THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 13 April ~

Thanks to Sky we know what Grand Slam Sunday is. But we don't yet have a definitive term for a Sunday in which two of the Big Four are playing, in this case Arsenal and Man Utd. It will talked up as a Clash of the Titans, certainly. It's also a Grudge Match because there is No Love Lost between the two managers, although there seem to be fewer personal enmities between the two sets of players these days. But for the first time in a long while a meeting between Arsenal and Man Utd in the spring doesn't represent Decision Day for the Premier League title.

Arsenal will still be in with a chance of winning the League if they beat United today but they would still have to finish ahead of Chelsea. Injuries to key players have derailed Arsenal's season, Arsène Wenger's squad being smaller than those of his competitors because he has chosen not to spend heavily in the transfer market. Wenger has said all the way through the season that his young team is in transition. But some are now suggesting that there fundamental problems with the current Arsenal squad that the manager is unwilling or unable to address. 

At every club there are some players who will complain about not being in the first team. They always find an outlet for their frustration, especially on the eve of a big game where disgruntled murmurings can be worked up into back page headlines.  Contrary to what such stories suggest, this is not the first time that there have been rifts within Wenger's squad. But such stirrings would be far more frequent in a squad packed with star names.

Most supporters are accustomed to seeing their team go several years without winning anything. That's especially the case in the Premier League with its strict delineation between the Big Four and the rest. Long-term Arsenal supporters might be facing the prospect of a third year without a trophy but they have known far worse. However, there are people with no long-term memory of how things were before Wenger arrived. The man who owns 24 per cent of Arsenal, for example, will be paying close attention to the effect on "revenue streams" if the trophy drought continues through next season. Arsène Wenger will be aware that the individuals capable of undermining him aren't just on the playing side.

Related articles

Olivier Giroud - What is he actually good at?
.   Video by Tim Bradford Subscribe to WSC on YouTube...