So finally, after nine years of trying, Robin van Persie will take to the field at the Emirates as a Premier League champion. It’s just a shame for Arsenal fans that he now plays for Manchester United.
Late-season meetings between these two clubs have been a regular fixture for many years now, but when United travel to north London on Sunday, an even more familiar feeling is apparent: Sir Alex Ferguson does so as a champion while Arsene Wenger is left in his wake, battling desperately for Champions League football.
It has largely been this way ever since the Invincibles won the title in 2004 and if the guard of honour the Arsenal players will be forced to provide when United take to the field is slightly more preferable to the Emirates faithful than the previously unpalatable prospect of Van Persie actually being crowned champion at his old stamping ground, it still goes to show how far the Gunners have fallen behind a club they were superior to just a decade ago.
Are the Arsenal board going to watch their players clapping RVP on to the pitch with gritted teeth and decide to do something about it? Or is a top-four place going to be the limit of their ambitions for the foreseeable future?
Because all club loyalties aside, can anybody really say that Van Persie was wrong to jump ship to Old Trafford last summer? Were Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Alex Song wrong as well?
The medals they have racked up since leaving suggest not, and this summer has surely got to be year-zero for the Gunners. With precious few players left for the trophy winners to pick off, Wenger needs to either spend the money he is refusing to part with or get the board to back him, because otherwise their slide into Liverpool territory will slowly continue.
Of course, Champions League qualification is a must and to that end, Arsenal have work to do.
Wenger’s side have clawed their way back into contention and are currently in third, one point above fifth-placed Tottenham having played the same number of games, and in a race that looks certain to go down to the last kick of the season, they can ill-afford to drop any more points.
But I don’t think Arsenal are any sort of bet at 5/4, and instead I’ll be on United to show them who is boss at a big-looking 2/1 (the draw is 5/2).
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A price of 5/4 on Arsenal is a scandal, and is a very evident case of what happens at this stage of the season – teams are priced up on their need to win rather than the likelihood they will do so.
With Arsenal’s need for the points greater than United’s, the theory goes that this makes them more likely victors.
That is true in some cases – mid-table teams with nothing to play for are easily opposed – but does anybody really think that Ferguson is going to let United think of the beach?
It is not in their nature, and with beating Chelsea’s record points haul of 95 in their sights, United still have something to aspire to, even if it is something of an artificial target.
And free of the worry of clinching the title and with the doubt of last season’s collapse banished, it is Arsenal that will be feeling the pressure, leaving United to play with freedom.
Furthermore, Arsenal’s record against Manchester United is so woeful I can hardly believe it. It is not a surprise to read that Wenger’s side have struggled against the Red Devils over recent years, but a record of just two wins and 11 defeats from the last 15 meetings is truly abysmal.
United have won seven of the last eight, and it is clear to me that not only to do Arsenal have a severe inferiority complex when it comes to United, but that Ferguson and his players know they have the beating of a mentally brittle Gunners team.
He is right, and with 12 wins already from their 17 away games giving them easily the best record on the road in the division, they can prosper at a stadium where Chelsea, Schalke, Swansea, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich have all won this season.
United have struck 35 goals on their travels and will surely score against a team that have posted just the 13th best home defensive record in the Premier League.
It barely needs emphasising, but United are a far, far better team than Arsenal, and the 2/1 they prove it on Sunday needs to be taken.