The vultures are circling. Since 1997, the focus of the Premiership has been on the enmity between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, as they divided the spoils between them. Now that they are both being left in the wake of a younger, wealthier and better-looking Chelsea manager, the feeling is that two may be company, but three is most definitely a crowd, which must mean that one of these men is going to be forced to leave the show.
This weekend, Manchester United and Arsenal kept their seasons alive by progressing through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, feeding on the scraps that Mourinho has left them. After today's draw, the semi-finals will see Man U play Newcastle and Arsenal against Blackburn, with both games taking place in Cardiff. So the prospect of an Arse v United final is most definitely on, but whichever manager loses out is going to be left with nothing but mounting criticism and pressure. Right now, the popular opinion seems to be that Arsene is going to crack first. Arsenal looked tired in their 1-0 win against a ten-man Bolton Wanderers and it is clear that all is not well at Highbury. Some players want to leave (Reyes and Cole), others are looking past it (Pires) and then there are those who just seem constantly bewildered (Jens Lehmann). More worrying perhaps is the percieved mental state of the Professor himself, what with the recent displays of uncharacteristic emotion.
So is Arsene on the way out? Hell no. For one, Arsenal don't sack managers and anyway, there's no need to ... Wenger is still the don and his team require a little bit of re-shaping, rather than drastic surgery. Without the injuries to Sol Campbell, Edu and Gilberto Silva, things might have gone a little differently for the Gunners this season, but at least they have demonstrated that the back-up is simply not of the required standard. With Thierry Henry, a healthy Sol and a Viera who doesn't have to carry the midfield by himself, the spine of the team is still marvellously strong, it just needs adding to. The Arsenal board have apparently declared that copious funds are going to be made available, and the fun of trying to predict who will be arriving over the summer has already begun. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Essien (plays for Lyon, been on fire in the Champions League) are popular choices, but the most intriguing rumour is the mooted Reyes - Little Mickey Owen swap. Londonist doubts that Owen would give up on his Spanish adventure so quickly, but just imagine seeing him finally get some decent service. Then we'll see how good he really is.
So then, Arsene to stay and his team to conquer the world? Perhaps. But what is certian is he'll last longer than Ferguson, for whom the sun is beginning to set.
For Tottenham, FA Cup success would be like manna from heaven, rather than compensation for failures elsewhere. Unfortunately, in their quarter-final against Newcastle on Sunday they came up against an inspired Shay Given. Spurs couldn't find a way through and the game finished 1-0, putting Londonist's dreams of another Tottenham v Arsenal semi-final ("... Is Gascoigne going to have a crack?…..he is you know……OH I SAY!!") to an end. There is some good news for Spurs though, as Ajax have appointed former player Danny Blind as their new manager. Blind is an Ajax legend, and the Dutch club are unlikely to get rid of him as soon as this summer, which means that Martin Jol will be staying at White Hart Lane for a while yet.
In the First Division, Millwall were the unsurprising losers away to Wigan, whilst a 3-1 victory for QPR at home to Watford meant a very happy brithday indeed for Ian Holloway. West Ham capitulated to a fired-up Reading at the Madejski Stadium, going down 3-1 and it looks increasingly like West Ham will start next season stuck in the First and with a new manager.
In the Second, Brentford continued their promotion-push with a well-earned point away to Doncaster in a 0-0 draw . Orient drew 1-1 with Cambridge in the Third and here's to a first mention for Barnet, whose march back towards league football carried on with a 3-0 win over Crawley Town.