Spurs and Arsenal are in crisis, but Man Utd are closer to the brink of the abyss – The Sun

IT has been a three-month race to the bottom.

And it does not look as if it will end any time soon.

While Liverpool and Manchester City are fighting for the crown, and Chelsea have made light of their transfer ban, the other three members of the Big Six are looking anything but Champions League contenders.

For Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham, it is already threatening to unravel completely.

Disunity among the players, a disconnect with the fans – and doubts over the futures of all three managers.

Talk of crisis may not, yet, be entirely accurate, in any of the cases.

All three clubs, though, do seem to be teetering on the brink of the abyss, their seasons stuck at those “sliding doors” moments where the next crucial incident could become make or break.

And the bragging rights issues that normally lead to chest-beating have been replaced by questions over which of the three is in the deepest pit.

Wednesday’s thumping win in Belgrade, their first on away soil since that astonishing night in Amsterdam in May, gave Spurs a little breathing space.

But Mauricio Pochettiono and his players do not need telling the heat will be back on, and even heavier, if they fail to beat Sheffield United.

All season, Spurs have been poor. Beyond poor, in fact.

No cohesion, on or off the pitch, with too many of Pochettino’s squad aware the manager has post faith in them and the Argentine, in turn, painfully able to recognise he still needs to use the key squad members he no longer wants.

The manner in which so many Spurs fans have turned on Christian Eriksen, pin-pointing him, above all, for the club’s downturn in form, is symbolic.

It is fair, more than fair, to suggest the Dane has been pretty woeful. Indeed, each time you think he could never play worse, he seems determined to prove you wrong.

But Eriksen is not alone – and the common link between the most under-performing players is them being in the final year of their current deals.

In recent weeks, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, the critical element and defensive partnership  of the Pochettino era, appear to have “got old” overnight, no longer able to deal with fleet-footed – or even moderately-paced –  attackers.

And on the left, Danny Rose’s focus has been increasingly awry.

It was, some may suggest, no surprise that, playing without Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen  – and with summer recruits Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele starting together for the first time, Spurs scored four in Serbia.

An easy correlation. But, perhaps, a false one – after all, Red Star demonstrated a fortnight ago in N17 that they were, indeed, as bad as they appeared on Wednesday.

Yet Daniel Levy’s recent comments have underlined the fact that he is backing the manager rather than – as United did when Jose Mourinho asked the question last year – the players.

Spurs’ top four hopes are, at best, flickering, so poorly have they started.

They do, though, retain the  permanent goal threat of Harry Kane – who will overtake Martin Chivers as the club’s third-highest all-time scorer when he next nets – and the pace and determination of Heung-min Son.

Add in the seeming rejuvenation of Dele Alli and it suggests Poch might yet be able to salvage something from the wreckage.

At Arsenal, by contrast, despite the Prem table which suggests things should be rosier, they do not seem to be.

Another lost lead in Portugal on Wednesday afternoon – the fact that the Gunners were playing in the curtain raiser to the games that mattered across Europe said much – put further scrutiny on Unai Emery.

Last week’s Granit Xhaka debacle has not exactly aided Emery’s case and the fans who developed a taste for mutiny during the latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s reign have the same flavour on their lips.

The limitations of Arsenal’s defence are clear: only Aston Villa and Norwich have had more shots against them per game in the Prem this season.

Emery was supposed to sort these problems out. He appears to have made them worse.

Stats, of course, are what you make of them. It is a fact that Arsenal have lost just one of their last 14 games since that defeat at Liverpool in August (if you take the Carabao Cup shoot-out loss as a statistical draw, that is).

But it is also a fact that their only win in the last six was the late comeback against Guimaraes last month.

Four straight draws in all competitions, all from matches in which they led. Not good enough.

The mood music is equally, if not more, of a concern. Something is wrong, clearly. And nobody seems convinced that it will be put right.

Defeat at in-form and deeply impressive Leicester on Saturday evening would see the Gunners NINE points adrift of third and probably fourth – with Chelsea hosting Palace – and in serious danger of tumbling out of the top six.

That might, indeed, prove the tipping point.

Yet arguably the bigger mess of the lot is 200 miles or so to the north.

Irrespective of what happens in the Europa League this week, nobody can argue that things are good for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Every step forward, such as the performances against Liverpool and Norwich, seems to be swiftly followed by a couple in reverse.

United were limp and listless at Bournemouth as they slumped to a miserable defeat at the weekend.

Faith in the Norwegian appears increasingly confined to Solskjaer himself, his coaching team and Ed Woodward.

Not the supporters, even though many of them are desperate for him to crack it.

The board appears to agree that there are too many overpaid players who need to go. But there is a lot of work to do.

It is hard to see exactly what the Solskjaer philosophy is supposed to be and moans about the depth of his squad fall hollow given the sheer amount United have spent since Fergie left in 2013.

Brighton will, of course, be underdogs this weekend. After all, they have NEVER won in 12 previous visits to Old Trafford and their last draw was in 1983.

Were that run to end on Sunday, the repercussions could be severe.



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Even if not, United look further aware from returning to their “perch” than at any time since Ferguson himself talked about evicting Liverpool from it in the 80s.

For United, that is a crisis – for the club believes it is defined by success, not failure.

That hole looks deeper, and darker, then either of the ones in North London.

  • Illustration by Lovatto
This Saturday’s Premier league sees Chelsea take on Crystal Palace and Leicester v Arsenal

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