x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Different stages for two shades of blue

Another round of lavish spending by Manchester City during the summer did not faze Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager.

Another round of lavish spending by Manchester City during the summer did not faze Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager. His team, backed by owner Roman Abramovich's millions, were the Premier League's big-spenders before Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's takeover of City in 2008. A host of expensive players arrived in Manchester during the transfer window, to the tune of around £75 million (Dh422m), but Ancelotti refused to follow suit as he planned Chelsea's defence of their title.

There was a flirtation with a few high-profile names, but nothing came to pass despite the departures of Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho. Instead, the London club kept their transfer activity low-key. The arrival of Ramires, the Brazilian international midfielder, at £18m could hardly be called a bargain. Although he can be compared to the reputed £28m plus wages forked out by City for Yaya Toure, who plays a similar position.

Likewise, Yossi Benayoun, an attacking midfielder, arrived from Liverpool for £5m, while City paid £24m for James Milner. And then there is Michael Essien who, after missing six months of last season with injury, has given substance to the managers' cliche that his return to fitness is "like signing a new player". Essien, 28, was a man inspired as Chelsea beat West Ham United 3-1 at Upton Park to make it four straight wins for Chelsea, scoring twice. As Ancelotti said: "To have Essien back it is better than a new signing. We missed him last season because he's one of the top midfielders in the world. He came back and we're happy he can maintain this level of play."

The Ghanaian emphasised his all-round ability against struggling West Ham with the sort of display that would leave pundits pondering Essien's value in today's transfer market, given that Chelsea paid the French side Lyon £26m for him in 2005. Of course City are at the same sort of stage as Chelsea were not long after the arrival of Abramovich, seven years ago. That Chelsea now balk at paying the type of sums that City have emphasises the different stages of these contrasting shades of blue revolution.

How West Ham fans look on at both clubs green with envy. Between Chelsea's new era and City's Abu Dhabi-backed emergence, the Hammers had the promise of their own bright future three years ago. But as the club's chairman David Sullivan is at pains to stress, the club's previous regime, fallen Icelandic bankers, has left West Ham with huge financial problems. After suffering a fourth straight defeat, the Hammers now face a relegation battle which will only compound their problems.

There was a glimmer of home for West Ham. Victor Obinna, the Nigerian striker on loan from Inter Milan, had a promising debut despite missing a couple of chances. Obinna though revealed the fear that resides in the West Ham dressing room: "It's not a very good atmosphere. Everybody is, how do I put it, everybody knows what is going on." sports@thenational.ae