Arsenal host Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday, with the clash at the Emirates Stadium an important fixture for both sides.
These giant clubs have traditionally been two of English football’s heavyweights, with a period in the 1990’s and 2000’s where the league title was contested solely between the pair.
However, going into this weekend’s game, the loser is almost certain to finish outside of the top four, while there is a good chance the victor could also miss the cut.
So what has changed to see massive clubs with history, prestige and tradition like United and Arsenal fall from their perch?
There certainly has been a number of key factors that has added other clubs of real quality to the top-six of the Premier League.
While Chelsea’s Russian revolution dates back to 2003, the inclusion of Manchester City’s riches, a Jurgen Klopp-inspired Liverpool and a youthful Tottenham Hotspur team have added spice to the league title race.
Looking at the current Premier League odds & results at William Hill, Antonio Conte’s men are very likely to be crowned champions, with Spurs second and potentially both Arsenal and United missing out on the top four.
Chelsea have been transformed by their Italian manager after a poor season in 2015-16 but the Blues’ presence among English football’s elite is nothing new.
Tottenham have clearly been transformed by Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival at White Hart Lane, with the Argentine’s exhilarating brand of attacking football being adopted by a willing player group.
Where Spurs would previously have been over the moon with being in the hunt for Champions League qualification, a top-four finish is now the very minimum expected in North London after back-to-back title challenges.
Manchester City have powered their way into the reckoning through sheer spending, with the transfer fees and wages on offer at the Etihad Stadium hard to match for the majority of clubs in world football.
While Pep Guardiola has not stormed English football in his first Premier League campaign, the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona trainer brings a tactical nous that ensures that the club will almost always be in the running for the title while he is in charge.
Liverpool have been dragged into contention by born-winner Klopp, whose high-octane pressing style and fluidity in the final third have been a joy to behold for the Anfield faithful at times this season.
With another summer to strengthen his group, the German coach will expect his side to be in the running for the title next season.
While City, Spurs and Liverpool have been progressing under innovative trainers, it is fair to say United and Arsenal have been in transition and largely stood still.
The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson has been a tough pill to swallow at Old Trafford and the fear factor and aura around one of the world’s most-historic clubs is seemingly no longer there.
While United struggled under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, there are signs that Jose Mourinho and his stubborn persona can get the Red Devils back on track and in contention for the title.
The Manchester club have the crux of a squad capable of fighting for top honours and summer recruitment could hold the key to United being able to go toe-to-toe with some of the English game’s new powerhouses.
Arsenal’s transition phase continues due to uncertainty around Arsene Wenger’s future, with a feeling that the Gunners have become stagnant after such a long time under his leadership.
For the good of the club, the distinguished French coach needs to end speculation and make a decision whether he will stay or go – with a growing section of the supporters calling for the latter.
On the pitch, Arsenal have a fight on their hands to extend the contracts of key attacking duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who both have little more than 12 months left on their current deal.
However, a change of approach may well be needed at the Emirates, with new playing personnel, to get them back into contention.
The Gunners continue to be devoid of real leadership and are overly reliant on Alexis for goals – a new, proven number nine is needed – all the other challengers for the title have one.
The London club’s fans have down frustrated by the perceived lack of spending – it is now time to take the financial shackles off.
So while Arsenal’s clash with United on Sunday will be as eagerly anticipated as always, the clubs need to evolve in a new, more-competitive environment to get back into the Premier League title running next season.
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