in 2002, is hard to fathom - is it just an expensive PR stunt to promote Abu Dhabi via the most popular league in the world?
Abramovich bought Chelsea at a time in 2003 when they were already challenging for titles and competing in the Champions League, the transition from contenders to winners was minimal, if highly expensive. Abramovich's £720 million investment in Chelsea over seven years has returned three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup twice and a Champions League final.
Mansour took over a team that was going nowhere despite a moderate investment by predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra in a city where Manchester United have the monopoly on success. After pouring £650 million into the club there is still nothing to show for his investment apart from a collection of over-priced players.
While Abramovich is now in a position where he can be patient, if need be, in his quest for results as his team evolves under a relatively new manager, Mansour's City are desperate for the immediate gratification of silverware and, at the very least, a place in the Premier League’s top four.
With City crashing out of the Carling Cup in midweek, their 35-year wait for a major trophy could be set to continue for yet another season and a defeat against free-scoring Chelsea on Saturday will show the new boys just how far they have to go, and how much more they will have to spend, to buy a place at the top-table.
City may suffer the same nouveau riche-related criticisms that flew in Chelsea's direction back in 2003, but that is where the similarities end.
September 21, 2010
The Polish 'keeper has erred in the past.
© Getty Images
Once again Arsene Wenger will hand Lukasz Fabianski a chance to prove himself in the Carling Cup - against Tottenham on Tuesday - though once again it is a gamble that may not pay off for the Gunners.
Wenger has never been one to put the Carling Cup at the top of his priority list, choosing to blood his Young Guns instead, but Arsenal fans are beginning to tire of seeing a man labelled ‘Flappyhandski’ in between the posts.
With Wenger’s refusal to bolster the goalkeeping position in the summer - despite the fact that a bid of around £4 million would likely have seen Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer arrive - Arsenal still lack a decent back-up to Manuel Almunia, who has hardly covered himself in glory in the past either.
A good goalkeeper is vitally important for a side, marshalling the defence and providing stability at the back. A bad one can send shockwaves of nerves around a backline, causing problems with concentration and confidence. And that’s before their mistakes lead directly to goals for the opposition.
What is clear to most is that Fabianski has been given enough chances to impress for Arsenal. His mistakes against FC Porto alone could have been enough to see him sink into obscurity, but soft goals against Wigan and Blackburn at the back end of last season continued to damage an already poor reputation.
Thus far, the Pole has shown nothing to suggest that he is the long-term answer to Wenger’s goalkeeping conundrum and both Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny can count themselves extremely unlucky not to be given a chance of their own to shine against Spurs.
Wenger’s faith in his young players is admirable, but there has to come a point when the realisation sets in that one is not good enough to play at the highest level. How many Premier League points or places in Cup competitions are lost while this is being worked out can be placed directly at the doorstep of the manager.
However, Wenger feels that Fabianski still has something to offer and even praised the Pole this week for his attitude in training, claiming that he had the potential to be ''orld-class''. Obviously, what he does on the training pitch is different to what the rest of us see in competitive games and it is worrying that a manager of Wenger’s class has resorted to attempting to build up the player’s confidence by bandying about a term that is currently attributed to the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and (in his field) Iker Casillas.
Fabianski’s decision making, mental strength and physicality will be the subject of attacks from the opposition and the media until he is able to string some games together. Out of the spotlight at Arsenal and on loan somewhere else may give him that opportunity, although for now it seems he will continue to live in a pressure cooker where everyone is waiting for his next mistake.
Wenger has claimed that a goalkeeper will only get so many chances to prove himself, saying: ''You will get a second one [chance], but you will not get 10.'' Fabianski, possibly now dubbed 'The Cat' for different reasons, is quickly running out of lives.