Wed | Mar 20, 2019

Contrasting transitions at Arsenal and Chelsea

Published:Friday | August 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Arsenal manager Unai Emery
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri


When Arsenal and Chelsea square off tomorrow, it will provide a glimpse into two contrasting managerial transitions for London rivals trying to rejoin the Premier League elite.

Chelsea fans have grown used to seeing new faces in the dugout. Maurizio Sarri is the 11th manager in 15 years of Roman Abramovich's ownership.

Arsenal are hesitantly adapting to their coaching change as they head to Stamford Bridge without Arsene Wenger for the first time since 1995. By the time the Frenchman was nudged out in May, Arsenal had already enforced a new structure to drain the manager's power ready for Unai Emery's appointment.

The last year saw the creation of the positions of head of football relations (Raul Sanllehi joined from Barcelona) and head of recruitment (Sven Mislintat joined from Borussia Dortmund). It points to a methodical attempt to formalise structures that can outlast a manager and ensure that a successor can't have the same grip on power that leaves the team fearing the consequences of change.

Chelsea are lacking a similar battalion of specialist staff to oversee transfers. Since technical director Michael Emenalo left last November - just as Arsenal was beefing up behind the scenes - director Marina Granovskaia assumed complete responsibility for player deals.

Chelsea doesn't have a chief executive and much uncertainty surrounds the ownership. Abramovich has remained typically silent, not just about the team on the field, but his own interest in continuing to invest in Chelsea since a visa dispute with the British government.

Arsenal have already seen their second-biggest shareholder - a Russian - pull out last week just as the season prepared to start. But Alisher Usmanov's decision to sell his 30 per cent stake to majority owner Stan Kroenke ends the Premier League's longest-running battle for control of a club and solidifies the American sports magnate's long-term vision for the Arsenal.

"I met the Kroenke family in Atlanta," Emery said, "and he gave us his commitment in this project with Arsenal."

Returning to the Champions League is the primary target this season at Arsenal and Chelsea. For the first time since 1995-96 - just before Wenger's appointment - both finished outside of the top four in the same campaign.

Chelsea have more recent title-winning pedigree, with Antonio Conte delivering the trophy in 2017. Arsenal have not topped the Premier League since 2004.

Arsenal showed why it sank to sixth last season and the size of the recovery job when it opened the Emery era with a 2-0 loss to defending champion Manchester City on Sunday.