Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-0 to win the Charity Shield and instead of talking about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s brilliantly taken goal or the fact that Chelsea looked dreadfully short-handed up front and lethargic for most of the match, all anyone can talk about is “The Snub”: Arsene Wenger refusing to shake Jose Mourinho’s hand after the match. And that’s exactly what Jose Mourinho wants. He can’t just let people have their moment of glory without making it all about him.
Mourinho made an extraordinary gesture after the match and appeared at the foot of the stairs as the Arsenal players were headed back out to the Wembley pitch to celebrate in front of their fans. Mourinho stood in their way and then, as if he were Bonny Prince Jose handing the players their medals, tried to shake each and every player’s hand.
The problem I have is that this is not his celebration. This isn’t Jose Mourinho’s moment. He’s not the Prince. He’s not the head of the FA. He has no business being there congratulating the Arsenal players.
It was a calculated move on Mourinho’s part to stir controversy. He gets to try to look good by being overtly magnanimous and if anyone refuses to shake his hand, as Wenger did, then there’s a controversy. Mourinho knows how important hand-shaking is to the British public — it’s tantamount to murder if you refuse to shake a man’s hand. He also knows that by injecting himself in the Arsenal’s celebrations it would rankle Wenger.
Mourinho is the most egotistical man is sport. He couldn’t even let Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have a moment of triumph without making it about him. Dressed the way he was, looking like a water boy in his sweat pants, I imagine Arsene Wenger walking down the Wembley stairs and thinking “what is this clown doing now?”
Wenger was absolutely correct in refusing that man’s handshake. Wenger knew that Mourinho was trying to steal away a little of Arsenal’s glory with his gesture. Trying to make it about him.
Personally it reminded me of John Terry donning the full kit to celebrate when Chelsea won the Champions League. That’s what Chelsea are all about.
And if you had any lingering doubt how bitter Mourinho was and whether the whole “magnanimous loser” routine was real or not, let’s not forget that Jose turned his back on Wenger. Even if Wenger wanted to shake his hand, Jose showed him his back. Jose further dispelled any notions of respecting the cup, the competition, or the opponents when seconds after turning his back on Wenger, he threw his second place medal into the crowd.
He showed up dressed in a track suit. He threw his medal into the crowd. He tried to make Arsenal’s celebrations about himself. Jose Mourinho is the Special One all right.
Eleven years ago. That’s when Arsene’s Arsenal first met Mourinho’s Chelsea. It was 12 December 2004, the match was played at Highbury, and the score ended up honors even at 2-2. And while it wasn’t a decisive victory for either team, it was a scoreline which kept Chelsea 5 points ahead of Arsenal, and was a healthy step on the way to their first League title in 50 years. It won’t sit well with many Arsenal fans but in retrospect it was a match which indicated a shift of power in London.
Arsenal were the champs of England. Combining fluidity and grace in attack, with a tough-as-a-knot-in-wood¹ midfield, and a big English bulldog in defense, Arsenal were not only just champs but they had done the one thing no one had done in the modern era; they went an entire season unbeaten. This team were dubbed the “Invincibles” and they were riding high to kick off the new season.
On the day of the match, Arsenal showed up with the main cast of characters from their Invincibles season: Thierry Henry’s star shone brightest but the remaining cast of Lauren, Toure, Campbell, and Cole in defense along with Pires, Reyes, and Bergkamp pulling the strings in attack was the core of the best team in English football history. Patrick Vieira was notably absent but Wenger turned to Flamini and the precocious Cesc Fabregas to run the midfield.
In the buildup to the match in 2004, there had been a few choice words exchanged between the two managers. Wenger’s criticism focused on the fact that Chelsea had spent £200m assembling their team, a fact which would seem undeniable and yet Mourinho responded in typical Mourinho fashion: attacking Wenger and then telling a porky.
“It is a big surprise for me to hear that,” Mourinho said. “Was Thierry Henry free from Juventus? Did Patrick Vieira come on loan? Perhaps they rented him out for £100,000. Did they get (José Antonio) Reyes free from Seville? I would be very surprised if they gave him for nothing last Christmas. How much have I spent at Chelsea? Sometimes there is confusion. I haven’t spent so much. Chelsea spent a lot of money on players who aren’t here any more. Manchester United have spent more than me.”
Mourinho’s statements went unchecked by the media, even the Times (quote above) didn’t check his facts. But if you look at the players who played that day for Chelsea and look at their transfer fees, you see that Chelsea spent nearly £200m fielding that team:
Paulo Ferreira, £14m
Ricardo Carvalho, £21m
(Drogba 45), £26m
(Bridge 45), £7.3m*
(Parker 77), £10m*
*players Mourinho inherited
Mourinho personally bought £90m worth of the players he played on 12 December 2004 and inherited another £73m worth. The team contained just one academy player and the rest cost Chelsea £163m in transfer fees alone. And his claim that Man U spent more? Man U, the second biggest spenders in 2004/2005, spent just £36m.
It’s strange to think that the man bought so many players and yet felt a sting of criticism when that fact was pointed out to him. Such a sting that he went on the assault and then just plain made up some facts. It doesn’t make any sense for him to be hurt by reality, the fact is that the Premier League can be bought. Any league can be bought and most leagues are bought. That’s the rule. The exception to the rule is that once in a while a manager can build an exceptional team, can get the most out of that team, and do so on a budget. What I suspect that Mourinho wanted to do, and let’s remember this is a man who dubbed himself “The Special One”, was make an exception of himself where none existed.
It’s a criticism which still rankles. Just last week Mourinho mentioned that Arsenal have spent £100m in transfers over the last 3 years and that his Chelsea have spent just £6m. That reversal in spending, while not entirely true nor the whole story, is just one of the many ways that this fixture feels like a flip-flop of the first meeting 11 years ago.
In the first meeting Arsenal scored with almost the first kick of the game; Fabregas hit a long ball up to Henry, Henry won the header and knocked the ball back to Reyes who headed the ball back to Henry. Henry took one touch to control the ball and then hit a half-volley past the outstretched arms of Petr Cech. It was a goal worthy of the occasion.
Chelsea equalized off a corner, taking advantage of Arsenal’s known weaknesses at set plays (things never change), and lobbing a ball into John Terry for the glancing header into the far corner. Henry had accidentally gotten in the way of Sol Campbell, who was man-marking Terry, and that allowed Terry the free header.
But Arsenal struck back, if in a cheeky fashion. Pires was fouled on the edge of the box and while Cech was setting up the wall, Henry asked if he could take the free kick early. Graham Poll (now a columnist for the Daily Mail) allowed it and Henry punted the ball in as Chelsea organized. Chelsea protested by Poll allowed the goal to stand.
Chelsea answered with another goal off a set play. Again, Terry used the fact that Campbell was man marking him and took the Arsenal man on a jog to the top of the box. This left Chelsea with a free header in the box and they scored off the ensuing scramble.
Mourinho did what we now know that Mourinho does and shored up the midfield, bringing on the industrious Scott Parker to shut the game down. Arsenal weren’t finished though and all three points were there for the taking when Fabregas played a great 1-2 with Henry, then slotted in a through ball for Pires, who crossed perfectly for Henry. With Cech flapping and the goal gaping, Henry missed his hat trick in dramatic fashion, shooting in to the famous Arsenal clock rather than the goal.
Henry faced Mourinho’s Chelsea three more times after that first match and was injured for a further four matches. Henry never scored against Chelsea after that first meeting. I am left wondering if the next 11 years would have been different if Henry would have scored that goal.
Chelsea won the League that season, beaten just once a 1-0 loss to Man City, and conceded just 15 goals. In the history of their head-to-head matchups, this was the most open match played between Wenger and Mourinho. After this game, Mourinho closed up shop, played defense first, and in 12 matches Arsenal have only scored 6 goals. In the last five matches, Arsenal haven’t even scored a single goal.
In the last two years, many of the players who featured in this famous game have switched teams. Most notably, Arsenal’s precocious midfielder, Cesc Fabregas, now plays for Chelsea and their precocious ‘keeper, Petr Cech, now plays for Arsenal. If you’d have asked me 10 years ago if Cesc would be playing for Chelsea I would have said “under no circumstance” and the same for Cech moving from Chelsea to Arsenal.
To be honest I’ve thought about how my conclusion to this article will go for three days — and I can’t come up with anything even good, much less brilliant. It all feels like something is changing at Arsenal and I’m itching to say that the Gunners are going to come out and finally get a win over Mourinho’s Chelsea. It also really feels like this is the same type of match that the first meeting was, except in reverse: they are the champs, we are the upstarts.
The history between these two clubs and these two managers runs deeper than just the one game above. It’s deeper than just Fabregas and Cech. There have been many other rows — most notably when Chelsea were sanctioned for tapping up Ashley Cole — but in the end Chelsea have always come out victorious.
Chelsea are the bullies of the Premier League. They throw their money around, Mourinho makes snide comments about Arsene and Arsenal in the press, and whenever they play Arsenal they have always kicked Arsenal off the pitch.
Arsenal just have to stand up to them and I think that we may have the players to do it this time. Giroud will have to be a nuisance to Cahill and Terry and he can do it too, he’s one of the strongest CF’s I’ve seen in the league. Ramsey is a tough character who has stood up to the thugs who literally broke his leg. Wilshere doesn’t take any nonsense and will not hesitate to get into the Chelsea player’s faces. I’ve seen Coquelin get his nose broken twice, in the same game, and not want to come off the pitch. And in the goal, Arsenal have Cech, who the players say has an “intimidating presence”. It’s going to take all of that plus the guile of Özil, the trickery of Ox, and a very solid defensive performance (especially off crosses and corners) from the Arsenal back four.
But if Arsenal can get that blend right, then maybe, just maybe, they can pull it off. Get a win in this match and send a message that Arsenal might have a horse in the title race. Is it a little horse or a big one? We’ll see on Sunday.
¹Nails are tough, but if you hammer a nail into a knot in a piece of wood, the nail bends
In the summer of 1996, Newcastle were the biggest spenders in the Premier League, buying Alan Shearer for £15m. In fact, from 1996/97 to 2002/03 there were six different teams who topped the transfer spend list. That all changed in the summer of 2003/04 when Roman Abramovich “parked Russian tanks on our lawn and started firing £50 notes at us” as Arsenal’s legendary chairman David Dein once said.
For the next four seasons Chelsea were the top spenders: firing out £293m from Abramovich’s tanks. Jose Mourinho inherited a team which had spent £117m buying such illuminaries as Duff, Crespo, Veron, Mutu, Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, and Glen Johnson. Yeah, I only gave the British players first names, you’ll get over it.
Mourinho saw the state of that team and went on a spending spree of his own, plunking down £175m over the next three seasons on transfers. The result of Abramovich’s net spend (£293m) under the first Mourinho era was two League titles, an FA cup, 2 League cups, and a Community Shield. For those of you counting, that’s £100m per major trophy or £50m per trophy if you count the Charity Shield, and counting the Community Shield is very charitable indeed.
I wonder if Mourinho saw the writing on the wall before he left Chelsea because the season he left, Man City spent £60m on players and took over the mantle from Chelsea as top spenders. City would emulate Chelsea’s model to a T: buying whoever they could in the first season (ROBINHO!) and paying whatever they had to pay to get him in the door just to signal intent. And from there City spent £462m over the next five seasons. For the money they spent, they won 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, and 1 Community Shield. Just the major titles cost City £142m each and even if we include the League cup and Charity Shield (it’s not a trophy, folks) that takes their total spend per trophy to £92m.
All totaled, through the Abramovich era (from 2003/04-present) Chelsea has spent £498m but admittedly all of that spending has paid off in a lot of trophies: 4 League titles, 4 FA Cups, the most disgraceful Champions League trophy ever, and a Europa League title. That’s 10 majors at a cost of about £50m each. That’s not bad, folks.
Man City has been by far and away the most wasteful club in football history. Since they started spending money on transfers in 2007/08 they have never once turned a profit in the transfer market and have spent £619m on transfers. And they have only won 3 major trophies. That’s £200m per major trophy.
Manchester United are the surprise big spenders of the last 4 years, taking over from City after Financial Fair Play rules limited the amount that City could just throw away on players. Sir Alex Ferguson went out with a bang and spent £43m in his final season at United winning them their last major trophy in the process. Since 2012/2013, however, United have spent lavishly, throwing down £257m and topping all the transfer records since. But, United only have the one major trophy to show for their spending, meaning that trophy cost them £257m.
Fergie was the most successful manager in terms of total trophy haul. Which you already knew unless you just started watching football five minutes ago. Just counting from the Wenger era (1996/97) to his retirement two seasons ago Fergie won 14 major trophies with Man U which includes two Champions League titles, something Wenger and Mourinho haven’t done yet with an English club. Fergie wasn’t exactly thrifty but he also wasn’t overly profligate. He spent the most money of the three managers, £247m, but the trophy returns, winning 25 titles, more than makes up for his outlay.
As for Arsenal, I like to go back to the summer of 1996/97 to track Wenger’s spending. The reason I do that is because according to legend, Wenger told David Dein to buy Patrick Vieira that summer so, I credit Wenger with that transfer season even if he wasn’t actually the boss.
Throughout Arsene’s entire history with the Arsenal, he has spent just £113m. From 1996/97-2005/06 Wenger spent “lavishly” by his standards and plonked down £58m. In that time frame, he won 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups. That’s 7 major trophies at a bargain cost of £8m each.
Wenger then went through a period of selling from 2006/07-2012/13 and generated a net profit of£43m. It’s no surprise, then, that in that time Arsenal made it to two League Cup finals and ended runner’s up both times*.
But since 2013/14 Wenger has been given a large chunk of money to spend on players and in the last three seasons has spent £98m. If you’re paying attention, you’ll note that Wenger has only spent £113m in his career, with £98m of that coming in the last three years! In the time that Wenger has spent £100m, he has won 2 major trophies: back-to-back FA Cups at a cost of about £50m each.
Jose Mourinho urged reporters to get out a calculator and look at the last three years. Then, he said, you’ll see some interesting results. He’s right, Arsenal have long been associated with frugality and Chelsea with extravagance so it’s kind of ironic that Arsenal have spent the third most money in the transfer market over the last three years and Chelsea have basically broke even! If you rank the top six teams (average Premier League finish) by net transfer spend over the last 3 years it looks like this:
1st: Man United £214m
2nd: Man City £142m
3rd: The Arsenal £98m
4th: Liverpool £80m
5th: Chelsea £6m
6th: Tottenham -£16m
Jose is right, Chelsea have been very astute in the transfer market over the last two years. They managed to dupe PSG into giving them £35m for David Lulz, Everton into giving them £25m for Lulzkaku, £22m for Andre Schurrlulz, and got a clearly desperate David Moyes to stump up £31m for Juan Mata-lulz. In fact, Chelsea might be able to break even in the transfer market for quite some time. They have a massive stockpile of players out on loan around the world and at any point could cash in on those players if needed.**
But as usual, Jose is also wrong and is twisting facts to his liking. Chelsea have spent an incredible £569m on transfers during the Wenger era, making them the second most profligate spenders over the last 20 years.
1st: Man City £673m
2nd: Chelsea £569m
3rd: United £462m
4th: Liverpool £326m
5th: Tottenhams £206m
6th: Arsenal £113m
Moreover, Mourinho himself has outspent Arsene Wenger by nearly double and hasn’t won Chelsea as many trophies as Arsene Wenger has for Arsenal. Mourinho’s transfer cost per major trophy while at Chelsea is almost £50m. Wenger’s cost per major is just £13m. Even if we count the little ticky-tacky trophies like the Charity Shield and the League Cup, Wenger has 14 trophies for Arsenal and Mourinho just 8 for Chelsea.
The facts are, if you get a calculator, you will see some interesting results, just like Jose predicted. You will see that Jose Mourinho has spent almost twice as much money as Arsene Wenger and has less than half of the silverware to show for it.
**It’s also important to note that I’m including this transfer window in my calculations and I have no doubt that Chelsea will spend the £20m they have earned in transfer profits so far this season, which will change their net spend over three seasons.
*Once to Chelsea in Wenger’s first Cesc season and the last one to Birmingham City in Cesc’s last season. Birmingham City didn’t outspend Arsenal but Arsenal’s threadbare and injured squad were missing key players in that match. Players who would have made a difference.