Arsenal must learn from Lampard sacking: Neil Humphreys
Gunners' old boy loyalty seems admirable, but it isn't working
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal met in a fixture of similar importance was last year's FA Cup final. The Gunners prevailed in the battle of the old boys.
Mikel Arteta had the look of a coaching alchemist, turning his revered status as a playing legend into real managerial pedigree.
The Spaniard knew the Arsenal way. In the other dugout, Frank Lampard was still finding his way.
When the two clubs meet in the English Premier League tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Lampard will be sitting on his sofa. Arteta may be on borrowed time.
Arsenal's loyalty to one of their own is admirable. But the Gunners are drifting towards irrelevance. The Blues have moved on to better things with a better manager.
Thomas Tuchel has put paid to that tired myth - usually propagated by unemployed British managers looking for a job - that the old-boy network still works. The archaic notion that former players instinctively get a club's psyche and philosophy arguably ended with Liverpool's Boot Room.
And yet, such a spiritual connection between club and manager is arguably all that keeps Arteta tethered to the Gunners. It's a noble umbilical cord of sorts, but the snip may beckon if he loses at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal fade away.
The Blues currently offer an alternative reality, one where a manager is appointed on merit, rather than misguided romanticism.
Under Lampard, Chelsea were spiralling towards where Arsenal are at about now.
A dreary, trophy-less campaign, no European qualification, a mid-table position and talk of transitions and squad rebuilds, Arteta's Gunners are practically emulating Lampard's Blues.
But Tuchel displayed a refreshing eagerness to make the most of available resources, switching to three at the back and pushing Marcos Alonso and Reece James further forward to link with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
A regular goalscorer remains elusive, but Tuchel has adapted, utilising Christian Pulisic's versatility and spreading the goals around.
As a result, Chelsea are heavy favourites in the London Derby, thanks to a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions, defeating Real Madrid and Manchester City along the way.
In stark contrast, Arsenal are all over the place. Following their Europa League exit, Arteta spoke of the need for a squad overhaul. He calls for time, patience and cash.
His demands are not unreasonable, but the deja vu is unavoidable. Lampard sang from the same hymn sheet, right up until the moment he was sacked.
Time, patience and reason are quaint commodities from a bygone era. Arsenal's owners, the Kroenke family, are already dealing with rising militancy from a disillusioned fan base. The prospect of lavishing hundreds of millions on an Arteta project that still lacks focus may not appeal.
More worryingly, perhaps, Arteta was clearly outwitted in the Europa League semi-final defeat - by his predecessor, Unai Emery, of all people.
Arteta over-complicated his tactics in the first leg, recklessly went for broke in the second leg and was tactically nutmegged twice against Villarreal.
A similar lack of consistency has been evident in the EPL, too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's erratic form hasn't helped, nor have injuries to Granit Xhaka and David Luiz.
But Arsenal's listlessness has been a constant theme of an underwhelming campaign. Chelsea's cohesion and tenacity are notably absent in north London.
Arteta is fortunate that the European Super League debacle and supporters' unrest have drawn attention away from Arsenal's rapid and steep decline.
The Gunners were once proud of their 19 consecutive seasons in the Champions League. Now, they must beat Chelsea and hope for a mathematical miracle to scrape into Europe's second-tier competition.
And if that doesn't happen, Arsenal might consider the template being offered in the other dugout at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were ninth in the table when Lampard was fired. Where are Arsenal today? Ninth.
It's certainly food for thought.
Under Tuchel, the Blues are on their way to two finals. Under Arteta, the Gunners are on a road to nowhere.