Be afraid, Chelsea and Man U – record-making Arsenal could be even more formidable next season.
I’m not sure if Arsene Wenger’s being entirely truthful when he says that Arsenal’s unbeaten run in the Premiership means more to him than if they’d won the Champions League, but it’s certainly a remarkable achievement which puts them up there with the all-time greats.
The bad news for the rest of the Premiership – and Manchester United and Chelsea in particular – is that I think they’ll be even harder to beat next season. It’s taken a few years, but with only 26 goals conceded they’re nearly as miserly in defence as they were when Tony Adams was running the show. Jens Lehman is a bit of a weak link, but Wenger will rectify that during the summer by bringing somebody new in. Personally, I’d have gone for Paul Robinson who I’m amazed has gone to Spurs for only £1.5 million. I know Leeds are desperate for cash but, at today’s prices, he’s worth twice that.
The other frightening thing for Arsenal’s rivals is that we’re only beginning to see what José Antonio Reyes is capable of. In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that if he remains injury free, he’ll score just as many goals as Thierry Henry.
You can never write Man U off, but I don’t see the PLC giving Alex Ferguson the money to bring in the three or four genuinely world class players he needs. They certainly can’t compete with Chelsea who, from what I’ve heard, are serious about trying to lure Ronaldino away from Barcelona. Not that I reckon they’ll be successful. Even if they activate the get-out clause in his contract by offering £60 million, there’s no way he’s going to leave the Nou Camp after just one season.
Assuming then that Ronaldino stays put, the person that Chelsea should be looking to bring in above everybody else is Fernando Morientes. It would’ve been easy for him to go to Monaco with their average home gates of 6,000 and tread water but, no, he’s shown just as much enthusiasm as he did playing in front of 75,000 people at Real Madrid.
I’d love to see him in the same side as David Beckham whose sending off against Murcia for dissent has probably guaranteed him a move back to the Premiership.
David being able to swear fluently in Spanish may be impressive from a linguistic point of view, but it’s done nothing to help Real’s chances of qualifying automatically for the Champions’ League. Or ending their worst run of form for 102 years. Combine the two and his popularity at the Bernebeu probably isn’t what it was!
Onto international matters: I don’t know much about Clive Clark, Martin Rowland, Aidan McCready or Michael Doyle, but I’m glad that Brian Kerr has given them their first international call-ups. Coming into a World Cup campaign you need as many options as possible, and it may well be that one or more of them can do a job for us. I have to say I’m a bit concerned at the length of time it’s taking Roy Keane to recover from his hamstring. What you need at Roy’s age is to be playing regularly, and his season’s been so stop-start I wouldn't even bet on him being fit for the start of the qualifiers. Add in the doubts about Damien Duff and his shoulder and Brian Kerr may need those youngsters to come through sooner rather than later.
Finally, good luck to my old club Millwall against Manchester United. I’ve a nasty feeling it’s going to be a slaughter, but no one will be more pleased than me if Wisey manages to pull off the biggest cup shock in history. Here’s hoping!