As the title makes clear, if it isn’t going to be our year, if, then who would i prefer wins the league? Lets get the White Hart Lane scum out of the way to begin with. They won’t win it, they can’t win it and they better not win it. Man City? If i believed they could win it then this question would be tremendously easier as i would most definitely choose them. Nevertheless they won’t win it so it’s academic, or as they say in Manchester it’s Eastlands (counts for nothing). So, Chelsea or Manchester United?
If we don’t win the league, and i think it is more likely that we won’t than we shall, we will still have a big part to play in deciding who does. Playing Chelsea this weekend we are certainly without Robin Van Persie, unsurprisingly, and possibly even without Cesc Fabregas. This news doesn’t only disappoint Arsenal fans, it’s also unwelcome at Old Trafford. I presume Manchester United would want us to win, or at least draw, with the rich blue boys from the city but without our two best players the task is evidently going to be harder than it might otherwise have been. This leads me to wonder, am i more perturbed by the fact we might disappoint Manchester United fans or Chelsea fans, because this weekend we will definitely infuriate one or the other and ultimately this question will determine, absolutely, the answer to the primary one, namely, who would i prefer to win the league if it isn’t to be us? Yes. Basically that is all it comes down to. Who can i empathise with more, feel more sympathy for? Who do i hate less? Chelsea or Manchester United?
Chelsea are London rivals and Cashley Cole moving there didn’t help matters but i remember a time when the rivalry wasn’t so great. They were a cup team and we were title challengers. They were generally a team of pan European, mostly French, players, with the odd South American chucked in for good measure, who couldn’t hack the Premiership week in and week out and were just as likely to stuff Manchester United 5-0 as they were to lose to Sunderland in the North. They were a team full of technique and flair without a backbone and a British character. Wait, this all sounds familiar, am i still taking about Chelsea circa Mourinho here?
Anyways, the rivalry now is quite different. At least in our eyes it is. I can imagine they see this match now the way we saw it in the early part of the millenium (2000-2004) ie. a team frequently challenging for the title, them, playing a noisy annoying local neighbour, us. We probably take the match mroe seriously than they do. For us it is a test. For them it is just another probable comfortable victory.
The Manchester United rivalry has changed too. Once we used to be up ‘there’ with ‘them’. Now we are down here with, well, just ourselves, above the blue Mancs and the dirty whites but behind the blue Londoners and the red Mancs. Times change. Rivalries change. Now we no longer pose a serious threat Sir Alex Ferguson no longer has a bad word to say about us. In fact now he often compliments Wenger and if that isn’t a sign of how far away we have been then i don’t know what is. Well, apart from a league table. Once Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira used to square up in the tunnel pre match. Once Ashley Cole was a gunner and he used to throw pizza at the Scot. Now it’s full of compliments and Ji Sung Park tormenting whichever left back happens to be playing.
So what do i conclude? I don’t know. I don’t even hate either of these two teams as much as i perhaps should. In the earlier years of the Premiership the real rivalry was against Manchester United and for a brief period around the Mourinho era the real rivalry was then with Chelsea. Now the real rivalry is with Tottenham. This is ‘the’ match. Of course it was always the big local derby but recently it is even more again. The truth is we probably know we have been closer to their level than Manchester United’s or Chelsea. I can’t decide. If we can’t win it then let either of them win it, so long as it isn’t the Lane.