An ardent Premier League follower would be more than aware of all the changing colors which we get to see in the changing landscape of football, almost on a daily basis. Such as, Cesc Fabregas’ amazing journey from Arsenal to Chelsea, to Manchester United blaming Chelsea and Manchester City for spoiling football by their mindless spending (LVG actually spent 150 mil peanuts this season, someone mistook it for pounds). However, what this article is intended to be is less controversial (from now on) and more analytical; less metaphorical and more literal. The intention is to discuss how in recent history the ‘glorious Reds’ have been in decline, and might give way to the ‘resurgent Blues’.
Before the advent of the Premier League and even in the initial years of the league, there was an outright dominance of the teams in red – the teams being Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Brimming with big name players and with rich history these were the clubs every teenager wanted to represent, without so much even thinking of the possibility of donning the jerseys of their fiercest rivals – Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton respectively, i.e. the Blues. Even in terms of financial power and league standing the Reds had always been miles ahead of their Blue counterparts.
But this Red dominance is slightly complicated to track post the 2003-04 campaign. After Arsenal’s transition from the title of ‘the Invincibles’, to the title of ‘4th place and proud’, and the pumping of Russian and Middle-Eastern money into Le Blues, things have changed drastically. It’s not saying that all of the reds have slipped into decadence – but since the last decade the blues have had bigger pockets, bigger names and with that, bigger aims with every passing season.
Since the 2003-04 Premier League season, the blues of Chelsea, City and Everton have collectively won, 5 PL titles (Chelsea – 3, City – 2) as compared to the 5 won by the Reds (all Manchester United). Now that may seem like level pegging, but the significance of the comparison becomes clear when compared to the period from the decade earlier (1994 – 2004), which was overwhelmingly Red. The ratio of Reds to Blues stood at a staggering 9 : 0.5 (Manchester United – 6, Arsenal – 3), that too assuming Blackburn Rovers to be half blue!
The Merseyside Angle
Liverpool does not feature at all amongst the title holders since the start of the Premier League with their last First Division title coming in the 1989-90 season. Notwithstanding, they are a club which is filled with legendary names of the bygone eras and a trophy cabinet which is second to none (United fans will say otherwise). They have always had bossed over their Merseyside Rivals, Everton, who could never match up to the stature of Liverpool. But if the last 5 years are taken into consideration, then this is where we stand:
|Premier League Standings:
The above numbers show how neck to neck, the most fiercely contested derby in the PL has been in the recent past. If we bring in numbers from further five years back, that would leave us at:
Liverpool – 17 and Everton – 34, exactly double.
Note: As the above compares league standings, a lesser score would show a higher and better standing over the years taken into account.
Over to Manchester
Manchester United has always been unanimously known as the club that represents the city of Manchester whereas Manchester City on the other hand, have forever been relegated to be the noisy neighbors. In recent times though, they have been noisy but for all the right reasons. The club is brimming with cash and their player mix is something the best teams around the world would yearn for. Manchester United however aren’t ones who can be belittled by any club, lest by their derby rivals. Sturdy as a rock under the stalwart leadership of Sir Alex, they have won titles with teams such as the class of ’92, and in contrary, with players who many wouldn’t have said to be ‘champions’ material. But ever since the departure of Sir Alex, the team has struggled to find any momentum under new leadership, with a lot of the old names making way for a supposed better breed of footballers. With the team brimming with quality again and steadily growing in confidence, Manchester United shall definitely be pushing for the title, if not this season then in the coming seasons. However what’s left to be seen is, will they be able to upstage the momentum and quality of their next door, ‘noisy’ and extremely talented neighbors?
Ze bragging rights of London:
The third and final Red vs Blue clash is served by the members of the London derby – Chelsea and Arsenal. Although the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham is the most passionate London derby, and Chelsea do battle in the West London derby with Fulham and QPR – yet in terms of overall league standings this Derby generally holds a lot in the balance. The team from Stamford Bridge won their first title in 50 years, in dramatic fashion in the 2004-05 season. It was a revamped team, with a new manager and a new owner which had instilled new passion and vigor into the team; and not to forget millions of dollars to spend. Needless to say the manager was the enigmatic Jose Mourinho and the Russian Magnate – Roman Abramovich was the new owner. Ten years have passed since, and the team today boasts of a starting 11 which could fit into any squad. And half a dozen managers later, Jose Mourinho is back for his second stint, with an insatiable hunger for titles. Arsenal on the other hand have struggled to emulate the achievements of the 2003/04 season, and have failed to hold on to their prized players year after year, even losing some to fierce rivals. This has led to them being labeled as a selling club. The upside of this is that, Arsene Wenger has however done some terrific business to keep the club in the green all these years, especially during their move away from Highbury and into the Emirates Stadium. Over the past two seasons, Wenger has begun opening his pockets to lure in some big names such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, spending heavily in the process. The promised goals and smooth interplay these high profile players bring to the club is something every Arsenal fan awaits with bated breath. Although more time will be needed to gauge the real impact these players have in the future success (or not) of the club.
Sum total of league standings – Reds vs Blues
All put into consideration, there has been a definite bridging of the ‘unassailable margins’ which prevailed over many years. Of course a large factor in that bridging, was the English FA opening up to foreign investors which saw the takeover of Chelsea and Manchester City in the past few years. The large surplus of these investors have played a massive hand in the fortunes of these two teams, by pumping huge amounts of money to spend on players and facilities. These huge expenses have in turn resulted in the clubs recording losses for a prolonged period of time. However, after being in the red for a while, Chelsea and City have shown signs of longevity by moving over to a self-sufficient business model for the coming years (which is also in part, due to the FFP rules imposed by UEFA). The clubs have become more prudent with their spending, and have even resorted to letting big players leave in order to bring in new faces; in an effort to balance the books. In short, there are no signs of the clubs imploding in the near future and they will undoubtedly strive to maintain the standards which have been set over the years.
The aggregate annual money spent on transfer (only buys) can be seen below:
The Blues have gone about with the, ‘spend at will’ attitude, which has resulted in the betterment of their league standings. Everton as compared to City and Chelsea contribute marginally in the above comparison as they haven’t seen a cash laden owner take over the club… yet.
This comparison doesn’t however mean that there is any loyalty based on color in the Premier league, Manchester United as we all know are equally fierce rivals with Liverpool and Arsenal as compared to Manchester City or Chelsea. That was in some part due to the fact that City who were not much of a competition – which we saw earlier, isn’t the case anymore. In the last three fixtures at Old Trafford, City have won all three, including a humiliating 6-1 victory. Everton have been pushing Liverpool to the limits and Chelsea vs Arsenal has always been an enthralling, end to end football match, guaranteed to serve up a spectacle. At least as far as local Red vs Blue derbies are concerned, a paradigm shift is imminent unless the Reds manage to pull up their socks and do something about it, rather soon. Clearly, recent history suggests things are looking very blue for the Reds with their misery further compounded by the red hot form of the Blues!