Lee Dixon: From Graham to Wenger, management has evolved...could Lambert be the future?

The Weekend Dossier

There are a couple of dressing rooms I would be interested in being a part of this afternoon – the home sides' at Carrow Road and the Liberty Stadium.

Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers are two of the brightest young managers about and I would be fascinated to hear and see how they deal with their players. They face two of the toughest tasks in the Premier League with games against Arsenal and Manchester United but neither seems likely to be fazed by the challenge.

I like the look of Lambert. He sends his team out to be positive no matter the opposition or venue. He and Rodgers are the front-runners for the next generation and look to have a very different approach to what I was used to as a player.

When I walked into the dressing room at Highbury for the first time it was worse than my first day at school. There is that same unnerving feeling of being in a new environment and wanting to fit in, but the difference is that at school none of your classmates care if you're any good at maths! From that first training session you have to produce, you know the rest of the squad are watching and ready to make immediate judgements. I remember being nutmegged in the warm-up to my first session and feeling humiliated.

That was the Arsenal of the time under George Graham's management. Gary Lewin, the physio, showed me in to the dressing room and told me what peg to take. Kenny Sansom and David O'Leary were sitting there – I wanted to die. I'd never played in the top flight before, and had only been to London once in my life. It was an experience that later in my career encouraged me to try and make a bit of a fuss around new players when they first arrived (at least until we got on to the training pitch and then I'd give them a kick!).

It took a while to settle and feel comfortable in that environment, surrounded by that level of player, but I did have the confidence of knowing the manager had brought me in and so he must have thought I could play. When I arrived in 1988 George was in the process of building a team. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do and nothing was going to get in the way. If he wanted a player gone, he was gone. His style was ruthless.

The fear factor played a big part in the way George ran things. He was a sergeant-major and if you got your steps wrong on the parade ground you got an absolute rollocking. It worked on the pitch and you made sure you did all your drills, preparation, training and so on exactly as he wanted. The problem with such a strict regime was that some players then looked for a release off the pitch, and an environment developed at Arsenal that when it came to letting your hair down, boy, was it let down...

For a time George actually managed to use that to his benefit, encouraging a siege mentality but that can't last for ever. His style of management has more or less gone from the top flight. Players are more powerful and the balance has tipped in their favour. Sir Alex Ferguson still has that fear factor but I'm sure he would admit his style of management is markedly different now from what it was when he was going head to head with his fellow Scot at Highbury.

There is only so long a regime run by discipline and fear can last before it begins to break down. By the end George had lost the dressing room. Players were starting to rebel – the big stick wasn't working any more. But it had worked for me for the stage of my career I was at, arriving as a young, inexperienced player. I would prefer to have George as a youngster and Arsène Wenger as a more senior pro.

Wenger has always afforded his players more respect, listened to their opinions and encouraged them to speak up. He gives players a licence to express their views. His basic philosophy has not changed a bit over the 15 years he has been there and over the teams he has built and rebuilt. He has managed the transition of his teams expertly, building that first side on the back four left him by George and adding Vieira and Petit in midfield, Anelka came in from nowhere, Overmars arrived and then over time he replaced the defence with the likes of Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Lauren, and the Invincibles emerged.

The on-field transition since has been defined by the building of the new stadium. Arsène said to me once that some clubs are built on sand – no prizes for guessing which. He is adamant Arsenal should be sustainable and has been unselfish in the way he has relied on bringing in young players rather than spending huge amounts. The new stadium has basically meant that trophies have been sacrificed to balance the books. It's been frustrating at times. I still urge caution but his new-look team has improved notably over the last few weeks. He has been faithful to players and although there is still work to be done – especially at the back – come Christmas, given the run of games they have over the next month, I wouldn't be surprised to see them pushing the top two.

Yet, with my negative pundit's head on, I could still see them losing at Norwich because of those defensive issues and because Norwich are more than willing to have a go at teams under Lambert's direction. Management is constantly evolving and in Lambert maybe there is an emerging successor to the likes of the man in the away dugout this afternoon.

Five Asides

1. FA should have stood up against Blatter race remarks

The Football Association should have taken a stronger line on what Sepp Blatter said about racism in the game this week and well before yesterday's belated statement. If nobody is ever prepared to say anything or make a stand on anything then, really, what's the point? Nothing will ever change. I can't see Blatter being pushed out over this but that should not prevent the organisation that runs the game in England from making its voice heard clearly in condemning what was said by the man who leads Fifa.

2. Competition gets hotter for a place in Capello's squad

It was an encouraging couple of games for England and suddenly Fabio Capello has some tough selection decisions to make. For the last couple of tournaments there has not been a huge debate over which players he should take and who should stay at home. After the wins against one very good side and one decent one there are now up to 30 names in the frame for a place in the final squad for next summer's Euros. Players like Jack Rodwell and other youngsters have made a real case to be in Poland and Ukraine.

3. Irish joy brings back to mind my only goal for England

It's good to see Ireland qualify as well – not least because it allows me to mention that I scored my only international goal against them. It was a shot that deflected off Steve Staunton – TV pundit Andy Gray told me it should have gone down as an own goal, but that was just jealousy. After all, how many goals did he score for England?

4. A crucial game both sides must win – but won't

At lunchtime I will be back at Burnley, the club where it all began for me a long time ago. They are at home to Leeds, with the game live on the BBC. Burnley haven't had the best of starts but they are in nowhere near as much trouble in the Championship as their Lancashire neighbours in the Premier League. Roberto Martinez and his Wigan side host Steve Kean's Blackburn today in a game that both sides have to win – but I don't think either will. It has the makings of a draw, which will leave both clubs in deep, deep trouble.

5. Taking steps with Hansen and World Cup winner...

I helped organise a fundraiser this week for my wife's dance group – the Yorke Dance Project – before she heads off on tour to the United States. Anton du Beke hosted it, there was a dancing demonstration and then a question and answer with myself, Steve Thompson, the England rugby World Cup winner, and Alan Hansen. And no, we didn't dance.

Lee Dixon's verdict on all the weekend action

Norwich v Arsenal

Odds: Home 9-2; Draw 13-5, Away 4-6

Kick-off: Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news Russell Martin has recovered from an ankle injury for Norwich, while Bradley Johnson (concussion) is also available. Kieran Gibbs (hernia) and Carl Jenkinson (back) miss out for Arsenal, while Abou Diaby also remains out. Marouane Chamakh returns to the visitor's squad.

Everton v Wolves

Odds: Home 4-7; Draw 11-4, Away 11-2

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news Phil Jagielka will have an injection in his toe as he aims to feature for Everton, while midfielder Marouane Fellaini returns from suspension. Mick McCarthy has a near fully fit squad to choose from for Wolves, with right-back Kevin Foley (ankle) the only absentee. Fellow defender Jody Craddock returns from illness.

Man City v Newcastle

Odds: Home 30-100; Draw 9-2, Away 9-1

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news Roberto Mancini awaits updates on Sergio Aguero after the Argentina forward aggravated a groin injury on international duty. Owen Hargreaves is unlikely to be considered but Vincent Kompany returns. Newcastle miss Cheick Tioté (knee) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin), while Leon Best and Gabriel Obertan are doubts.

Stoke v QPR

Odds: Home 5-6; Draw 5-2, Away 7-2

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news: Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson (both muscle) and Matthew Etherington (back) could all be welcomed back by Tony Pulis after missing Stoke's 5-0 hammering at Bolton. Ricardo Fuller (Achilles) remains out. Adel Taarabt is not expected to feature for QPR, with Fitz Hall (hamstring) also out, but Akos Buzsaky (Achilles) returns.

Sunderland v Fulham

Odds: Home 13-10; Draw 9-4, Away 11-5.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news: Sebastian Larsson misses out for Sunderland through suspension after accruing five bookings, while Connor Wickham (knee) is unavailable. Titus Bramble, Craig Gordon and Simon Mignolet are also out. Stephen Kelly joins Aaron Hughes and Zdenek Grygera on the sidelines for Fulham; Steve Sidwell has a late fitness test.

West Bromwich v Bolton

Odds: Home 11-10; Draw 9-4, Away 13-5

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news: Shane Long remains out for West Bromwich with the knee injury that forced him to miss the international matches, with Paul Scharner (knee) doubtful and Peter Odemwingie (ankle)undergoing late checks. Joe Riley is likely to continue at right-back for Bolton in the absence of Marcos Alonso, Dedryck Boyata and Ricardo Gardner.

Wigan v Blackburn

Odds: Home 6-4; Draw 9-4, Away 15-8

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news: Wigan are without Antolin Alcaraz as the defender begins a three-match ban for spitting during the defeat at Wolves. He could be replaced by Gary Caldwell, who returns from his own suspension. Blackburn have worries over Chris Samba (hamstring), but Scott Dann and Michel Salgado return. Jason Lowe is suspended.

Swansea v Man United

Odds: Home 6-1; Draw 3-1, Away 1-2.

Kick-off: Today, 5.30pm (ESPN; Highlights BBC 1 10.20pm)

Team news: Scott Sinclair is pushing for a recall after a hamstring strain kept him on the bench at Liverpool. Neil Taylor (ankle) is fit and Kemy Agustien (hamstring) also returns. Manchester United are without Danny Welbeck (back), Chris Smalling (foot), Tom Cleverley (ankle) and Michael Owen (thigh), but Rafael and Ashley Young return.

Chelsea v Liverpool

Odds: Home 5-6; Draw 5-2, Away 7-2

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2 10pm)

Team news: Chelsea are only missing Michael Essien (knee), with Daniel Sturridge and Didier Drogba are in the squad. Liverpool welcome back Jamie Carragher after the defender missed two games with a calf injury, while Luis Suarez (back) is fit. Steven Gerrard (ankle) remains out.

Tottenham v Aston Villa

Odds: Home 4-7; Draw 3-1, Away 9-2

Kick-off: Monday, 8pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights Sky Sports 1 12.30am, Tuesday)

Team news: Rafael van der Vaart (hamstring) is nearing a return for Spurs, while Vedran Corluka (ankle) may also be included. For Villa, Jermaine Jenas is ineligible against his parent club, and Gabriel Agbonlahor is struggling with a hamstring injury. Stiliyan Petrov should be available.

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