Arsene Wenger outlines preference for ball-hogging champions

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at a Arsenal v Manchester United game on May 7 at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at a Arsenal v Manchester United game on May 7 at Emirates Stadium.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON - Arsene Wenger feels the Premier League champions-elect Chelsea do not seek to take the initiative in matches - and neither did last season's champions Leicester City - with the Arsenal manager worrying about the message that their successes send out.

Chelsea will take the title with a win at West Bromwich Albion tomorrow and Wenger has noted two trends about them and Leicester.

The first is that neither club played any European football in the season of their triumph and the second relates to their style, which he described as featuring "not big possession".

According to Opta, Wenger's perception is correct with regard to Leicester but less so with Chelsea.

Leicester had 42.4 per cent of possession in their games last season, which was the third-lowest in the division. Chelsea have had 54.2 per cent this time out, which is the sixth-highest.

  • 54.2%

    Chelsea's average possession of the ball in their games this season, the sixth-highest in the Premier League. Leicester City, last season's champions, had 42.4 per cent.

Wenger has long considered himself to have a duty to entertain with front-foot football and his detractors would point out that it has got him nowhere over the past 13 years in terms of the title.

He does, though, continue to subscribe to the adage about possession being nine-tenths of the law.

"Over the last two seasons, teams who have not big possession have won the league," he said. "And, as well, teams who were not involved in Europe, at all, won the league. Because the league is so physically difficult, maybe it is very difficult to cope with both. We will see how Chelsea respond next season.

"Are teams who are not making the game doing well? Yes. When we analyse it in Geneva (at coaching conferences), we always analyse the Champions League and I must say, in some seasons, the team who had low possession won the Champions League.

"Over a longer period, it is the teams who have the most possession who win it.

"I still think sport has to encourage initiative and if it rewards too much teams who don't take initiative, then we have to rethink the whole process because people will not, forever, come to watch teams who do not want to take the initiative.

"The responsibility of people who make the rules is always to encourage teams who want to play, because that is what you want to see."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger outlines preference for ball-hogging champions'. Print Edition | Subscribe