There are very few clubs in modern football that are afforded the time to see through a team-building project. The combination of ambitious players and the necessity for immediate results makes a nurturing, progressive environment a rarity.
At the top end of the spectrum you have Real Madrid and Chelsea, frontrunners in impatience and disruption. The pressure on results is so great that there is no time for rebuilding. There is time for tweaks, but not for projects. There is just about time to explain a philosophy, attempt to implement it and see if it works.
In contrast to these clubs you have Manchester United and Barcelona, both clubs have been allowed time to build teams. Ferguson went through six seasons of team building before his first title and has bought time for further rebuilds through his successes. Barcelona too, have been allowed to develop this team over time, with Rijkaard’s team developing into that of Guardiola’s. These clubs are currently devoid of the pressures because they are successful.
At any level below the very top, the players become a problem. Even at a club of Arsenal’s stature, the players’ heads are turned by the lure of glory elsewhere. Wenger’s previous successes have allowed him time to build, but his failure to win trophies is prompting his players to abandon his project before the chairman does.
Attracted by the bright lights of the big clubs, loyalty and commitment are disappointingly scarce. Consider the transfers of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing this summer, both players were hugely important to Aston Villa. They were players to build a team around, along with Darren Bent. Villa may have money now, but their teambuilding begins again.
Further down the pecking order the manager does not even control when his team will be torn apart. Steve Bruce always complained bitterly about the disruptive effect of the January transfer window on his squad when he was Wigan manager. The top clubs swooped in to pick at his assets, (such as Heskey and Palacios in 2009) and left him to work with what was left for the second half of the season.
What are the conditions that allow a club time to build? A lack of expectation has allowed Borussia Dortmund time to build and take people by surprise. Previous success bought Rafael Benitez time at Liverpool and supreme sums of money allow Manchester City to build. These are certainly all factors, but they are conditions that are rare nowadays. Are chairmen in such a rush they’d rather buy than build? And do players have the loyalty to try and help a club improve or is it just every man for himself now?