x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Substance overcomes style

Arsenal have been guilty of having style over substance, especially when they face London rivals Chelsea.

Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, right, loves scoring against Arsenal with 10 goals in 11 games. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, right, loves scoring against Arsenal with 10 goals in 11 games. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

The criticism often thrown at Arsene Wenger's Arsenal teams is that style is more prominent than substance. 

In other words, it is all very well beating lesser teams 6-0 while throwing together 26-pass attacking moves, but it is the ability to grind out results against quality opposition that makes a champion team.

The Gunners' passing style of football has drawn praise from many quarters, as has Wenger's notable emphasis on bringing young players through the ranks. 

The major flaw that Arsenal's critics like to point out is their lack of an end product to combine with possession football and intricate build-up play. Chelsea, their London rivals who they face at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, have a contrasting approach. 

They have spent a lot of money on players in the Roman Abramovich era, resulting in an experienced, star-packed squad.

They have, particularly when Jose Mourinho was the coach, been more notable for grinding out results than playing flair football. Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea may have started to turn on the style - evidenced by successive 6-0 wins to start this season- but Arsenal are firmly entrenched as the neutral's favourite team. 

However, a glance at the recent head-to-head record between Chelsea and the Gunners may give Arsenal's critics some evidence for their argument.

In the last five seasons, in all competitions, Chelsea have been victorious in nine of their 13 meetings with Arsenal winning just twice. 

It is a massively lopsided record considering that both sides had been in contention for the title in each of those five Premier League campaigns. Chelsea have won two titles and 55 more points than Arsenal in that time. 

Will Wenger change his tactics? Probably not. But beating your title rivals is important and if Arsenal cannot start doing that, maybe the Frenchman should think about adopting a different approach for these big games.